Class of 2013-14
TONY BARANEK | Sportswriter | SouthtownStar, Sun Times Media
Tony Baranek reflects on his childhood saying he was a “voracious reader of the newspaper…cutting sports stories out of Chicago Today and the Chicago Daily News.” When Tony arrived at Bremen High School, he excelled in his English classes and discovered he had a talent for writing, eventually being hired as a stringer for the Harvey Star-Tribune while still in high school. Tony has patrolled Chicagoland and the south suburbs for the SouthtownStar and Sun Times Media since 1974. He recalls athletes like Oak Forest’s Joy Beauregard, Richards softball coach Julie Folliard, Mother McAuley’s girl’s volleyball coach Nancy Pederson and a number of state title teams (Mt. Carmel basketball in ’85, Lincoln-Way East ’02 & Lockport ’04 softball) as those who will always standout from his career. Tony cites the “honesty and passion” of student-athletes and coaches as the reason he loves covering high school sports.
Award Presentation: Halftime of Andrew vs. Lincoln-Way Central football game
BRUCE FASOL | Radio Broadcaster | Deep South Sports, WFRX
With coaching in his family tree, Bruce Fasol was indoctrinated into sports at a young age, as he participated in four sports at West Frankfort High School and also began his work in radio as a junior in high school. Bruce returned to the area after attending Southern Illinois University and has spent nearly 40 years in the radio business. He is a staple in the West Frankfort community, having called over 3,000 Redbird athletic contests with broadcasting partner Rick Westermeier, often from their booth perched atop Frankfort High School’s Max Morris Gymnasium, also known as “The Supreme Court”. The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Famer was named the West Frankfort Citizen of the Year in 2000 and remains active in coordinating community projects throughout Southern Illinois. Bruce’s favorite part of high school sports is seeing athletes grow to become important parts of the community.
Award Presentation: Halftime of Frankfort vs. Benton boy’s basketball game at Frankfort on November 30, 2013
BOB FRISK | Sportswriter, Columnist | Daily Herald
Bob Frisk’s junior high yearbook lists his life ambition as becoming a sportswriter. He made the first step toward achieving that dream when he became the sports editor for the high school newspaper and yearbook while at Arlington High School in Arlington Heights (Arlington HS closed in 1984, students now attend either Hersey or Prospect). As a high school student, he was also hired by the local newspaper, the Daily Herald, which started a 56-year career at the paper that was interrupted only to attend the University of Illinois, where he covered high school sports for the Daily Illini and Champaign-Urbana Courier during his four years on campus. Bob’s efforts have produced a litany of awards and honors, including IBCA Hall of Fame induction, as well as Hall of Fame enshrinement from three local high schools. Bob retired in 2008 and surmises his love of high school sports with simplicity by saying “sports at this level are still refreshing. I love watching kids compete.”
Award Presentation: Halftime of Hersey-Prospect boy’s basketball game at Prospect on January 30, 2014.
LANNY SLEVIN | Radio Broadcaster | Miller Group Media, WLPO
Lanny Slevin’s love affair with radio began when he was six years old growing up in Peoria listening to Bradley basketball and Notre Dame football on the radio. He played high school football at Spalding Institute (now Notre Dame HS) in Peoria and attended St. Ambrose University before a 42-year career working in radio that he calls a “childhood dream come true.” Much of that time was spent at WLPO in the LaSalle-Peru area, while also working on the IHSA Sports Report and the IHSA TV Network throughout the years. He counts calling his children’s high school games and emceeing the 100th IHSA Boys Track & Field State Finals in Charleston among his career highlights. Lanny retired following the 2012-13 school year, and fittingly, his final radio call came at an IHSA State Final, as he brought fans the action from the St. Bede softball team’s state tourney semifinal game.
