2018-19 Team Biographies

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ABYGALE AHN
Elmhurst (Timothy Christian)

Abygale Ahn

If you ask Abygale Ahn about what it’s been like to play tennis and volleyball at Timothy Christian, she will offer words like “incredible” and “unforgettable.”

It’s no wonder, when you consider she’s made four straight trips to State in tennis, with a Top 8 finish in singles as a sophomore and two 3rd place trophies in doubles the past two years. Her volleyball team also took 3rd place at State when Abygale was a freshman. She’s played on both teams all four years, even though they compete in the same season.

But Abygale isn’t looking for accolades or medals. Instead, she is clear: “Any trophy or award pales in comparison to the character I developed through my time in sports.”

She explains, “The many lessons I learned through four years of varsity athletics were significant in instilling in me some of my greatest character strengths.” She checks off traits like integrity, work ethic, discipline and time management, but comes back to one big lesson in leadership. “In wanting to set a positive example and to bring out the best in my teams,” she says, “I grasped how to take responsibility, be understanding, and exercise patience. Not only in sports, but in life, teamwork is necessary, and leadership on the court taught me to be a confident leader in life.”

The strength of her character is clear on and off the court, as her teachers can attest. “Abygale makes a positive impact each day at Timothy Christian,” writes College Career counselor Jonathan Huizinga, who notes he is especially impressed by her work as a mentor and peer tutor. “Because of Abygale’s inclusive and welcoming personality, the freshman girls easily open up to her and view her as a leader and mentor. Abygale is recognized by her peers and teachers as a leader within our student body and was voted Homecoming Queen earlier this year.”

She is also valedictorian of her class with a 4.36 GPA on a 4.0 scale and she earned a 34 on her ACT. A National Merit commended student, she is president of the National Honor Society at Timothy Christian, and she participates in Student Council, math team, and Spanish National Honor Society.

Brian Whartnaby, her AP History teacher, concludes, “Abygale’s ability to thrive in multiple environments and disciplines has been a blessing to our school.”

Abygale Ahn represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 3 and her principal is Brad Mitchell.

 

ZACHARY ANDERSON
Chicago (Payton)

Zachary Anderson

Zachary Anderson sums up the lessons he’s learned as a student-athlete at Chicago’s Walter Payton College Preparatory High School with one word: Respect.

“Sports have taught me to strive for the genuine respect of those around me through hard work,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if I’m a captain of the football or lacrosse team or a starting defensive specialist in basketball.” Whatever the project, whatever the outcome, he’ll be working his hardest to make the whole team succeed.

When he first joined Payton’s football team, Zach found himself on the prep team, with very little playing time on special teams. “My coach explained that the prep team was why varsity won on Friday nights,” Zach explains, “but at times the exhaustion seemed to be without reward.” With or without reward, he just pushed harder. The result? Zach was starting by the end of his freshman year, and as a sophomore, he led the team in tackles, earning Payton’s Best Defensive Player Award. In 2018, he was named Payton’s best offensive player and this year, made the All-City team.

Zach has played four years of basketball, football and lacrosse, serving as captain of the last two. In football, his teams have made four straight trips to the State playoffs, while he’s helped bring home three city championships in lacrosse and a conference championship in basketball.

“It would be easy to simply highlight Zach’s athletic accomplishments,” writes Payton football coach George Klupchak. “However, he is far more than a four-time varsity letter winner, a three-time All-Conference performer, a two-time MVP, and a captain. Zach is a rare student-athlete that gives as much effort during Tuesday afternoon practices as he does underneath the Friday Night Lights.”

When it comes to academics, Zach shines just as bright. He’s earned a perfect 4.0 GPA and a 1570 on his SAT. He is a section leader in Concert Choir and in the Sounds of Sweetness a cappella choir, and he works as a “peer buddy” with Payton’s Best Buddies.

“Zach is a wonderful young person who inspires his teachers and peers alike,” notes Kevin J. Wasielewski, Zach’s AP English teacher. “He is fantastic to work with and I cannot wait to see what his future holds.”

Zachary Anderson represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 1 and his principal is Tim Devine.

 

JULIE BOTTARINI
Aurora (Rosary)

Julie Bottarini

If there’s one thing Julie Bottarini has, it’s the courage of her convictions.

Although she had achieved great success as a swimmer, including being part of two state champion teams at Rosary High School and qualifying for the junior national swim meet three times, by the end of her sophomore year, Julie decided to leave the pool behind.

“Swimming was my passion, my dream, and my greatest obstacle,” she writes. “Ultimately, I decided to end my swimming career so that I could pursue new and challenging endeavors. I joined two Bible studies, my church’s youth group, and a summer camp program.” She also found a way to combine athletics with her extracurriculars by embracing new skills, including adding track and cross country to her schedule. “I am proud to say that I am the first student in the history of my school to qualify for State in three sports: swimming, track, and cross country.”

Her track team finished in 17th place at State in 2017 and 22nd in 2018, while Julie ran legs on the 9th place 4x800 relay at the state meet as a sophomore and the 4th place 4x400 last spring. Her cross country teams also finished high at the state meet, earning 23rd overall when Julie was a junior and moving up to 13th last fall. Julie received Most Improved honors in cross country and Most Dedicated in track.

With a 33 on her ACT and a 4.239 GPA, she ranks in the Top 5 in her class. She is a two-year member of the National Honor Society, and she has earned the Maxima Cum Laude award in Latin twice. She has also participated in math team, Camp Wow, Debate Club, Interact, and four other faith-based organizations, including acting as a “Dominican Preacher,” a title conferred on only four students each year.

“Julie Bottarini is an extraordinary young woman,” says Bridget Gamboni, Rosary’s campus minister. “She embodies the mission of Rosary High School in the ways she keeps her faith at the forefront of her life, the way she leads in the classroom by her attentiveness and participation, her treatment of every person with kindness and respect, and her commitment to preaching the truths of her faith both through her words and actions.”

This fall, Julie will attend the University of Notre Dame in its Army ROTC program.

Julie Bottarini represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 2 and her principal is Anthony Wilkinson.

 

MEGAN BRESLIN
Pinckneyville

Megan Breslin

Discipline? Perseverance? Fighting through snow to play at the state golf tournament? For Pinckneyville’s Megan Breslin, that’s just par for the course.

As she recalls her senior season on the golf team, Megan writes, “We had an incredible year, finishing first in conference, first in sectionals, and we were seeded Top 5 in the state.” But Mother Nature didn’t cooperate. “The state tournament had the worst weather conditions I have ever played in,” she says. Snow, hail, blowing winds… By the time she’d reached the 12th hole on the second day of play, Megan remembers, “I could not feel my hands and thought there was no way I could finish. My coach then told me we were in 3rd place and I needed to stay focused and finish strong. I realized my team needed me and there was no way I was going to let them down. The team finished 3rd and I finished 5th overall, earning my third All-State medal in my high school career.”

