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IHSA Announces Sixth Class of Distinguished Media Service Award Winners

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The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) is proud to announce its sixth class of recipients of the IHSA Distinguished Media Service Award. The 2018-19 honorees include a pair of veteran TV sports directors on the preps scene in Chris Duerr of Quincy’s KHQA-TV and Kurt Pegler of Peoria’s WMBD-TV. Daily Herald sportswriter Marty Maciaszek, whose career in prep coverage began in 1987, is the third honoree, while one of the longest serving high school media members in the state, Cass County Star-Gazette sports editor Don Chipman rounds out the class.

The IHSA Distinguished Media Service Award was created to recognize media members who have covered high school sports and activities in Illinois for a significant period of time, while maintaining perspective on the amateur events they report on.

“I have had the privilege of working with all four of these individuals during my decade at the IHSA” said IHSA Assistant Executive Director Matt Troha. “They are all incredibly deserving and have contributed to high school sports in Illinois in so many ways, but the one thing that really sets this group apart is their sheer work ethic. I am not sure you will find many people who pour themselves into their jobs like they do, and I can’t even fathom the number of hours they have spent on high school fields and courts during their careers.”

IHSA member schools submitted nominations for the award, with Duerr and Chipman being nominated by Warsaw High School and Beardstown High School, respectively. Maciaszek was nominated by two schools, north suburban Hersey High School and Wheeling High School, while all eight members of the Mid-Illini Conference jointly nominated Pegler.

“Congratulations to each one of these gentlemen on this incredibly deserved honor,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “I have known Kurt and seen his work firsthand for many many years. He is the consummate professional, as are all of his peers being recognized this year.”

The IHSA’s media advisory committee, and a veteran committee of retired media members voted on each nominee. Those who received the required percentage of votes were named honorees with a limit of one winner per IHSA Board Division. Each winner will be honored at a high school event of their choosing during the 2018-19 school year.

“A vital element of this award is the recognition within the community,” said Troha. “We look forward to seeing this year’s winners being recognized in front of the students, coaches, and communities they have impacted with their exceptional work.”

A bio on each of the honorees is below:

Don Chipman has been a dual-threat covering high school sports on the radio and in the newspaper in the Beardstown area for nearly 60 years. The Rushville High School graduate started announcing play-by-play of high school sporting events on WRMS radio in Beardstown in 1960, a role he held for 40 years. In 1976, he joined the Cass County Star-Gazette staff and has been there ever since, ascending to his current role as Sports Editor along the way. Two of Don’s favorite memories of the hometown Tigers include a 1977 IHSA Class 2A Football Playoff win over Hamilton, which saw the Tigers triumph 19-13 on a punt return for a touchdown with 25 seconds reaming in the contest. The other was the 1983 boys’ basketball season, which saw Beardstown finish fourth after winning the Macomb Super-Sectional over Pittsfield on a last second basket by reserve Robbie Newingham. Don lists a bevy of past Beardstown coaches who made an impact on him throughout his career, including Rich Thompson, who he watched win the IHSA Class 1A Football State Championship at Triopia in 2008. The lifelong Cubs, Bears and Illini fan talked about the “labor” of covering high school sports. “It has been a labor of love for these many years," said Don. "I enjoy being around high school athletes for the pure amateurism and the spirited and inspired way they play. I have enjoyed all of the coaches, referees and all the fans I have met thru the years of all the various sports I have announced and covered.” Don’s wife of 60 years, Blanche, has been by his side throughout his career. They have two children (Matt & Lesli) and four grandchildren.

Award Presentation: Friday, October 12 during pre-game at Beardstown High School football game (approx. 6:55 p.m.).

A California native, Chris Duerr played offensive line on the Cordova High School football team in Rancho Cordova. It was there while trying to block a 315-pound All-American defensive linemen that he realized that he had better develop a plan beyond the game. He knew he loved sports, and when a local newspaper spotlighted him in a headline (Duerr Dents Defense), the intersection of the two created a powerful impact. Armed with his father’s advice: “Life is too short to work a job you don’t love”, he came to the University of Missouri to take the first steps toward a career in sports media. After graduating, Chris started his professional career working under the legendary Rod Smith at KRCG TV in Jefferson City. He then jumped at the opportunity to become the Sports Director at KHQA in Quincy in 1995, a position he has held ever since. When it comes to trying to identify his favorite athletes, coaches and teams from the Tri-State area, Chris has a very succinct answer. “All of them,” said Chris. “I’ve reached the point in my career where the ‘after story’ with the kids we cover is far more interesting than what they ever did on the field of play. Love to see them become incredible spouses, mothers and fathers, contributors to our Tri-State Community. Particularly proud of those who have gone on to become Teachers, Administrators and Coaches in carrying on this tapestry of sports culture in our Community.” He continues on the same theme when talking about why he loves his job. “The resonant impact it has on the lives of young people,” said Chris. “We may be talking in the immediate about Setters, Quarterbacks, Third Basemen; but what we are really talking about here is our future neighbors, co-workers, community members. To be able to positively reinforce their achievements, their successes for sure; but even just their positive efforts and perseverance in the act of trying to better themselves, their schools, and their community is a blessing. I’ve told people since the start of my career that I am not in ‘the Sports Business’ but rather in ‘The Kid Business’ and that has made 25 years of work feel far more like a calling that just a job.”