Award Presentation: Halftime of St. Bede vs. Rockridge football game at St. Bede on Saturday, October 5
Class of 2014-15
FRED KRONER| Sportswriter | Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette
Fred Kroner’s foray into sportswriting began with a seventh grade school project profiling the job. That grade school project sprouted a 41-year career that has combined Fred’s two great passions, “writing and sports.” He began writing soon thereafter as a high school student, working for the Mahomet-Seymour High School Bulldog Journal, as well as for the local weekly paper, the Mahomet Sucker State. After graduating from the University of Illinois, Fred made a stop at the Bloomington Pantagraph and then joined the New-Gazette staff in Champaign, where he has remained for the past 34 years. A few teams’ that stand out from his time there include the 1984 Centennial boys’ basketball team led by Roger McClendon, the Sullivan girls’ basketball team that Scott Thomas coached to an undefeated record in 1991, and Randy Wolken’s St. Joseph-Ogden softball team that won a state title in 2006. Fred cites the variety of prep sports he covers for making the job fun year after year, saying “I love not having to cover the same sport every day. The job never gets old.” Fred’s accolade comes at a fitting time, as he recently announced that he will retire at the conclusion of the 2014-15 school year.
Award Presentation: Champaign Central basketball game on January 30, 2015.
JOHN RADTKE | Sportswriter | Daily Herald
John Radtke says “purity” is what makes high school sports so special. “I’ve been fortunate to cover the Bears, Cubs, Sox, Hawks and Bulls in my career, but nothing compares to the purity and intimacy you get in a high school gym or on a high school field. Covering high school student-athletes and then watching as they become productive and successful adults is as good as it gets.” John will come full circle when he is recognized for his 40-year career working in prep sports, including the past 20 years at the Daily Herald. The Burlington Central High School grad will be honored at his alma mater, where his sports media career began as a radio broadcaster of Rocket athletic events. He learned “the ropes” of the business working at the DeKalb Daily Chronicle as a high school student and joined the Elgin Courier-News staff after graduating from Judson University. John also founded and was the long-time coach of the Northern Illinois Lightning travel softball organization. Not surprisingly, seeing his alma mater qualify for the IHSA Softball State Finals in 2009 was one of the most rewarding moments of his career. John is dedicating this honor to his late father John Radtke, Sr., whose support and love of sports made an indelible impact. “Without his love, guidance and support, when I was 17-18 years old and beyond, I don’t know that I would be what I am today.”
Award Presentation: Hampshire at Burlington Central Boys Basketball game on Saturday, December 6.
JIM TAYLOR | News & Sports Director | WRMJ 102.3 FM
Growing up in the Quad Cities in the 1970’s, Jim Taylor was raised on high school hoops while attending games with his family at United Township High School in East Moline. “Following the Western Big 6 in those years when Jerry Leggett, Cliff Talley, Whitey Verstraete, Don Morris and Duncan Reid were coaching. I guess I got hooked then.” After graduating from Alleman High School, Jim matriculated to Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where he found his calling working at the campus radio station WSIE. Aledo’s WRMJ 102.3 FM hired Jim out of college in 1990 and he has remained there ever since, rising to his current title as the News & Sports Director. Jim says he “loves traveling through the small towns of Illinois,” something he frequently enjoys while leading WRMJ’s vast high school sports coverage. However, he says the best part of the job is “the connection you get from covering your local schools and the relationships you forge.” Jim’s most memorable high school game resulted in a significant relationship being forged, as he met his future wife Nikki at an Aledo-Abingdon boys’ basketball game on December 3rd, 1993. Jim has been named the Best Small Market Sportscaster by the Illinois Broadcasters Association five times in his career.
Award Presentation: Mercer County basketball game on January 23, 2015.