In her four year at Pinckneyville Community High School, Megan has played four years of golf, acting as captain of the team every year. As an individual, she moved up from 8th to 7th and then 5th at State. She also played four years of basketball, with two years as captain, and three of volleyball, with one as captain.

On the academic side, Megan is No. 1 in her class with a GPA of 3.99 on a 4.0 scale. Named Most Studious in the senior class, she is an Illinois State Scholar, treasurer of Student Council, secretary of Class Congress, president of BETA Club, and a member of the National Honor Society, Leadership Council, Pep Club, Math Club, Spanish Club and Science Club.

“Megan is an outstanding young woman who excels in everything she does,” notes Rhonda Shubert, who was Megan’s peewee volleyball coach when she was a third-grader, and more recently worked with her on a church mission trip. “Megan has shown compassion and understanding,” Shubert says. “She also shows great work ethic and time management.”

Gregory Zmudzinski, chair of the Social Studies department as well as a coach at PCHS, agrees. “I have watched Megan progress and mature as a leader in girls basketball and golf. She has been tried and tested in many stressful situations.” He adds, “Megan is a terrific young lady.”

Megan M. Breslin represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 7 and her principal is Tony Wilson.

 

RORY CAVAN
Glen Ellyn (Glenbard West)

Rory Cavan

“What you put in is directly proportional to what you get out.”

When a coach at Glenbard West offered that advice to motivate Rory Cavan in cross country, Rory took it and ran with it. “I took his words to heart not only for running,” Rory says, “but also for all aspects of my life from relationships to the classroom.”

Over the years, Rory has faced migraines, fever, infection and even knocking out his front tooth, all hurdles on his way to compete. “I persevered through each,” he says. “While my individual performances in the wake of each incident were not what I had hoped, I ended up scoring points that helped my team achieve its goals.”

Those goals included Rory’s freshman cross country team taking its first West Suburban Silver conference title in 50 years, as well as his varsity track and cross country teams each winning sectional titles. At the state cross country meet, Rory crossed the finish line in 5th place last fall and 14th the year before that, as he helped the Hilltoppers to 6th and 7th place in the state. He is also a state medalist in track, anchoring the 4th place 4x800 relay last spring, with his team taking 9th overall.

“Rory’s work ethic and ‘team-first’ approach spreads to teammates, raising the level of expectations and making everyone a better runner and teammate,” notes cross country coach Kyle Nugent.

Rory is a two-time MVP in cross country and he holds school records in track in the 4x400 and 4x800 relays. Academically, Rory earned a 5.5497 GPA on a 5.0 scale. He is a two-year member of the National Honor Society, including acting as vice president. He has also participated in MAWI and West Suburban Conference leadership programs, Target Success, and the Spanish Honor Society, and he is an Illinois State Scholar. He will head to Duke University on a track scholarship in the fall.

Kyle R. Neiss, who teaches English and Language Arts at Glenbard West, lauds his student’s leadership skills as well as his writing ability and intellectual curiosity. He calls Rory “hard-working, bright, self-motivating, self-sustaining, dependable, charismatic, enthusiastic, mature, passionate and creative” before concluding, “I feel blessed as a teacher to have known and had the privilege of teaching such a fine individual.”

Rory Cavan represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 3 and his principal is Dr. Peter Monaghan.

 

ISABELLE CHRISTIANSEN
Oswego (H.S.)

Isabelle Christiansen

For Oswego’s Isabelle Christiansen, there’s a symbiotic relationship between sports and schoolwork. She’s the first to admit that balancing the two isn’t always easy. But the payoff, when those two “seemingly separate worlds” come together, when the skills learned in one spill over into the over, makes it all worth it.

“For me, running has brought me discipline, determination and curiosity that transcend the limits of the track,” she explains. “I do not think twice when a lot is asked of me.” She adds, “I know that if I can follow a rigorous schedule at practice, I can do the same in class. If I can run a mile in under five minutes, I can handle a presentation, regardless of how much it may scare me.”

No excuses. No quitting. One hundred percent effort. It’s worked for her in track and cross country, and it’s definitely worked for her in the classroom.

A National Merit Semifinalist, AP Scholar with Distinction, and Illinois State Scholar, Isabelle has earned a 4.62 GPA on a 4.0 scale and scored 1560 on her SAT. She has been a four-year member of Oswego High School’s Athletic Leadership Council and the Circle of Friends Club, which helps students form friendships with their peers with special needs, and she also participates in Rho Kappa and Mu Alpha Theta, honors societies for Social Studies and Math. Isabelle is a member of National Honor Society and the Spanish National Honor Society and a peer mentor in BIONIC, an anti-bullying club. She also earned a Seal of Biliteracy in Spanish.

She has run cross country and track all four years, taking 9th place at State in cross country as a sophomore, and finishing 3rd and 6th in the 4x800 relay and 6th and 7th in the 1600-meters at the state track meet. Isabelle has been named MVP three times in both track and cross country as well as Oswego High School Athlete of the Month three times.

“In the years that I have known her, she has shown exceptional growth in academic dedication and leadership ability,” says Jennifer Keto, Social Studies department chair at Oswego High School and Isabelle’s teacher in an Advanced Placement seminar. “She is an outstanding student and her commitment to school goes above and beyond. She is bright, energetic, compassionate and genuinely well-rounded.”

Isabelle N. Christiansen represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 3 and her principal is Michael Wayne.

 

NOAH CONNER
Pinckneyville

Noah Conner

When you look at what he’s accomplished, it’s no surprise Noah Conner was named “Mr. PCHS” at Pinckneyville High School.

A four-year competitor in cross country and track and field, Noah also joined the Panther basketball, wrestling, and Scholastic Bowl teams during his high school years. He won his sectional in the high jump as a freshman, and, although he only wrestled for one year, Noah was the regional champion in 2018 in the 182-pound weight class.

No. 1 in his class, Noah achieved a 4.0648 GPA on a 4.0 scale. He also earned a perfect 800 on the math portion of his SAT on his way to a 1440 overall. An Illinois State Scholar, he has participated in WYSE, National Beta Club, Spanish Club, and the Perry County CEO program, where he acted as treasurer.

“It is very difficult to put all of Noah’s merits into one letter,” writes Kyle J. Heckert, teacher and coach at PCHS. “I have been Noah’s mathematics teacher for the last three years, and he is the brightest young man that I have ever had the opportunity to teach.”

