By Tony Hooker
High School sports
To continue the weirdness of this strange time we’re living in, high school football has begun here in Illinois. This isn’t like Texas, where the two biggest high school sports are football and spring football. Usually at this time of year, thoughts are turning to VGH baseball and Villa Grove softball, with a side order of track and field. After some years of declining participation, the cross-country teams saw an increase in numbers this fall, and hopefully this will carry over to Track and Field, and the coaches are fired up to help their athletes reach their goals. It’s a pretty much well-known fact that participation in Track and Field can lead to improvements in other sports, so if you have an athlete, encourage her/him to give it a try.
Also, weird? The fact that the volleyball team is getting ready for their season, which normally would have taken place in the fall. It really, really stinks that the seniors on this year’s team weren’t able to be feted at the annual blue and gold scrimmage, one of my favorite nights of the year. With a strong junior high program now established, I believe the high school program will continue to be on the rise. How cool would it be to hoist a regional trophy for a program that went somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 years between match wins not too long ago? No pressure, ladies. Especially not this season. Just go out and have fun and cherish each match, remembering how quickly we can all be sent back to the sidelines.
It’s certainly been a fun week here in Illini Nation. Three top twenty-five road wins in seven days will do that for you. I have to admit that I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, though. I think I’ve been conditioned to expect the worst from the beloved. One of the writers I follow, Robert Rosenthal at illiniboard.com, put it best, when talking about Illinois football. “We’re Illinois, and we can’t be trusted.”
We’ve earned a top seed in the NCAA tournament now, after having not participated since 2013, when we got beat by Miami on a missed out of bounds that was so egregious that a new rule regarding instant replay was instituted the following season. Uggh. Just like the rule that NCAA regional tournament finals couldn’t be played in a team’s home stadium got put into place after we got hosed at Kentucky in 1984. (In my best Eeyore voice) It’s so “Illinois” that we finally would have made the tournament last year only to have the whole thing cancelled, so it will be good to see us back among the field, most likely as a 1 seed. For most of the 80’s and 90’s, through the run to the national championship game in 2005, Illinois was almost always in the national hoops conversation, so it’s great to be back. I’m hoping we’ll stick around a while but if we don’t I have to remember where we’ve been the last several years.
As always, take care. Be kind. Be considerate. Be there.