Class of 2015-16
J. THOMAS MCNAMARA| Sportswriter/Editor | Decatur Tribune
Growing up in Decatur, Tom recalls that his height prevented him from being an athlete as a high school student at St. Teresa, but he dove into sports as a team manager, which eventually led to the late Bob Fallstrom hiring him as a Sports Clerk for the Decatur Herald as a sophomore. He maintained that path while attending Southern Illinois University and 58 years later still finds himself writing sports in Decatur and Macon County, including the last 38 as sports editor of the Decatur Tribune. One of the great high school historians in the state, Tom has penned three historical record books related to high schools sports in the Decatur area, as well as the autobiography of Decatur native Frank Coppenbarger. He has covered a litany of state championship teams in multiple sports and counts those among his favorite memories. A member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Tom is active in the Our Lady of Lourdes, where he often visits elderly hospital patients and also served on the Richland Community College Board of Trustees for many years. Tom’s presentation is fitting in that it features his alma mater, St. Teresa, playing the school that nominated him, Maroa-Forsyth. He also has a grandchild currently attending both high schools, making it even more of a family affair. Tom says the best part of covering high school sports is “Being with the young men and women who play the games and the coaches who sacrifice so much to work with them to help them be the best they can be in their athletic endeavors, as well as off-the-court efforts.”
: Halftime of St. Teresa vs. Maroa-Forsyth football game on Friday, September 4.
JIM O'BOYE| IHSA TV Producer| KOST Broadcasting
Jim O’Boye will tell you that he spent a total of 16 years producing the television broadcasts of numerous IHSA sport state final events, including football, girls basketball and boys basketball. However, that is a gross understatement, as Jim essentially was the IHSA TV Network for nearly two decades. He worked tirelessly at the site on the day of the broadcasts to produce the events, but also personally tried to ensure that the games were seen from East Dubuque to Cairo and everywhere in between. A Chicago native (Jim began at Mt. Carmel & graduated from Little Flower HS), Jim’s favorite high school sports memory was watching the 1964 state basketball championship game when Pekin beat Cobden. That perspective served him well when he came full circle and began producing America’s Original March Madness, which created several other favorite moments, including Staunton’s upset of Hales Franciscan in the 1993 Class A title game, Simeon’s buzzer beater to win the 2006 Class AA championship, watching Candace Parker dunk at the Dundee-Crown Christmas tournament and then lead Naperville Central to a pair of crowns, as well as seeing legendary coaches Dick VanScyoc (Manual) and Gordie Kerkman (West Aurora) win state titles. Jim has also served as the PA announcer for home St. Rita football games for over 30 years, a tradition that began when his son was playing football for the Mustangs. He calls his time overseeing the IHSA TV Network “the greatest job I ever had!” Jim says the best part of covering high school sports is “talking with the coaches, the pure enthusiasm the kids have for the game, and usually having a great seat, especially when I produced the IHSA telecasts.”
: Pre-game of St. Rita vs. Loyola football game on Friday, October 16.
BOB SAKAMOTO| Sportswriter | Chicago Tribune
For nearly 25 years, Bob Sakamoto was the face of prep sports coverage in Chicagoland. In addition to being a fixture in the Chicago Tribune’s Preps Plus section, he also co-hosted a weekly high school sports show on CLTV and was all-things high school sports. Affectionately known by readers and viewers as “Sako,” fans and athletes alike knew that if Bob was at the football stadium, in the gym or at the softball diamond, it was a big game. Bob spent 32 years at the Chicago Tribune and his Emmy-nominated show High School Extra ran for a decade. The Chicago native is a graduate of Lane Tech High School who graduated from MacMurray College and then went on to earn a Master’s Degree from Northwestern University. He is a member of both the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association and the Chicago Public Schools Coaches Association Halls of Fame. Bob covered a bevy of memorable teams, legendary coaches and future professional athletes during his tenure, and recalls Isiah Thomas, Glenn “Doc” Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Jon Scheyer, Mark Aguirre, Terry Cummings, Ben Wilson, Dwyane Wade, Jarrett Payton, Quentin Richardson, Corey Maggette, Donovan McNabb, Antwaan Randle El and Napoleon Harris as some that stand out from his career. Prior to his preps career, Bob spent four seasons on the Chicago Bulls beat traveling all over the country trying to describe the ascendant, once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon known as Michael Jordan while also getting to know him as a friend. Bob spent four seasons covering the Chicago Bears striving to portray the essence of people like Mike Ditka, Jim McMahon, Mike Singletary, Ron Rivera, Tom Thayer, Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, Jim Harbaugh and Jay Hilgenberg. He says that the best part of covering high school sports is “revealing the true nature of competition among athletes simply playing for the love of the game, along with the passion of a Mt. Carmel football game and the terrific barbecue grill team at Wheaton South football games.”