If all of that makes it sound as if success has come easily for Noah, it hasn’t. “I had major setbacks my freshman and sophomore years,” he relates. “With leg injuries stealing the majority of my seasons, I was well behind my teammates. Since I was determined to be on the varsity team, I had to work harder than anyone else.” He pushed himself on and off-season, running more and more miles per week, setting higher and more challenging goals for himself. And, yes, when he came back, he made the varsity team.

Pinckneyville Mathematics department chair and cross country coach Ryan Bruns notes that Noah applies the same drive and determination to the classroom. “He is never satisfied and refuses to settle for anything less than perfection,” he writes.

Mr. Heckert agrees. “Not only does he earn top marks in his classes, but he pursues knowledge that is beyond the scope of class,” he says. “I have to admit that many times I have basically used his test as an answer key for the rest of the class. That is because Noah shows wonderful insight and clarity in his work.”

Coach Bruns sums up his student this way: “Noah Conner is one of a kind.”

Noah J. Conner represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 7 and his principal is Tony Wilson.

 

SEAN FORD
Tinley Park (H.S.)

Sean Ford

No matter the challenge, no matter the obstacle, Tinley Park High School’s Sean Ford will find a way to ace it. When you consider just what’s on his schedule and the challenges he has overcome, that’s pretty astonishing.

“In January of 2017, I was diagnosed with diabetes,” Sean writes. “Prior to my diagnosis, I had been very active in extracurricular activities, playing two sports, participating in a multitude of clubs, leading some, and playing for the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. My new diagnosis jeopardized all of this.”

When he says “very active,” he’s seriously underestimating just how packed his schedule has been. At Tinley Park, Sean has played four years of tennis and soccer, and he’s participated in four years of Scholastic Bowl, including two years as captain, with four years as a Mathlete, four years of Chess Club, and four years of band. And that’s only half of it. He’s also competed in music, both solo and ensemble, as a jazz pianist and with his French horn, earning All-State honors in both, and he has played with the youth symphony for four years. He added four years of Student Council, with a stint as president, four years in a class leadership program, three years of Youth Government with the Village of Tinley Park, two years in National Honor Society and the Science National Honor Society, and a year working on “Panther Project.” To top it off, Sean served as a Homecoming Prince in 2017, led the band as drum major, and taught piano lessons on the side.

He’s also kept up a perfect 4.0 GPA and scored 1570 on his SAT. He will finish 1st in his class at Tinley Park. And he did all of that while learning to balance his academics, athletics, and activities with diabetes.

Sean notes that he used the management and organizational skills he had already developed to figure out his health challenges, too. In fact, Sean increased his involvement in high school activities, taking on new projects and co-founding new clubs. “I’ve never felt stronger than after I redoubled my involvement in high school activities,” he says. “I used them to help me in my fight against diabetes.”

“He is without exaggeration a once-in-a-lifetime individual,” notes Michael R. Osborne, Sean’s mathematics teacher at Tinley Park High School.

Sean Ford represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 3 and his principal is Dr. Theresa Nolan.

 

NATHAN GARARD
Gibson City (G.C.-Melvin-Sibley)

Nathan Garard

Quarterback, pitcher, stage manager…Nathan Garard is a leader in everything he does.

It’s hard not to notice that Nathan has led Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School to two state football championships. He is definitely proud of the “intense devotion and immense effort” it took to get there. But it’s still not what Nathan rates as most important when it comes to his high school career.

“I like to think of my time in high school as more than football,” he says. “I visit a fourth-grade class every week, and along with being a class officer, I belong to many other student organizations such as Interact Club, Student Council, and the Spring Musical. I devote countless hours to baseball and basketball, and I also sit on formal committees such as the school district’s Curriculum Council where I am the student representative. Even with all of these commitments, I still make time to see that fourth-grade class.”

Math teacher Susan J. Riley has noticed Nathan’s efforts off the field. “He works on many of our service projects, including delivering Meals on Wheels to the elderly and working at our food pantry,” she notes. “He also serves as a ‘reader’ for one of our elementary classrooms, giving up an hour every Friday to visit with and read to his ‘littles.’ It’s fun to watch those little ones cheer Nathan at games and see him return their waves and fist bumps. Those kids have an idol in him and he does not take that position lightly.”

Nathan has a different takeaway: “As much as I like to believe that I have had a positive impact on ‘my kids,’ the truth is that they have taught me about loyalty, about being respectful of individual differences, and they are also a great reminder not to take myself so seriously.”

In addition to playing three sports all four years, serving as captain in both football and baseball, Nathan is at the top of his class with a 4.062 GPA on a 4.0 scale. A state finalist for the Wendy’s High School Heisman, he’s also an Illinois State Scholar, member of National Honor Society, and the recipient of his school’s SAR Award. Nathan has participated in sportsmanship and leadership conferences as well as a freshman mentor program, and he has won numerous All-Area, All-Conference and All-Academic accolades. He was also named MVP and Offensive Player of the Year in baseball, with an extra award for his prowess as a pitcher. Nathan truly does it all.

Nathan Garard represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 5 and his principal is Chris Garard.

 

CAL GRANITE
Rockford (R. Christian)

Cal Granite

It’s not the result that counts, it’s the process.

Cal Granite’s cross country coach at Rockford Christian High School reminded his teams of that mantra more than once, but still… It didn’t come home to Cal till his team finished second in the state at the 2017 IHSA Class 1A cross country meet. Amazing result, right? So all the effort, all the miles and miles that went into it, were suddenly worth it? Not in Cal’s mind. “No matter what the outcome would have been,” Cal says, “the miles were already worth it for me.”

The night before that second-place finish, Cal’s coach had told his team that they were already winners. “We had put in the work, we had paid the price, so no matter how we ran the next morning, we knew that our season was already successful,” Cal explains. With the team focused on the “how” and “why” of cross country instead of the result, Cal believes they were free to run with confidence and clear heads. And the outcome, the result, spoke for itself.

Cal has competed in both track and cross country all four years, helping his teams to 2nd and 4th place finishes at State in track, and 2nd, 4th and 18th in cross country. His 4x800 relays moved up from 14th his sophomore year to 5th last spring. He’s also played four years of basketball at Rockford Christian, making him a true three-sport athlete.

Randy Moore, chair of the English Department, has coached Cal in track and cross country and taught his AP English Literature & Composition class. He calls Cal “coachable, dedicated, and driven” as he refers to his gifts for discipline and endurance in athletics and creative and analytical thought in the classroom. “I believe, however, that Cal’s most striking personal characteristic, which distinguishes him from his peers, is his authenticity,” he says. “Cal has the rare combination of traits that allow him to lead and serve. He has earned the respect and admiration of his peers (and the Rockford Christian faculty) because of his faith and his genuine desire to help others.”

