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High School Highlights

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Normal West Dance Team Fundraises for February Competition

The weather during the last weekend of September would have been more conducive to prompting folks to go out and get their cars washed. And if they found a group of high school kids willing to do the job in exchange for a donation to help them get to an event next winter, so much the better. The weather anticipated this coming weekend would also bode well for someone wishing to do a car wash to raise funds.
But as luck would have it, the Normal Community West High School Dance Team, led by their coach, Shelly Weakly, arranged to hold their car wash event last weekend, when the first cold snap of fall arrived. Luckily, the team also made homemade treats for the combination car wash and bake sale. They even had the luck of having a few cars pull into the Ace Hardware parking lot, along East College Ave., where they were stationed for the fundraiser, pull in and give donations to help the girls get closer of their goal.
The team is working hard now and will be working hard from now through next January to raise money for a trip to attend a national dance team competition called the Universal Dance Association National Dance Team Championship, in Orlando, Fla. during the first weekend in February. The money raised by the team between now until then goes toward competition fees and round-trip transportation.
Weakly said Normal West getting to this point to compete in this event next winter “is a huge deal because we had to qualify by receiving a trophy and meet a certain score at a dance camp preliminary event in July.”
The dance camp preliminary where West qualified was held at Illinois State University. She added the process began with tryouts last spring, followed by rehearsals even before West’s team got to the July event. Once they won a ribbon and a trophy at the July event, West’s dance team earned a spot to compete in Orlando.
This will be West’s first national competition, but not Weakly’s, as she was the dance coach at Kingsley Junior High School before moving over to West. Under Weakly, KJHS dance teams went to competitions six times. Weakly has been at West for two years and this will be the first time taking a West squad into competition. But that being said, the girls seemed ready and raring to go do what needs to be done to earn the funds necessary to reach their goal.
“It’s a big deal and an honor to have that opportunity,” Weakly said. It’s such a big deal, she said, that the team is willing to go out into the community and seek support of local businesses willing to chip in.
The team members are: Madison Workman, Christina Smith, Caitlin Paul, Megan McCrone, Amanda McCrone, Jaclyn Lord, Olivia Vogel, Liyah Hart, Jessie Becker, Kate Stephens, Jade Morgan, Aly York, Katie Ford, Brandi Tow, Rachel Ashenbremer, Amber Magee, Rita Hart, and Julia Abraham.
The girls will also hold a junior dance clinic for first through eighth grade students at Normal West on Saturday, Oct. 25.
When she graduates from West, Christina Smith said she would like to “go out east” and attend Georgetown University. She said she wants to major in Political Science. As for winning the right to go to the Orlando competition and needing to raise the cash for it, Smith said, “Getting there is a team effort. Being there is a huge honor because we earned that this summer, and it will be the first time any of us on our team has had that honor. So, this is a big deal for us.”
Also a senior on the dance team, Caitlin Paul said she competed in junior high and often thought, when she saw her high school friends dance, that she would like to take part in a competition, as well. “We would look up to those girls and say, ‘I want to be like them someday.’ So, yes, it becomes a kind of goal early.” Caitlin is looking forward to attending Arizona State University after high school and majoring in elementary education.
Collectively, Smith said, she believes she and her teammates are ready to put in the work needed to earn the funds and then get to the competition and earn more awards there. Let’s hope, on what would be their initial turn, they bring back an award or trophy. But even if they don’t, their determination shows that they are winners even before getting to Orlando.
On another subject, baseball playoff are upon us, not just in the majors and minors, but also in the junior high ranks. And the area has been fortunate this year with Parkside Junior High School and Lexington Junior High School managing to get into the Illinois Elementary School Association playoffs in their respective classes.
In Class 3A, PJHS became State Champions, defeating Frankfort Summit Hill, 4-1, on Saturday. To get to the final, the Pythons defeated Coal City, 3-1, in a semifinal. To get to the semi, the Pythons beat Rochester, 4-3, in the opening round. The Pythons finished the season with a 20-4 record.
In Class 1A, Lexington Junior High School made it to State, but exited after the first round, losing to Bartonville Monroe Junior High, 6-4. Lexington finished the season with a 15-4 mark. Both PJHS and Lexington Junior High are to be congratulated for their efforts getting to the post-season.
On a final subject, last week, I wrote about how Normal West’s football team is coping without their head coach Darren Hess, who was suspended, at that time until he heard something from the Illinois High School Association. Hess was being investigated by IHSA. IHSA suspended Hess before West’s Sept. 19 game at Grayslake North. Media reports Oct. 3 announced IHSA had extended Hess’ suspension for the remainder of the season.
I was told, and informed readers last week, that Hess and the coaching staff had not given Wildcat players details of why Hess was under suspension, deciding to focus on the season, game-by-game. It struck me when I checked as though Normal West was coping with its version of the “new normal” procedure, and will continue to do so now that IHSA has extended Hess’ suspension.