Award Presentation: Pre-game of Mt. Carmel vs. St. Rita football game on Friday, September 18.
TIM SCHWEIZER| Radio Broadcaster| WFMB 1450 AM
Simply put, Tim Schweizer is the voice of high school sports in Springfield and the surrounding area. His broadcasting career dates back to 1974, when he began calling games on WTAX in Springfield. He remained there until 1997, when he joined the crew at WFMB Sports Radio 1450, where he continues to call games today. A graduate of Springfield High School who was involved in student council, he earned his Bachelor’s Degree at Illinois State University, and later went onto to complete his MBA at Sangamon State University (now University of Illinois at Springfield). He says there are “far too many to list” when it comes to naming the top athletes, coaches and teams he has covered, but does offer that he “always enjoys having a good seat to report on history in the making involving local kids” and that “state finals involving local teams are the best.” Tim works as a public service administrator for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and has been involved with community groups including the Springfield Housing Authority, the Boys and Girls Club, Friends of Brookens Library, Springfield Sports Hall of Fame and the Springfield Junior Football League. Tim was recognized by the Sangamon County Principals Association in 2012 when he was named a “Friend of the County” for his 30-plus years of calling the County high school basketball tournament on the radio. As a man known for his ability to captivate an audience on the radio, Tim keeps it short and sweet when asked what the best part of covering high school sports is: “Promoting the good things being done by high school students, while providing a community service by reporting on local kids and local schools.” He adds that he “feels blessed to have had great working relationships with local coaches and athletic directors.”
Award Presentation: Pre-game of Springfield HS vs. Chatham Glenwood HS boys basketball game on Saturday, December 5.
Class of 2016-17
DAVE BERNHARD| Broadcaster| IHSA TV Network
Each March as a student at Beecher High School, Dave Bernhard’s class would watch the IHSA Boys Basketball State Finals on a small TV in the school gym. Dave reflects, saying, “the games were great to see, but I always thought that the luckiest people that I was watching were the announcers of the games. I have become that luckiest person.” Dave has been “lucky” enough to enjoy an expansive career in prep sports, from his time as a high school teacher and baseball coach, to a writer at the Joliet Herald News, broadcasting on WJOL radio and hosting a weekly prep sports cable TV show in the south Chicagoland suburbs. However, the Bradley University alum’s greatest impact has come as the face and voice of the IHSA TV Network. Dave has been broadcasting IHSA State Finals on statewide television since 2000, and has been on the play-by-play call for over 450 state final contests. All told in 37 years, he estimates he has broadcast over 1,200 high school contests and attended over 2,000 as a media member. “There is an energy that is found at high school events that is unlike that of college or professional sports,” said Dave. “The students in the stands are true classmates. They are in the same classes, working on projects together, helping each other with homework, eating lunch together, and now they come together to support their school. The same goes for the athletes.” Whether covering a weekday regular-season game or calling Derrick Rose’s state championship buzzerbeater
, Bernhard treats the games the same based on some words of wisdom NFHS Hall of Famer Gordie Gillespie
said to him years ago, “Wherever you are at, that is the Major Leagues”.
: Prior to the IHSA Class 4A Baseball State Championship game at Silver Cross Field in Joliet on June 10, 2017.