Award Presentation: KHQA Superfan Basketball Shootout on February 2, 2019 at Quincy Notre Dame High School. Game and time TBA.

A 1984 graduate of York High School, Marty Maciaszek spent time on the baseball team and school newspaper staff as a Duke. The latter stuck, as he would join the staff of the Peoria Journal Star in 1987 as a senior at Bradley University. He went back north in 1990 and caught on with the Chicago Tribune, before moving to the Daily Herald in 1992. Marty served the preps sports coordinator for Cook County from 2000-2012. He moved out of full-time newspaper work in 2012, but served as a prep stringer for the Daily Herald through last spring and now holds that role for the Northwest Herald. Marty previously coordinated the boys basketball all-state teams for the Associated Press and also phoned in high school football and basketball reports for WBBM radio in Chicago for a decade. He is a member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and has received media awards from the baseball and cross country/track & field high school coaches associations in the state. Marty expanded on his love of covering high school sports, “There is nothing quite like the excitement of a big Friday night football game or packed gym for a basketball game. So many kids and coaches put so much time and energy into what they are doing that people don't see and they are doing it because it brings them great joy. The fact that the athletes and coaches are so accessible and willing to share their thoughts and stories made it tremendously appealing to me.” Marty specifically recognized the schools in the Mid-Suburban League, as well as St. Viator, Maine West, Leyden and Christian Liberty for “being so accommodating and willing to share stories about themselves, their teams and their athletes.” A pair of Schaumburg state title teams (Baseball in 1997 & Boys Basketball in 2001) stood out to Marty from his career, as did Prospect’s state title run (2001, 2002, 2005) in football. Some of the student-athletes who still standout include Hoffman Estates hurdler Pierre Leinbach and Buffalo Grove’s Tom Zbikowski, while Marty also mentions the amazing stories of Rolling Meadows’ Jimmy Garoppolo and Fremd’s Scott Tolzien going from being lightly recruited high school players to NFL quarterbacks. One of the best events he recalls was the 1989 boys Class AA basketball tournament, which featured East St. Louis Lincoln defeating Peoria Central in triple overtime on a shot at the buzzer. Professionally, Bob Leavitt of the Peoria Journal Star and Bob Frisk at the Daily Herald made their marks on Marty and his career. “My passion for covering high school sports was a direct influence from Bob Leavitt and Bob Frisk,” said Marty. Marty has been supported throughout his career by his wife Amy and their four children: Dillon, Margaret, Ellen and Kira.

Award Presentation: At Wheeling High School on December 7, 2018 following the girls basketball game vs. Hersey (approx. 7:15 PM).

Kurt Pegler’s lifelong love affair with sports journalism began as a student at Hoffman Estates High School, where he also played baseball and hockey for the Hawks. Kurt was the sports editor for the school newspaper, The Hawkeye View, and got a start on his play-by-play career by calling the action into the camera that team managers were using for scout video of the basketball games. His work for the school newspaper even included a chance encounter with Chicago Bear legend Walter Payton, who stopped by to watch a HEHS football game and ended up breaking the game down for Kurt as they watched together. After graduating from Illinois State University, Kurt made the trip down I-74 to Peoria in 1987, where he has covered high school sports ever since for WMBD. He has also worked on IHSA TV broadcasts calling play-by-play or as a sideline reporter/host for football, boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball, volleyball and baseball, while he continues to call play-by-play for Illinois State University basketball and football games on television. “The best part of covering high school sports is telling stories,” said Kurt. “Game nights are fun, but I enjoy telling the stories of athletes and coaches who are pouring their lives into their schools, their teams and their sports. Some of my most memorable stories aren't with the star players following a game. But rather with the athletes who understand that a great high school experience isn't always about the wins and losses -- it's about how you play the game. And how you use what you're learning in athletics -- leadership, sportsmanship, teamwork -- to impact other parts of your life.” With over 30 years experience, there are countless athletes, coaches and teams that standout to Kurt. Two athletes he vividly recalls are future Olympian Ogonna Nnamani and Farmington High School's Josh Ruchotzke. Nnamani was the #1 ranked player in the country when she led Normal University to back-to-back IHSA Girls Volleyball State Championships in 1999 and 2000, while Ruchotzke overcame four amputations to become an all-conference infielder for the Farmers. Kurt calls Ruchotzke the “most inspiring athlete I've ever covered.” You can’t talk Peoria sports without talking about the IHSA Boys Basketball State Finals, as Kurt fondly recalls Manual’s four consecutive IHSA Boys Basketball State Championships from 1994-97, as well as the classic 1989 Class AA title game that saw East St. Louis outlast Peoria High School 59-57 in triple overtime. Another Peoria State Final also stands out to Kurt, as he calls the atmosphere at Detweiller Park for the IHSA Cross Country State Finals each November “magic”.

Award Presentation: At halftime of IHSA Class 3A Boys Basketball Sectional Final at Bradley University's Renaissance Coliseum on Friday, March 8, 2019 (approx. 7:45 PM).

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