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Local Sports Stories

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Bishop McNamara Softball Wins 2A State

Bishop McNamara edged Nashville 3-2 Friday 5/31 at E. Peoria to advance to the Class 2A softball state title game.  After a rainout Saturday, Bishop McNamara and Tremont, both undefeated, met again Sunday 6/2 in E. Peoria to decide the Illinois Class 2A softball state championship.

Bottom of the 2nd, with 2 out, Megan Gill had a 2-rbi single, Kaitlyn DeLong and Alee Reshenskas each with an rbi single, and Bailee Porter even had a steal of home to put the Irish up 5-0.

Top of the 5th, Tremont's Kali Sanders launched a 2-run homer to make it 5-2 Irish. But Bishop Mac put up 3 runs in the 6th as Lauren Jurkovic, Corinne O'Connor and Caitlyn DeLong each got a 2-out rbi double .

Jaelen Hull goes the distance, finishing 28-0, surrendering just 3 hits, 2 runs, while striking out 3, and walking none.

The final, Bishop McNamara 8, Tremont 2. Coach Laura Harms' Fighting Irish finish a perfect 35-0, clinching the first softball state title in school history.  Bishop McNamara became just the third undefeated state champion in all classes since 1986.

The Class 1A softball title went to Milledgeville, defeating Toledo (Cumberland) 5-4 in a rain-shortened 5-inning game Saturday.  The 3A and 4A state titles will be decided June 8, again in East Peoria.

  • Parent Category: Local Sports

Central's Rayanne Wright a State Champion,

Kankakee's relay team also top in State

CHARLESTON — Central High School’s Rayanne Wright will remember her 2013 trip to O’Brien Field in Charleston, IL.

The Standout Central Comet senior brings home a 1st Place state trophy from Eastern Illinois University. Rayanne Wright captured the ultimate prize Saturday to cap her high school career.

Wright defended her title in the Class 1A 400-meter dash at the IHSA girls track and field state finals at EIU’s O'Brien Stadium. She’s a back-to-back state champion.

Wright's winning time of 56.60 seconds was her best of the season and the fastest local 400 time this year. It also bested her championship time of 56.94 from last year.

"I'm just ecstatic right now. It's a great way to end my high school career," Wright said. "I was a little nervous going into the race. I was seeded second, and Sullivan High School’s Amanda McClain is a great runner. I prepared as much as I could and put my faith in my strength, my training throughout the year and my experience.”

The sprint to the finish was eerily similar to last year's final, one where McClain again settled for the runner-up spot.

This time, it was a closer battle, but Wright's experience made the difference against the sophomore. Wright made the push at the end, and Sullivan couldn't answer, coming up 0.40 seconds short.

"Amanda is a great runner, so I was expecting her to be in front of me toward the end," Wright said. "But it gave me an extra push, and the last bit of energy came through. I was able to finish strong, which is one of my strengths."

Winning the state title was Wright's main goal for the season. The other was to leave a strong legacy at Central.

With consecutive state titles on her résumé, the future Illinois State University runner will be remembered for years to come for her work both on and off the track.

"I want to be a great role model, excelling in the classroom first and then out on the track. If you put in your time, it all pays off," Wright said. "I just want future athletes to understand that. Hopefully, they're going in pushing and trying to beat some of my records."

Also in 1A action, two local pole vaulters advanced to the final four. Reed-Custer's Morgan Zacharias finished second by clearing 11 feet, 6 inches, and Dwight's Kacy Murphy went 10-9 to place fourth.

Watseka's Emily Allhands finished fifth in the shot put with a mark of 37-10, and Momence's Ariel Gibbs took eighth in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.91 seconds.

Kays set tone for future

If this year's state finals are any indication, it won't take long for Kay Nation to become a force to be reckoned with.

The Kankakee girls track team put up some impressive results — including a state championship — on the way to an eighth-place team finish in Class 2A.

The Kays finished with 27 points and were just four points from fifth place. Southeast, from Springfield, scored 66 to easily win the championship.