JIM MUIR| Radio Broadcaster| WQRL Radio
Few media members are more synonymous with high school sports in Southern Illinois than Jim Muir, and it may be safe to say that no one has enjoyed covering them more than him. “The best way to sum it up is to say that any time anybody saw me with a headset on at a high school sporting event, I loved every second of it. Every single second,” said Jim. The Sesser-Valier High School and Rend Lake College alum will retire as the Sports Director at WQRL radio at the conclusion of the 2016-17 school year after over 25 years and 3,000 broadcasts. He always loved to play sports and compete, but by his own admission, "wasn't a great athlete". However, that didn't diminish his love for high school sports and he always stayed connected any way he could. His broadcast career started on a whim when a friend invited him to co-host a Saturday morning prep sports radio show and as Muir says, “the rest is history.” That history includes expanding the Saturday preps show to two hours and making it year round, extending the station’s coverage to other high schools in the region in addition to Benton High School, and adding girls’ basketball, baseball and softball to the broadcast lineup. During his career, Muir also covered high school sports and wrote columns for the Southern Illinoisan and Benton Evening News. He also published Southern Illinois Sports Connection Magazine for five years. Muir reflects on his career saying, “I just love the atmosphere involved in high school sports, the build-up before a big game. I have been blessed to be a part of so many great games and to have the privilege to watch so many wonderful athletes compete. I'm also thankful to the good folks at WQRL, they gave me an opportunity to expand sports and do some innovative things that nobody else was doing. It's just been a great ride for me!”
: Benton vs. Sesser-Valier Boys Basketball game at Benton Invitational Tournament on January 20, 2017.
DON WERNTZ| Radio Broadcaster| Big Radio Freeport
As an 11-year old kid with a broken wrist, Don Werntz got to know local Freeport radio broadcaster Rick Edwards while watching his Little League team and keeping the scoreboard in the press box. Edwards eventually invited a very nervous Werntz to call an inning of play-by-play on the air, and after a successful debut, told Don to come see him for a job when he was older. Don followed through and as a junior at Freeport High School, made $1.65 an hour working for the station. Don had found his calling, as he chose broadcasting over law school after graduating with degrees in Political Science and Radio/TV/Film from Northern Illinois University. Don has spent his entire career in the Northern Illinois market, calling over 2,500 contests in numerous sports, including many state championship winning teams. However, it’s a team that came up short of a title that stands out above the rest. “I have a special place in my heart for the Freeport Pretzel basketball team in 1973-74 that went 28-2 and advanced to Super-Sectional. That was the first year I had an opportunity to broadcast games on the radio, and it was also my senior year at Freeport High School. So it was literally ‘my team’ with my own classmates and friends. Not many people have the opportunity to do that.” As Don approaches 45 years on the air waves in Freeport, the 2013 Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Hall of Fame inductee's reason for coming back year after year remains the same. “The people. I have met so many interesting players, coaches and fans over the last 43 years. Many of whom have become lifelong friends.”
: Forreston vs. Lena-Winslow Football game on October 7, 2016.
Class of 2017-18
DICK GOSS| Sports Editor & Writer| Joliet Herald News
Dick recognized that he had a gift for storytelling while he was still a student at Joliet Catholic High School (now Joliet Catholic Academy). A National Honor Society student, he was active in the school newspaper and was hired as a part-time sports writer by then-sports editor Bob Drazkowski at the Joliet Herald-News during his junior year. After high school, Dick attended the University of Illinois in Champaign, where he earned an accounting degree. While working in insurance accounting, he covered sports part-time for Springfield State Journal-Register from 1973 until 1978, when he joined their staff full-time. Dick returned home as The Herald-News sports editor in 1983 and is now approaching 35 years in that role. Some memorable moments for Dick include Providence Catholic’s three straight baseball state titles (2014-16) in Joliet, his alma mater winning five football state titles in six seasons (1999-2004), the Hilltoppers 56-50 quarterfinal win over Riverside-Brookfield in 2001, and too many Joliet Central, Joliet West and Lockport basketball moments to count. Dick’s passion for high school sports goes beyond the game when talking about why he loves his job. “It's the relationships that you build with coaches and with high school athletes. Some of those relationships turn into lifetime friendships.” Some of the memorable coaches from his career include Gordie Gillespie, Pat Sullivan, Dan Sharp, Joe Gura, Luke Yaklich, Mike O'Connell, Mark Smith, Matt Senffner, Jack Hermanski, Larry Thompson, Dave Stephens, Jim Hall and Jared Voss. Among the student-athletes that Dick will never forget are Roger Powell Jr., James Augustine, Trent Jackson, Gary Bell, Mike Alstott, Pete Bercich, Oliver Gibson, John Dergo, Mike Foltynewicz, Allie Quigley, Samantha Quigley Smith and Joe Benson.