Cal is an Illinois State Scholar and an AP Scholar with Distinction as well as a four-year member of Student Council and a two-year member of the National Honor Society. He has earned a 4.5253 GPA on a 4.0 scale and made High Honor Roll every year.

Cal Granite represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 4 and his principal is Drew Popejoy.

 

CHRISTOPHER HARTRICH
Alton (Marquette)

Christopher Hartrich

Christopher Hartrich will never forget the first moment he first put on an Alton Marquette Explorers jersey.

“I knew at that moment that high school sports were for me,” says Chris. He went from thinking about skipping athletics in high school to “achieving goals I had only dreamed of.”

One of the dreams he accomplished was winning a state championship with his soccer team and another was setting a 1A state tournament record with four goals. But it’s more than that. “High school sports changed my life for the better,” he explains. “I learned countless life lessons from my coaches that I will cherish for the rest of my days. Not only do they teach how to play the game, but they teach how to become a better person.”

Steve Medford, Marquette’s basketball coach, calls it an honor to have watched Chris grow as a player and as a person. He writes, “Chris is the epitome of the ultimate teammate, competitor, and leader.”

During his high school years, Chris played four years of basketball and soccer, serving as captain in soccer twice and in basketball once. He is a member of Student Council and the National Honor Society and he also played four years of club soccer, making it to Nationals twice. He was All-State in soccer as a senior and All-Sectional as a junior, and three times he was named to All-Tournament teams in basketball.

Marquette High School Assistant Athletic Director and Social Sciences teacher Timothy J. Harmon makes it clear that in addition to his athletic accomplishments, Chris is also an exceptional student. After calling him “respectful, engaging, and enthusiastic,” Mr. Harmon adds, “Chris has proved through and through that he is dedicated to his studies by the detail, work, and care that he puts into all of his assignments.” He notes that Chris has also been active in school and community service projects while at Marquette, including leading the Alton City-Wide Clean-Up Project and Marquette’s soccer camp.

“Chris always had a great attitude and always gave 100% in everything he did,” offers Coach Medford. “When you have a great attitude, you give great effort, and you do it day in and day out, you are a winner. I believe Chris Hartrich is the ultimate winner.”

Christopher Hartrich represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 7 and his principal is Michael Slaughter.

 

TREVOR HEATH
Peoria Heights

Trevor Heath

High school can seem like a world of its own. But for Trevor Heath, a crucial part of Peoria Heights High School is Peoria Heights.

“Our school has won regional championships and even some sectional championships, but no team or individual had ever won an IHSA state championship at Peoria Heights High School,” Trevor writes. That is, until Trevor’s Patriots baseball team took home a Class 1A state title in 2017. “It was a great accomplishment for our team, but the effect of our team winning wasn’t just on the baseball field. Our post-season run brought the entire community of Peoria Heights together.”

He adds, “There were former students and athletes who had not been to a Peoria Heights baseball game in nearly 30 years who came out to watch. The togetherness that we experienced as a team and community is something that I cherish and something that I will remember forever.”

It’s a certainty that teachers, staff and fellow students at Peoria Heights High School will also remember Trevor Heath long after he graduates. He has been in the Top 10 at PHHS every semester and will graduate in the Top 5 with a 4.75 GPA on a 5.0 scale. He is also the first student at his school in almost 20 years to achieve All-Conference honors in three different sports. He will graduate with 11 varsity letters.

Trevor has four years of basketball and golf on his resume, serving as captain of both teams all four years. He has also competed in four years of baseball, with two as captain. In addition to that state title in baseball, Trevor qualified for State in golf. He was named a Peoria Journal Star scholar-athlete in 2018 and Academic All-Conference for the Prairieland conference for the 2017-18 season.

He’s participated in four years of Letterman’s Club and MOJO, a leadership organization that promotes positive self-esteem and anti-bullying messages, as well as Key Club, where he served a term as president, and Student Council, where he was vice president. And he placed 5th in the graphic design category at the Prairieland Art Show.

Joe Stoner, former principal at the high school and currently Assistant School Superintendent, concludes, “Trevor is a true leader at Peoria Heights High School.”

Trevor Heath represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 4 and his principal is Dave Carroll.

 

KATHERINE HOHE
Glen Ellyn (Glenbard West)

Katherine Hohe

For Glenbard West’s Katie Hohe, it’s all about the team.

“Nothing symbolizes Katie’s ‘team-first’ mentality more than when she sacrificed an opportunity to earn an individual All-State medal as a freshman,” says Paul C. Hass, her track and cross country coach. He tells us that Katie was a Top 5 seed in the 3200-meter run and she had qualified for Saturday’s finals at the state track meet. But the coaches offered her a choice: She could run her 3200 “fresh,” or take the third spot on the 4x800 relay two events before her race. “She selected the latter,” Coach Hass writes, “ultimately finishing out of medal contention in the 3200m, but earning a 4th place finish and All-State medals for herself and her teammates in the relay. Since that day, Katie has professed no regrets with her decision, expressing only pride in her ability to put forth her best effort for her team.”

With her help, her track team earned a state championship in 2017 and a 6th place finish last year, while her cross country teams have placed 6th, 9th, 6th and 13th during her years at Glenbard West. Katie herself crossed the finish line in 16th place at the state cross country meet in 2017 and 15th place last fall, and she was part of two 4th place 4x800 relays and a 5th place 1600-meter run last spring.

But Katie’s team is bigger than just her fellow runners at Glenbard West. “I am blessed to have parents who support me in everything that I do, coaches who have taught me to be a good person and a competitive athlete, and a school full of teachers and administrators that enhance and celebrate student accomplishments.” She adds, “I am forever grateful for what they have done and continue to do for me.”

With a 35 on her ACT and a 5.4468 GPA on a 5.0 scale, Katie excels in every arena. “Katie is undeniably in the top one percent of students in all areas that I have had to delight of teaching in my fourteen years as an educator,” writes Spanish teacher Michelle Wood. “She is a terrific, talented, and dedicated student and moreover a delightful human being.”

She’s also a member of the National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society as well as the MAWI leadership program, Senior Mentoring, and Key Club, and she has qualified for the State of Illinois Seal of Biliteracy.

Katherine Hohe represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 3 and her principal is Dr. Peter Monaghan.

 

SARAH LITCHFIELD
Farmington

Sarah Litchfield

“Faster, higher, stronger” is famous as the Olympic motto, but it also fits Farmington’s Sarah Litchfield perfectly.