Kirshenbaum, Ironmen knock Bloomington out of Playoffs
by Tommy Lebow
Normal Community continued its dominance in the Big 12 Friday night, beating Bloomington 41-20 on the road. A huge first half led the Ironmen to its 16th consecutive win in the conference. The loss dropped Bloomington to 1-5 on the season, meaning they will not make the playoffs for the first time in 28 years.
Ironmen quarterback Josh Kirshenbaum had his way with the Purple Raiders’ defense in the first half. Kirshenbaum connected with Riley Rahuba to open the scoring, and found David Boyd for a 41-yard touchdown on the next drive.
Three Bloomington fumbles gave Kirshenbaum a chance to extend Normal Community’s lead before halftime, and he did not disappoint. The senior threw touchdown passes of 15-yards to Boyd, 18-yards to Connor Klinzing, and 30-yards to Rahuba to give the Ironmen a 35-0 lead at halftime.
Bloomington did not roll over in the second half, however. BHS closed the gap to 35-14 after Donovan Loftin threw touchdown passes to Telly Arrington and Coree Harrell. Loftin then scored on a 1-yard touchdown run after Eric Dreyer intercepted a Kirshenbaum pass. A missed extra point made the score 35-20.
Boyd bailed Normal Community out by running an interception 75-yards for a touchdown to finish the scoring for both teams.

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No. 22 Redbirds Shut Down No. 9 Jackrabbits, 45-10

A season-high 10,919 fans watched junior running back Marshaun Coprich rush for a career-high 174 yards and four touchdowns, as No. 22-ranked Illinois State (4-0, 1-0 MVFC) rolled to a 45-10 victory over No. 9 South Dakota State (3-2, 0-1 MVFC) on Homecoming Saturday at Hancock Stadium.
Coprich remained red-hot to begin the season, rushing for 100-plus yards for the fourth-consecutive game, to give him a Missouri Valley Football Conference leading 10 rushing touchdowns. Junior quarterback Tre Roberson threw for 168 yards and one touchdown, and ran for 151 more, to help the top offense in the league notch 499 total yards.
After both teams’ opening drives ended in punts, Illinois State’s stifling defense came alive, forcing the Jackrabbits to turn the ball over on their next three drives. The Redbirds scored a touchdown after each turnover to jump out to a 21-0 lead. Junior David Perkins got the ball rolling, forcing a fumble and then recovering another one, both of which led to Coprich rushing touchdowns.
The next turnover came courtesy of an interception by sophomore linebacker Oshay Dunmore, on a pass intended for SDSU senior wide out Jason Schneider. Once again, Coprich capitalized for the Redbirds on a fourth-and-goal situation, leaping over the Jackrabbits’ defensive line and recording his third touchdown of the day to make the score 21-0 at the end of the first quarter. The Redbirds continued the scoring on their next drive with a 25-yard field goal from senior kicker Nick Aussieker, aided by a 62-yard Coprich run, extending the ISU lead to 24-0 early in the second quarter.
The Jackrabbits finally got on the board courtesy of a 15-play drive that milked more than nine minutes off the clock. Senior SDSU kicker Justin Syrovatka split the uprights from the Redbird five-yard line to make the score 24-3. South Dakota State would not hold onto the momentum for long, though, as Redbird senior Tevin Allen took the ensuing kickoff from the 5-yard line and sprinted down the left sideline nearly untouched for a 95-yard kick return touchdown to extend the lead to 31-3.  The Redbirds closed out the half with a another touchdown, thanks to a 28-yard pass from Roberson to senior wide receiver Cameron Meredith, giving the Redbirds a 38-3 lead going into break.
Illinois State received the ball to begin the second half and picked up right where it left off before halftime. Roberson found his favorite target, senior wide out Lechein Neblett, on a 41-yard connection to set up Coprich’s fourth touchdown of the day, a five-yard scoring run that widened the lead to 45-3.
The only hiccups from the Redbirds came on a third-quarter interception from Roberson and a Coprich fumble. The Jackrabbits were able to convert one of the Redbird turnovers into points when SDSU sophomore quarterback Zach Lujan hit redshirt freshman Jake Wieneke for a 26-yard touchdown pass, making the score 45-10 in favor of the Redbirds.
The win on Saturday marked the ninth consecutive home victory for the Redbirds, the team’s longest such streak since a run from 1998 to 2000. The Redbirds will play their first away game of the season next weekend when they travel to Terre Haute, Indiana, to take on the nationally-ranked Sycamores of Indiana State at 2 p.m.