: Prior to the IHSA Class 4A Baseball State Championship game at Silver Cross Field in Joliet on June 9, 2018.
GREG SAPP| Radio Broadcaster| 97.9 XFM & KJ Country 102.3 FM
A native of Effingham, Greg has been the voice of high school sports in his hometown, as well as for several surrounding high school communities since the mid 1970’s. A huge sports fan growing up, Greg helped with the baseball and basketball programs at Effingham High School before graduating in 1974. He attended Lake Land College in nearby Mattoon, all the while remaining involved in Flaming Heart athletics. That involvement included providing play-by-play on basketball video broadcasts, which led to an opportunity to call play-by-play on the radio. Greg was on the ground floor of starting Effingham’s WXEF radio in 1994 and is currently the News and Sports Director at 97.9 XFM and KJ Country 102.3 FM in Effingham. Some highlights in his career include watching his alma mater play in the 1980 IHSA Class AA Boys Basketball State Championship, calling St. Anthony’s thrilling overtime victory in the 2017 IHSA Class 1A Boys Basketball state title game, as well as being behind the mic for Teutopolis’ back-to-back IHSA baseball state championships in 2010 and 2011. Greg says he “feels blessed in covering some mighty good and successful coaches along the way”, but Effingham basketball coach Jim Maxedon will always hold a special place for his efforts in helping kickstart his broadcast career. A member of the Effingham County Salvation Army Board, who was named Effingham’s Citizen of the Year in 2009, Greg says the greatest compliment he can be paid is when listeners tell him, ‘I feel like I'm at the game when hearing your broadcasts.’
: Effingham vs. Teutopolis Boys Basketball game at Effingham HS on December 12, 2017.
BILL STONE| Writer & Website Founder| IHSA Gymnastics & Multiple Media Outlets
An avid sports fan growing up, Bill participated in soccer and tennis at Wheaton Central High School (now Wheaton Warrenville South) and has covered high school sports for more than 35 years. Bill has covered an array of sports for a variety of publications including the Daily Herald, Hinsdale Doings, Suburban Life, ChicagolandSoccer.org, Shaw Publications, and Sun Publications, and says that covering first-time state champions is always special. He was on the beat for several, including Hinsdale Central’s girls cross country, girls track & field and girls basketball, Glenbard West’s girls cross country and girls track & field, as well as Wheaton Warrenville South and IC Catholic football. He was also on the bookend of the career of NFHS Hall of Fame inductee Peg Kopec, covering her first (1988) and last (2015) state title matches. Where Bill’s greatest impact on the high school scene has undoubtedly occurred is in the sport of gymnastics. Bill has long been the preeminent source for high school Boys and Girls gymnastics coverage in the state. He expanded that base in the early 2000’s, when he and Mike Considine founded State Gymnastics Stats (SGS), which comprehensively posts results from nearly every meet around the state. Bill’s nuanced approach and expansive coverage has been a beacon for the sport of gymnastics in Illinois, while simultaneously making him a resource for student-athletes, coaches, judges, and the IHSA. Bill says that he loves covering high school sports because of the “joy of the athletes when they achieve their team or individual goals, however big or small they may be.”