With her unique combination of competitive cheerleading, pole vaulting, and running, Sarah has shown she can do it all. In 2018, she was an integral part of cheer and track & field teams that took home state runner-up trophies, both firsts for Farmington Central High School. Sarah finished in 5th place at State as a pole vaulter and ran in three relays that finished 1st, 3rd and 4th that same year. “Finals day was very hot and exhausting by the time we ran the 4x400 relay,” she recalls. “I had already competed and medaled in the pole vault, 4x100, and 4x200 before the 4x400 was up.”

The Farmers came into the race with the second fastest time and the possibility of winning the relay, but they knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

“This race took all the mental and physical strength I had,” she says. “Tears of excitement rolled down our faces the moment our anchor crossed the line and we became state champions.”

Her teams also finished well in those relays in 2016, going 6th in the 4x100 and 4x400 and 9th in the 4x200, giving her seven medals so far in state track & field. One more this spring and she will own the most medals in school history, according to Coach Toby Vallas, who is also Director of Student Services at Farmington. Add to that 2nd and 5th place team cheerleading trophies and two individual All-State cheerleading awards, and you begin to see the impact Sarah has had on Farmington Central High School athletics.

On the academic side, Sarah has a 4.1939 GPA on a 4.0 scale, putting her in the Top 5 of her class. She has earned 15 college credits while still in high school from her AP classes. She is secretary of National Honor Society and also participates in Spanish Club and the Athletic/Activity Leadership Team, and she won an ICCA scholarship as a cheerleader scholar-athlete. She was also named “The Best of Central Illinois” in prep sports.

“In addition, she works a part-time job and volunteers, helping elementary teachers in their classrooms,” writes Kim Pillman, her cheer coach. “She has exemplary leadership skills and works hard to lead the cheer and track & field teams and keep them unified.”

Sarah Litchfield represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 4 and her principal is Dennis McMillin.

 

JAMES McDONALD
Vernon Hills

James McDonald

“I am not the smartest. I am not the strongest,” writes James McDonald. He also describes his initial efforts on the track as combining “the blundering motion of a charging hippo and the running IQ of a turtle.”

It seems fair to say that James is seriously underselling himself. After all, he’s played four sports at Vernon Hills High School—lacrosse, cross country, basketball and track—with two appearances at State in cross country and one in track, and seven combined seasons as captain of his teams. To match that, he’s compiled a 4.568 GPA on a 5.0 scale, a 35 on his ACT, and 1520 on his SAT. He’s a National Merit Semifinalist, vice president of the National Honor Society, recipient of his school’s DAR Good Citizen Award, and he has two nominations for the United States Military Academy at West Point and one to the Naval Academy. He also won the “Cougar Class Act” award.

It didn’t look like any of that would be possible when an injury in lacrosse took James out for the season. But he decided to try the track team. “Having zero experience, practically no training, shin splints, and an insatiable desire to succeed,” he says, “I promptly became one of the fastest kids in school history.”

By the end of the season, James had run a 4:31 mile and made All-Conference. He went from nowhere to the Cougars’ “Rookie of the Year,” all because he was smart enough to ask for advice. “I quickly befriended an upperclassman who taught me that the ropes of running,” he notes. “More importantly, he taught me that understanding your identity is the key to success.” James knew he was mentally tough. He knew himself. And that’s where he excelled. “High school activities have taught me that talent is no match for the utmost levels of integrity, effort, and passion. These three essential characteristics have been the building blocks.”

James’ version of “integrity, effort, and passion” translates to selflessness, a relentless work ethic, and making a positive impact on those around him. Vernon Hills Principal Jonathan Guillaume has taken notice of James’ mission. “ I’ve seen it as he partners with Special Olympics athletes. I’ve seen it when he volunteers his time and talent with young lacrosse players,” Dr. Guillaume writes. “ Most notably, I’ve seen it as he took the initiative to start a tutoring program for English Language Learners (ELL). James saw a need and he stepped in to fill it.”

James McDonald represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 2 and his principal is Dr. Jonathan Guillaume.

 

BRISA McGRATH
Mahomet (M.-Seymour)

Brisa McGrath

Mahomet-Seymour’s Brisa McGrath knows exactly what it means to be a Bulldog. Yes, that’s her school mascot, but it also expresses Brisa’s tenacity, drive and willingness to put in the work needed to achieve her goals. It’s no surprise that Brisa won her school’s Bulldog Award in both 2016 and 2018.

Brisa has been a member of the Mahomet-Seymour track and cross country teams all four years, including four trips to State in cross country and three in track. Her Bulldog cross country team finished 19th at State when she was a freshman and 11th her sophomore year, but when Brisa was a junior, the team was predicted to finish only 21st overall. Nonetheless, they were determined to look past the naysayers and find a way to win a state trophy. By the time the dust had settled, Brisa’s team had won 4th place at the state meet. “Our hard work led to us overcoming adversity and doing much better than anyone would’ve predicted,” she says.

Her increased efforts translated to better personal results, as well. “That year at State I finished 24th with a 17:54, nearly a minute faster than I ran a year before,” Brisa recounts. “I wouldn’t have accomplished this had I not learned that hard work is the key to success.”

In addition to those Bulldog Awards, she earned MVP honors in cross country and took home the Instant Impact Award in both sports. She has been equally impressive in the classroom, achieving a 4.7 GPA on a 4.0 scale and four years of High Honor Roll at Mahomet-Seymour. She is also a two-year member of National Honor Society.

“I had the privilege of being her math teacher during her sophomore year,” writes Andrew Seo. “In that year, Brisa demonstrated her quality as a student, peer, and as a young mathematician. She showed herself to be a high-character, high-achieving individual who passionately pursues her goals.” He adds, “She’s a fierce academic who will relentlessly pursue a future in engineering.”

“Brisa has an innate ability to lead and has successfully balanced being a multiple sport athlete with her academics,” notes cross country coach Kristin Allen. She adds that Brisa is sure to be an asset wherever her path takes her, given her “commitment to excellence, ability to lead by example, and her drive to help everyone around her.”

Brisa McGrath represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 5 and her principal is Shannon Cheek.

 

ELEANOR MICHAUD
Lincolnshire (Stevenson)

Eleanor Michaud

When she first came to Stevenson High School, Eleanor Michaud felt like a fish out of water. But through water polo and swimming, Eleanor soon found her way.