Redbirds Move Up Seven Spots In Both National Polls
A convincing 45-10 win over then-No. 9 South Dakota State on Saturday has propelled the Illinois State football program up seven spots in both national Football Championship Subdivision polls to No. 15, as announced on Monday.
The Redbirds picked up their second win over a ranked opponent this season with the 35-point victory over the Jackrabbits.  ISU currently ranks second in the country in scoring at 49 points per game and is first in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 7.8 points per game to opponents.
 ISU garnered 1,570 points in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 and jumped seven spots to No. 15 overall, the highest jump for any team in this week’s rankings.  North Dakota State remained at the No. 1 spot after a narrow victory at Western Illinois.  The Bison were followed in the polls by MVFC members Southern Illinois (No. 12), the Redbirds (No. 15) and Youngstown State (No. 16). South Dakota State dropped to No. 19 after the loss to Illinois State, and Indiana State moved up five spots to No. 20 after picking up a win over Northern Iowa over the weekend.  UNI dropped from No. 10 to No. 21 after the loss to the Sycamores, to round out the league record-tying seven teams in the poll.
The Redbirds also moved up seven spots to No. 15 in the FCS Coaches Poll, thanks to their dominant defeat of the Jackrabbits in both teams’ conference opener.  North Dakota State led the way in the No. 1 spot and was followed by Youngstown State (No. 10), Southern Illinois (No. 13) and Illinois State.  South Dakota State dropped 10 spots to No. 19 and Northern Iowa fell 11 spots to No. 21, but still finished ahead of Indiana State at No. 22 despite losing to the Sycamores, who have knocked off ranked opponents the last two weeks.
Illinois State will travel to Terre Haute, Indiana, on Saturday, Oct. 11, for its first road contest of the season against Indiana State.  Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. CST, with the game being broadcast live on Comcast SportsNet Chicago from Memorial Stadium.  The game will also be streamed live on ESPN3, with Kurt Pegler and Boomer Grigsby on the call.

2014 ISU Athletics Hall Of Fame Class Enshrined
The 41st class of the Illinois State Athletics Percy Family Hall of Fame was enshrined Saturday morning, at a ceremony conducted at the Bone Student Center during 2014 Homecoming festivities at ISU.
Char Govan Bond (women’s basketball), a 1,500-point scorer and 1990 First-Team All-MVC selection; Tarise Bryson (men’s basketball), No. 7 on the all-time scoring list and the 2001 MVC Player of the Year; Dion Simmons (men’s track & field), an NCAA All-American in the triple jump and six-time MVC champion; and Amber (Smith) Coppola (softball), a four-time All-MVC First-Team selection and All-American, each joined the Redbird Hall of Fame at the annual event.
In addition to the 2014 Hall of Fame class, Larry Quane, who has been supporting Illinois State Athletics in various volunteer roles for close to three decades, will be honored with the Campbell “Stretch” Miller Award. The award is named for Campbell Miller, a former Redbird athlete who went on to broadcast Illinois State games in the 1940s before joining the St. Louis Cardinals broadcasting team.  The award celebrates the contributions of those whose main services were not playing or coaching, but were important to the program’s success.
Illinois State Athletics Percy Family Hall of Famer and “Voice of the Redbirds” Dick Luedke served as emcee for the event, which featured remarks and well-wishes from Illinois State University President Dr. Larry Dietz and ISU Director of Athletics Larry Lyons. The inductees were celebrated with by family, friends, former teammates and coaches, as they joined the ranks of Illinois State’s greatest student-athletes, coaches, administrators and contributors.

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