: 2018 IHSA Girls Gymnastics State Finals on February 17, 2018.
Class of 2018-19
DON CHIPMAN| Sports Editor| Cass County Star Gazette
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.).
CHRIS DUERR| Sports Director| KHQA-TV Quincy
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.”
: KHQA Superfan Basketball Shootout on February 2, 2019 at Quincy Notre Dame High School. Game and time TBA.
MARTY MACIASZEK| Sportswriter| Daily Herald
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.
: At Wheeling High School on December 7, 2018 following the girls basketball game vs. Hersey (approx. 7:15 PM).
KURT PEGLER| Sports Director| WMBD-TV Peoria
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”.
: At IHSA Class 3A Boys Basketball Sectional at Bradley University in Peoria (March 5, 6 or 8). Exact game and time TBA.
Class of 2019-20
FOWLER CONNELL | Sports Writer & Broadcaster | Danville Commericial News & WDAN
Fowler Connell and his career can only be described as amazing, as the 95-year old Danville resident continues to cover high school sports to this day. Born in Chicago, he was raised in Kansas City, Missouri, where he made his foray into sportswriting at Paseo High School’s student newspaper. He went on to attend Kansas City Junior College and the University of Missouri following his service in the United States Navy. After being stationed in the Pacific through the end of World War II, Fowler eventually came to Eastern Illinois, where he started his professional journalism career at the Champaign News Gazette in 1949. He then made the short move to Vermillion County in 1952 when he became the Sports Editor at the Danville Commercial News. He spent 37 years at the Commercial News before retiring in 1989, but on January 1, 1990 he got back into the game with a new job at WDAN radio in Danville. He continues to serve as a member of the WDAN broadcast team on high school and junior college games, as well as on University of Illinois pre-game show broadcasts, while also appearing as a regular panelist on the WDAN Sports Talk program for over 30 years. “Seeing the development of young athletes, and then following their careers in high school and into college,” is what Fowler calls the best part of covering prep sports. He also has fond memories of many of the coaches he covered, with Paul Shelby, B.J. Luke, Gene Gourley, John Eakle and John Spezia standing out. The Danville Commercial News published a collection of Fowler’s favorite stories in a book titled “Sports Through My Eyes, 50-Years of Sports Coverage.” Among all the amazing moments he has covered, he is able narrow down his Top 3:
1) Schlarman beating Clinton 76-75 in first round of 1961 state tournament on Brian Williams 50-foot shot in the closing seconds.
2) Danville High School’s football team stunning archrival Champaign Central 16-12 on a lateral kickoff return in final seconds of a game in 1977.
3) Left-hander Steve Kelly throwing a two-hitter to help Danville high edge Moline 2-1 in the state baseball tournament opener in Peoria.
Fowler is a past President of the Illinois Sports Editors Association and was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1979. He led the establishment of the Vermilion County Sportsmanship Award over 30 years ago and continues to serve on the committee.
Award Presentation: Tuesday, January 14 at Danville High School varsity boys basketball game.