“Sophomore year I transferred to Stevenson from a small private school,” Eleanor writes. “At my previous school we had no tests, grades, or homework. We also had no athletic teams, so I participated in club swimming and water polo where I met my current teammates and coaches. To say it was an adjustment does not even begin to explain how drastically my life changed.” But through water polo and swimming, Eleanor made her first friends at her new school, and that made all the difference. She says, “They made me feel as though I belonged at Stevenson.”

With friends in and out of the pool, she also had a support system in and out of the pool. “In water polo I primarily play defense,” she explains. “Through this I have learned how to ask for help, that there is no shame in calling out to your friends to lend a hand when you are in over your head.”

In the two years that Eleanor has been a varsity starter on Stevenson’s water polo team, they’ve won the state title both times. In her first year on the team, they came in 3rd at State. She’s won North Suburban All-Conference and All-Academic honors twice and was named a USA Water Polo Academic All-American twice. Last year, she added an American Water Polo Scholar Athlete Award. She’s also been selected for the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics and Olympic Development program.

In addition to the Northern Illinois Polo Club, Eleanor has participated in Catalyst Club, Latin Club and the Quidditch Club. She’s served as captain of the Polo and Quidditch clubs and earned awards in science, Latin, and physics as well as Stevenson’s swim & dive “Patriot Pride” award. An AP Scholar with Honors and an Illinois State Scholar, Eleanor has compiled a 4.57 GPA on a 4.0 scale to go with a 33 on her ACT and a 1370 on her SAT.

Eleanor credits swimming and water polo with giving her the skills to succeed. “I have met my best friends, been inspired by teammates and incredible coaches, and been encouraged by all to work hard and be the best version of myself,” she says. “I am grateful for all that being a student-athlete has taught me.”

Eleanor Michaud represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 2 and her principal is Troy Gobble.

 

LAURYN PUGH
Decatur (St. Teresa)

Lauryn Pugh

“Ding!” When Decatur St. Teresa’s Lauryn Pugh is ready to answer a Scholastic Bowl question, that simple sound is all it takes to get her adrenaline racing.

“I could be 100% sure I know the answer to, ‘For ten points, name the first President of the United States,’ but I still feel a rush of nerves every time I hit the buzzer,” Lauryn says. And that’s not because she isn’t prepared. Or at least as prepared as humanly possible. “After my freshman year, the next three years of Scholastic Bowl would be filled with some of the most grueling, long hours of studying authors, poets, Asian capitals, and so much more, only to get asked obscure questions about nothing I had ever studied,” she says. But when she hits her buzzer and hears that “Ding!” everything comes together. “The confidence I gained from correctly answering a question and helping my team win a match was incomparable.”

Lauryn and her St. Teresa Scholastic Bowl team were state runners-up in 2016, and they won their conference and their regional this year, with Lauryn named All-Sectional twice and All-Conference three times. She’s played four years of soccer and one year of volleyball in addition to her four years of Scholastic Bowl, with a combined four years as captain of her teams.

St. Teresa Assistant Principal Theresa K. Bowser writes, “Lauryn is passionate, organized, focused and goal-driven. She excels academically, is a talented soccer player, a captain for the Scholastic Bowl team, a member of WYSE, leads the student spirit group called the Dawg Pound, and is an active volunteer at school and in the community.” She adds, “She doesn’t do anything half-way.”

That full-on commitment shows up in her academic credentials—No. 1 in her class with a 4.82 GPA on a 4.0 scale, 33 on her ACT and 1430 on her SAT, acing every AP class St. Teresa has to offer—as well as her extracurriculars, where she is president of S.A.D.D., Future Business Leaders of America, and the Dawg Pound, vice president of the National Honor Society, retreat leader in KAIROS, a member of International Club, and a four-year participant in WYSE/Academic Challenge and Serviam, St. Teresa’s service organization. Lauryn is also an Illinois State Scholar and she won her school’s DAR Good Citizen Award as well as the Sister Clotilde O’Reilly Award for outstanding character, leadership, and service.

Lauryn Pugh represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 5 and her principal is Larry Daly.

 

ALICIA REPKA
Rockton (Hononegah)

Alicia Repka

After a stress fracture sidelined Alicia Repka during the 3200-meter run at IHSA Sectionals, she had two choices. She could give up running entirely, or she could fight back. Alicia chose to fight.

“I made up my mind,” she says resolutely. “I would do everything in my power to get in shape for cross country. I would exemplify commitment as a team captain—with or without my ability to run—and I would break the school record in the 3200m.”

Too injured to walk, she swam every day. Once her leg could handle it, she biked, going for long, fast 24-mile trips over hilly terrain, and she went back to weightlifting, surpassing her pre-fracture limits. “I trained hard, but I craved the freedom and incomparable joy of running,” Alicia writes. “In those two months, I realized how closely running is intertwined with my identity, and I felt empty without it.”

By the time track season rolled around, Alicia was setting personal and school records in the 1600- and 3200-meter runs. But her injury and the journey back had changed her forever. She was already sure she wanted to be an engineer, but now Alicia has added a new part to that goal. “I want to design prosthetics that empower athletes to stay active,” she says. “I want to make a difference.”

Alicia’s approach to her education is every bit as ambitious as her training regimen. The 1580 she scored on the SAT makes her a National Merit Semifinalist, while her 4.925 GPA on a 5.0 scale puts her in the Top 5 at Rockton Hononegah. A National AP Scholar with 5s on more than eight AP tests, she is a state finalist for the Wendy’s High School Heisman. She also serves as president of the Math Team and as a teaching assistant and student mentor through Leadership PE, and she participates in National Honor Society, WYSE, SOAR, and the American Chemical Society’s Chemistry Olympiad.

A two-time State qualifier in cross country, Alicia has been named first-team All-Conference three times in track and once in cross country. Her other honors and accolades include receiving the Rockford Register Star Young American Award; Bausch + Lomb’s Honorary Science Award and Scholarship; two golds and a silver in the National Spanish Exam; and the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists Award of Excellence.

Alicia Repka represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 4 and her principal is Eric Flohr.

 

HANNAH RITTER
Marengo

Hannah Ritter

Hannah Ritter is that rarity—a true three-sport athlete. All-Conference in basketball, softball, and volleyball, Hannah has played four years of each sport and achieved great success in all three.

In fact, Hannah was an integral part of the Marengo Community High School softball team that brought home a state championship in 2017. She went 2-for-3 with a single and a double in the semifinal and scored one of only two Marengo runs in the championship game.