Kankakee had six athletes competing but just one senior — Brittney Griffin — which made the Kays' success that much sweeter.

"It was fabulous. This was the best showing Kankakee's had in a long time," Kankakee coach Benny Phillips said. "We're trying to coin the phrase 'Kay Nation.' We're trying to bring a lot of family-style stuff to Kankakee, and that what it was all about. We just wanted to represent Kankakee well."

The Kays did that from the start, winning their first event of the day — the 400-meter relay. The team of Griffin, Jemiya Bates, Kenyae Collins and Tyjuana Eason won by the slimmest of margins, edging Southeast by 0.06 seconds with a time of 48.224.

As Eason and Southeast's Charday Crawford crossed the finish line, neither was sure who won until the results appeared on the scoreboard.

"It was pretty shocking. I didn't think we were going to get first because it was so close," said Griffin, who led off the race. "But we pulled through."

The same team carried that success to the 800-meter relay, placing third in 1 minute, 41.45 seconds and setting a school record for the second day in a row.

For Kankakee's final relay, the 1,600, sisters Shaneequa and Keshonna Hubert replaced Griffin and Bates, and the Kays finished seventh in 4:00.89.

Eason and Bates also competed in the 100, finishing sixth and seventh, respectively, in 12.26 and 12.27.

The city's success was not limited to Kankakee. Bishop McNamara junior Taylor McCammon finished second in the long jump, posting a mark of 18-4 3/4. She went 17-6 and 17-8 on her first two attempts before getting in the zone for her final jump.

In 3A, Bradley-Bourbonnais' Janae Cox and Keanu Taylor both medaled. Cox posted a season-best effort of 18-3 in the long jump to place seventh, and Taylor took ninth in the triple jump with an effort of 36-10 3/4.


  • Parent Category: Local Sports

U of I's Assembly Hall now State Farm Center

The only Assembly Hall in the Big Ten is now in Bloomington, Indiana.

Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas announced Monday April 29, that the dome in Champaign immediately will be called the State Farm Center. The insurance company struck a $60 million 30-year deal for the naming rights.

The 50-year-old arena is planned to undergo a $160 million renovation project beginning next spring.

  • Parent Category: Local Sports

Illini's Groce gets contract extension, payraise

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Illinois has rewarded coach John Groce's successful first season in Champaign with a contract extension and a $200,000-a-year raise.

Athletic Director Mike Thomas said Saturday that Groce's contract will be extended one year through the 2017-18 season. The raise will increase his pay to $1.6 million a year. Both changes still need approval of the university's board of trustees.

"The arrow is definitely pointing up for Fighting Illini basketball, and this helps solidify the commitment by both the University and John to continue moving the program to a championship level," Thomas said in a news release.

Groce credited his players, most of whom he inherited from a team that finished the previous season 17-15 and lost 12 of their last 14, costing coach Bruce Weber his job.

The Illini won 23 games, made it to the NCAA tournament and defeated Colorado before losing to Miami. They finished 8-10 in the Big Ten.

"This was one of the most gratifying seasons of my career because of how much I enjoyed coaching this group of players," Groce said. "They bought in from day one, had great attitudes, and gave tremendous effort which allowed us to have success."

Groce came to Illinois after a four-year run at Ohio.

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Coach Keady earns Hall of Fame Honors

Boiler legend: "I'm thrilled and humbled"

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Former Purdue men's basketball head coach Gene Keady was elected in to the College Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday night.

Keady began his career at Western Kentucky. He then became the coach at Purdue where he led the Boilers to a 512-270 record. Keady coached the Boilers for 25 years.

"I'm thrilled and humbled to be elected to the College Basketball Hall of Fame,"  Keady said. "It's a total team effort. I couldn't have done it without my former players, assistant coaches, and support staff."

Rollie Massimino and former U.S. congressman Tom McMillen also headline the 2013 class that will be inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame.

The class will be inducted during a ceremony on November 23 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Keady is currently a special assistant at St. John's working for Red Storm Head Coach and former Boilermaker assistant Steve Lavin.