BOB LEAVITT | Sports Writer | Peoria Journal Star
A native of Downers Grove, Bob Leavitt got his start in sports journalism covering his classmates at Downers Grove High School (now DG North) as a part of a high school journalism class. He continued his dual role as a student/sportswriter after high school, as he simultaneously attended the University of Illinois, while also working in the Champaign-Urbana Courier sports department. After graduating from U of I, he transitioned into a full-time position with the Courier, before moving on to a position with the Peoria Journal Star in 1969, where he’d be a fixture on the high school sports scene until his retirement in 2000. Bob points out that the experience of covering both preps and collegiate sports while at the Courier helped shape his passion for high school sports due to them being the most “pure” of all levels. Bob’s career intersected with legendary players, coaches and teams, not to mention the golden age of high school basketball in the city of Peoria, as he covered Manual High School’s state title fourpeat from 1994-1997, followed by Shaun Livingston guiding Peoria Central to back-to-back state crowns in 2003 and 2004. Bob notes that the coaches from each of the aforementioned title teams in Manual’s Dick Van Scyoc and Wayne McClain, as well as Peoria High School’s Chuck Buescher and Tom Peeler and Rod Butler from Richwoods left lasting impacts on him. Among athletes, he fondly recalls Sergio McClain as a four-year starter on those famed Manual teams, as well as Peoria High School’s David Ayoub (Peoria High, 1977) running what is still the all-time state best 880-yards/800-meters at the IHSA track state finals in 1977. Richwoods’ football state title games in 1984 and 1988 still stand out today, as does Peoria High School’s overtime loss to East St. Louis Lincoln in the 1989 boys basketball title game. Bob’s lasting impact on both Peoria area preps, and the Journal Star, remain top of mind each spring when the Journal Star Honor Roll Meet is contested. Bob founded the track & field meet that features the top student-athletes from Peoria and the surrounding coverage area in 1979 and served as the meet director for 21 years. Bob reflected on how the relationships he developed with his colleagues were just as important as the games he covered. “I was honored (and intimidated) to work for Bert Bertine at the C-U Courier,” said Bob. “Dick Lien was a good example of perspective at the Journal Star, and former Journal Star managing editor Tom Driscoll was as true a newspaper person as ever was and a fine teacher of the profession. I never thought you had to know all that much about any particular subject to be an effective reporter; just how to find people who did know and get them to educate you. And as far as that philosophy, where better to look than high school coaches, who are after all first-and-foremost teachers.”
Award Presentation: To be announced.
NEAL ORMOND | Broadcaster | WMRO/WLXT/WKKD/WBIG
Neal Ormond epitomized the high school experience as a student at West Aurora High School, where he helped the Blackhawk basketball team to a fourth-place finish at the 1958 IHSA Boys Basketball State Finals. He also ran track, played tennis and was active on the school’s speech team. Those experiences clearly made a lasting impact on Neal. After matriculating to earn a Bachelor’s Degree from Yale University and an MBA from Stanford University, he felt a calling to return home to Aurora. In 1964, he was invited by the local radio station to join the on-air broadcast teams, and is still going strong today, having called over 500 West Aurora High School football games and 1,500 basketball games on the radio. His broadcast career has spanned numerous stations and mediums, including WMRO radio (1964-1991), WLXT-TV (1968-1970), WKKD radio (1991-2001) and WBIG radio (2001-current), the last of which also simulcasts his call on the NFHS Network. Neal says he loves broadcasting high school sports because “it provides a wonderful opportunity to publicize and promote to the community, and our loyal fans around the world, the many outstanding accomplishments of our students-athletes in all sports, and the excellence of the academic and extracurricular programs of School District 129.” Among the many memories, Neal treasures the state final basketball seasons, particularly the 1976 (2nd place) team and the 2000 state champion team. He also calls it a “privilege” to meet and cover so many “outstanding” coaches both for West Aurora and their opponents, including the legendary John McDougal and Gordon Kerkman. Many West Aurora students have also been privileged to benefit from Neal’s coaching prowess. He has coached for 70 combined seasons as an assistant in the West Aurora track & field, girls tennis, basketball and softball programs. Neal served 22 years on the West Aurora school board before declining not to run for reelection in 2017. His accolades throughout the years include honors for media and coaching from the IBCA, IADA, and IHSTCA to name a few. Neal’s wife, Mary Clark Ormond, is the former head librarian at the Aurora Public Library and currently president of the board of trustees of the Aurora Historical Society. They have three children in Neal Alan Ormond IV, Laurel Ormond and Chrissy Ormond De Swardt. Neal retired in 1995 after a 31-year career as Vice President of Human Resources at both the Quaker Oats Company and W. W. Grainger, Inc.
Award Presentation: Friday, January 31 at West Aurora High School varsity boys basketball game.