But that state championship is not what Hannah calls the biggest accomplishment of her high school career. Instead, she points to a 2018 Regional championship in basketball. “After 20 long, dry years of no state-recognized achievements for Marengo girls basketball, my team and I finally broke the curse and won a Regional,” she says. “That year we also achieved 20 wins in one season, something that had not been done since 1999.” As captain of the team for three years in a row, Hannah knows that success doesn’t come without hardships, hours of preparation, and obstacles. They also had to deal with the fact that there were only seven girls on the team! But when everyone came together as a unit, with all seven players supporting each other for the good of the team, as Hannah puts it, “Our success came in flying colors.”

“Hannah is by far one of the most gifted athletes I have seen at MCHS,” notes Principal Angela M. Fink. “Her presence on the court and on the field dominates.” But Dr. Fink knows there is more to Hannah than just athletics. “She has taken and excelled academically in some of the most rigorous and demanding courses we offer at MCHS.”

Hannah’s 4.1 GPA on a 4.0 scale puts her in the Top 10% of her class and she has earned High Honor Roll every semester in high school. She is a two-year member of National Honor Society. “Every day, Hannah walks into class with a positive attitude and a willingness to challenge herself,” writes Joel G. Danzl-Tauer, her Honors Physics teacher as well as assistant basketball coach. “Her diligence and work ethic are easily measured by her preparation for class, time on task, and the exceptional quality of her work.”

As Dr. Fink concludes, “I have no doubt in my mind that whatever she sets her mind to post-secondary, she will perform at the highest level.”

Hannah Ritter represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 2 and her principal is Dr. Angela M. Fink.

 

LUKE ROBERT
Stillman Valley

Luke Robert

When he was a sophomore, Luke Robert’s basketball team at Stillman Valley High School went 3-24.

The varsity team had four sophomore starters, and their lack of experience showed. “We got blown out game after game,” Luke remembers. “I am an extremely competitive person and losing that many games was tough, but I never lost focus on what our team could become two years down the road.”

With that goal in mind, Luke stepped up as a leader. “Day after day, we came to practice determined to turn the program around,” he says. Junior year, with Luke as captain, they won nine games. It was a step in the right direction. And this year, their wins hit double digits. “Although our team won’t win conference or have a 25-win season, we have brought an exciting atmosphere to basketball in Stillman Valley,” he notes. “This can hopefully set the stage for years to come. This achievement is much greater than any individual feat or record and I know that the legacy my teammates and I have left will not soon be forgotten.”

Luke’s legacy extends far beyond basketball. His grades and test scores are nothing short of stellar, with a perfect 36 on his ACT, a 1570 on his SAT, and a 4.293 GPA on a 4.0 scale that ranks him No. 2 in his class. A National Merit Commended Scholar, he’s also an Illinois State Scholar and he has served as vice president of both Student Council and the National Honor Society. His high school resume includes the Math Team, principal’s advisory committee, WYSE, a cappella choir and boys chorus, and four years taking part in the school musical, where he’s played a lead role three times.

“His extracurricular involvement as well as his academic excellence speak volumes toward Luke’s ability and dedication,” says Diane Koenig, Professor of Mathematics at Rock Valley College, who has taught Luke in both calculus and statistics.

As part of two Regional champion teams in soccer and one Sectional champ in baseball, Luke has been named Big Northern All-Conference in three sports—baseball, basketball, and soccer—and his soccer prowess allowed him to step in as kicker for the football team. He’s been captain twice in basketball, once in soccer and once in baseball, and he earned Most Improved in soccer and Best Defensive Player and MVP in basketball.

Luke Robert represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 4 and his principal is Leslie Showers.

 

AARON SHEPARD
Marengo

Aaron Shepard

One jump away from State… Two inches away from State… For Aaron Shepard, coming so close made it all that much sweeter when he finally got there.

As Aaron remembers it, he wanted to be a high jumper as early as 5th grade, even when he wasn’t great at it and a coach told him he should probably find something else to do. But when he got to Marengo Community High School, Aaron came back to jumping. Freshman year, he was one jump away from making it to State. Sophomore year, he was closer, only two inches from advancing.

Up to that point, Aaron had competed in both basketball and football as well as track & field, but as a junior, he gave up basketball and joined wrestling to concentrate on extra lifting and jumping. At that year’s Sectional, Aaron was ready. His high jump of 6-7 was enough to win his Sectional and punch his ticket to State. “My greatest accomplishment so far is placing 5th at State, but my goals are set much higher, not only for myself but for my team,” Aaron says. “I have my sights set on making the state meet again this year, but also to compete in long jump and pursue a college career in high jump at an NAIA college.”

With a composite score of 35 on his ACT, 1450 on his SAT, and a 4.2 GPA on a 4.0 scale, Aaron currently ranks No. 6 in his class. He’s a member of the National Honor Society and an Illinois State Scholar, and he has made High Honor Roll every semester.

He’s competed in four years of track & field and four years of football, where his team made it to the quarterfinals last fall. He added two years of basketball and two of wrestling, where he served as captain, four years of Math Team, and two of WYSE, where he led the team as its Chemistry Captain.

Aaron holds the school record in the high jump, and he has earned All-Conference and All-State honors in track & field. Twice he’s been named All-Conference and All-State Academic in football.

Football coach Robert Mansfield, who also taught him in AP Calculus, is familiar with Aaron’s ability, leadership skills, and work ethic inside and outside the classroom. “I have higher expectations of Aaron,” Coach Mansfield admits. “He never lets me down.”

Aaron Shepard represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 2 and his principal is Dr. Angela M. Fink.

 

SETH SLOAN
Taylorville

Seth Sloan

Every year, Seth Sloan’s Taylorville cross country team takes a practice run at Owaneco. And every year, Seth finds himself thinking just how well that run parallels high school.

Like high school, the Owaneco run is broken into four parts. Like freshman year, the first three-mile segment is “a rush of energy,” Seth tells us. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it flies by. But the second section hits hard, just like sophomore year. “Classes suddenly become more important and the workload increases,” he writes, just as on the Owaneco course, the line of trees stops and runners have to really dig in.

And then there’s Part 3, where they turn around and grind their way back in the sun. “Going into junior year thinking it would resemble the current year is a common mistake,” he says. “The same mistake as trying to run the third segment as quickly as possible to return to the shade of the final stretch.”

It’s that final stretch where the real work begins. Seth knows it’s tempting to take it easy, but, just like senior year, he believes the path to success lies in facing the challenge and pushing through. As he puts it, “True character can be found in those who never slow down.”

Seth will cross the high school finish line at the top of his class at Taylorville High School, with a 5.95 GPA on a 5.0 scale, 33 on his ACT, and 1420 on the SAT. He’s competed in four years of cross country and track & field, with a year as captain of each, as well as four years of Scholastic Bowl, with two years as captain, and two years of IHSA Journalism, including a Sectional championship and a trip to State. He added four years of Student Council, including a term as vice president, two years of National Honor Society and yearbook staff, and a year working with Key Club and the school newspaper. An Illinois State Scholar and state finalist in the Elks Most Valuable Student competition, Seth was also named to the Apollo Conference All-Academic team.

“Always arriving on time for class, well-prepared, and with a genuine smile on his face, Seth consistently produced work reflecting high degrees of academic ability and creativity, as well as a level of maturity well beyond his years,” writes Stephen M. Steele, who taught Seth’s Accelerated English class. “I am confident that Seth will do well in his future endeavors, whatever they may be and wherever they may lead.”

Seth Sloan represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 6 and his principal is Matthew Hutchison.

 

ABIGAIL SMITH
Chicago (Northside College Prep)

Abigail Smith

You can be a leader without being a leading scorer.

That lesson came home to Chicago Northside College Prep’s Abigail Smith when she was named to the Chicago All-City team in volleyball and the All-Sectional team in soccer. “I was not the leading scorer on either of these teams,” she points out. Instead, she had the most assists. “In soccer, I excelled at setting up our leading scorer. In volleyball, I played setter.”

Sure, it’s usually the players with the most kills or the most goals who get the recognition. But Abigail wants to be the one who makes the winning plays possible. She says, “I love putting my teammates in the best position to succeed.”

She knows she could’ve scored more in soccer or chosen to be a hitter instead of a setter in volleyball. “But I did what was best for my teams to maximize the teams’ success. I feel this is true in many aspects of life,” she writes. “When you sacrifice for the good of the whole instead of operating out of self-interest, good things are bound to happen. Thus, I have become a better ‘team player’ in the classroom, as well.”

Abigail has compiled a perfect 4.0 GPA in her four years at Northside College Prep. She is an Illinois State Scholar and a member of both the English and French National Honor Societies. A team leader in the recycling club, she’s team captain with the AYSO soccer club and a leader in youth band and choir. She’s also participated in a foreign exchange program, advanced band, and even belly dance, and she’s played four years of volleyball and soccer, with two years as captain in volleyball and one in soccer.

After calling Abigail “focused, thorough, and engaging,” Marina Medina, Director of Counseling at Northside College Prep says, “Abigail is a positive, thoughtful and delightful individual.”

According to Robert L. Albritton, her Honors Math teacher and soccer coach, “She is fearless when it comes to learning and taking on challenges. Her analytical skills and ability to solve complex problems are at the top of her class and her leadership skills have evolved to become top notch. I am certain that she will find much success in the next chapter of her life.”

Abigail Smith represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 1 and her principal is Kelly Mest.

 

SIERRA SONNEMAKER
Washington

Sierra Sonnemaker

Sierra Sonnemaker is well aware that when people think of her, the first thing that comes to mind is a tennis racquet.

Yes, Sierra has been a standout tennis player for Washington Community High School, earning All-Conference and MVP honors every year. She’s qualified for State in both doubles and singles, with a Top 16 finish in doubles in 2017, and her Panther tennis team won the Mid-Illini conference for the first time ever last year as Sierra was named the Peoria Journal Star Player of the Year. But there’s a lot more to Sierra than just tennis.

For one thing, she’s a standout academically, with a 4.842 GPA on a 4.0 scale that puts her in the Top 5 in her class, as well as a 32 on her ACT and 1380 on her SAT. “Inside the classroom, Sierra goes above and beyond the requirements of school,” offers Eric Schermerhorn, her AP U.S. History teacher and assistant basketball coach. “From day one, she was the perfect student and classmate, earning the respect of all.”

She is also unmatched when it comes to the sheer number of sports she’s played over the years, from netball and rounders to field hockey, gymnastics, soccer, volleyball, track, basketball, and yes, tennis. Sierra isn’t daunted by all the different skills and rules she’s had to learn to participate. Instead, she thinks figuring out all those sports has helped her learn to adapt and to embrace change in her life in general.

At WCHS, Sierra has played four years of tennis and basketball, with two years as captain of each, and four years of track. She was named MVP in basketball in 2018, making 1st team All-Conference and the Peoria Journal Star All-Area team along with earning a WMBD “Extra Effort” award. As a freshman, she also competed in solo and ensemble music competitions.

She’s added four years of French Club, three years of School Executive Board and a Washington leadership and community service program, two years of International Club and National Honor Society, where she serves as secretary, and one year of Pep Club.

“She strives to be successful in all she does and gives 110% at all times,” writes Kimberly Barth, WCHS teacher and basketball coach. “I have a great respect for Sierra and truly believe she has such a bright future ahead.”

Sierra Sonnemaker represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 6 and her principal is Karen Stevens.

 

BENJAMIN STRULLMYER
Effingham (St. Anthony)

Benjamin Strullmyer

“Listen, learn, and lead” are Benjamin Strullmyer’s words to live by.

As he has traversed his high school path at Effingham St. Anthony, with decisions at every turn, Ben has listened not just to authority figures like coaches and teachers, but to his own heart and mind. “Do I have time for Student Council?” he asks. “Can I throw out the guy at second? What club is best for this hole? Am I talented enough for the school play?”

The decisions only got tougher, with more and more weighty choices. “Will I let my basketball teammates down if this varsity member of a state champion basketball team decides not to play?” he wondered. But once Ben learned that he was the only one who could decide, that if he listened to his heart and led with focus and determination, it would all pay off.

“I decided to go for golf and we won the state championship!” he exclaims. “I had focused numerous hours on my golf game and medaled individually 10th in State. I decided to try out for the school play, landed a lead role, and had a blast! I decided to focus on baseball this winter and I am working out, hitting every day, and gearing up for spring.” And he chose to give up basketball as a player, if not as a fan. “I decided to cheer on my former Bulldog basketball teams with pride.”

While playing four years of baseball, three years of basketball and three years of golf, Ben has earned a 3.85 GPA on a 4.0 scale, with a spot in the Top 10 at St. Anthony. He also scored a 33 on his ACT. He’s a four-year member of Student Council, History Club, Spanish Club and Catholic Athletes of Christ, as well as Student Government, where he served as president. He led the Kairos retreat, took the lead in the school play, stepped up as secretary of the National Honor Society, and then topped that off with a year in WYSE.

“Ben’s grades reflect his drive for academic success. His service to others reflects his character,” says St. Anthony Principal Greg Fearday. “Through volunteering for Work Camp, leading our senior retreat, being a great teammate in golf, basketball, and much more, Ben takes on a selfless leadership role and is always willing to help other students be successful.”

Benjamin Strullmyer represents IHSA Board of Directors Division No. 5 and his principal is Greg Fearday.