Prairie State Profile: Eagles’ Sunde allows passion for sprinting to carry him to fast times

Liberty's Keegan Sunde, left, sprints toward the finish line in a 60-meter race during the indoor track and field season. | Photo courtesy Russ Tate

LIBERTY, Ill. — Spend any amount of time chatting with Keegan Sunde about his track career and you come away with one overriding realization. His passion for the sport is all encompassing. The Liberty senior sprinter enjoyed a solid indoor season, running the 60-meter dash in 7.25 seconds at the Illinois Top Times Meet at…

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Prairie State Profile: Five area wrestlers ready to chase state championships

Quincy High School's Bryor Newbold, center, and Quincy Notre Dame's Bradi Lahr, right, are two of the five area wrestlers who will compete in the Illinois state championhips this weekend in Champaign, Ill. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — The Illinois state wrestling tournament begins at noon Thursday with five area wrestlers having qualified to grapple at State Farm Center on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign.  Wednesday, they had the opportunity to visit the Illini wrestling facility in Huff Hall, get a workout in and prepare for the pursuit of…

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Prairie State Profile: Robinson gives Bombers leadership, confidence heading into new year

Macomb junior guard Kylie Robinson led the Bombers to a fifth-place finish at the Beardstown Lady Tiger Classic and was named to the all-tournament team. | Submitted photo

MACOMB, Ill. — As challenging as 2023 seemed to be at times for Kylie Robinson and the Macomb girls basketball team, the year ended with the right springboard to brighter days. The Bombers finished fifth in the 41st Beardstown Lady Tiger Classic, winning four of five games over a four-day span the week between Christmas…

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Prairie State Profile: Woodworth is enjoying grand time helping Titans succeed

West Hancock senior Lillie Woodworth celebrates scoring her 1,000th career point earlier this season. | Photo courtesy West Hancock athletics

HAMILTON, Ill. — Lillie Woodworth is part of the final class of high school student-athletes who had their careers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The West Hancock basketball standout played only nine games as a freshman when the Illinois High School Association altered its calendar and shrunk season lengths  in hopes of getting all fall,…

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Prairie State Profile: Payson’s Frese becomes program’s first golfer to reach state tournament

Payson Seymour senior golfer Aden Frese shot an 81 at the Class 1A Auburn Sectional to qualify for the state tournament this weekend at Prairie Vista Golf Course in Bloomington, Ill. | Matt Schuckman photo

PAYSON, Ill. — Aden Frese positioned himself to make history. Then came the ninth hole at Edgewood Golf Course in Auburn, Ill., and suddenly, he felt like he was teetering on the edge. A wayward shot into the woods on his final hole of the Class 1A Auburn Sectional saddled the Payson Seymour senior golfer…

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Prairie State Profile: Mustangs’ Shaffer brings fun-loving attitude, leadership to senior season

Sophia Shaffer has played a significant role in helping the Unity volleyball team exceed early season expectations. | Photo courtesy Sarah Donley Photography

MENDON, Ill. — Sophia Shaffer is trying to savor the moment. A senior multi-sport athlete at Unity High School, Shaffer has learned through injury and triumph to be undeterred and play for the love of the game. “It’s why I want to make sure this year is fun,” Shaffer said. She also realizes this is…

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Prairie State Profile: Raiders’ Genenbacher making sure her final run is memorable

Quincy Notre Dame senior cross country runner Abigail Genenbacher heads toward the final stretch during Tuesday's Running Raider Classic at South Park. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — Abigail Genenbacher’s final run through South Park proved to be one she could enjoy. The Quincy Notre Dame senior cross country runner dashed her way to a fourth place individual finish Tuesday in the Running Raider Classic, clocking a time of 21 minutes, 17 seconds. “I felt a lot of really great energy,”…

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Prairie State Profile: Saukees’ Tomhave embraces traditions, bonds born from playing sports

Pittsfield senior Brennan Tomhave is a three-sports athlete who envisions himself as a physical therapist or working a similar job in the sports medicine field one day. | Matt Schuckman photo

PITTSFIELD, Ill. — Brennan Tomhave is a Saukee through and through. It would be difficult not to be when you grow up sitting on the bench. Tomhave had a front-row seat to one of the best seasons in Pittsfield boys basketball history in 2011, riding the bus and hanging out in the locker room as…

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JWCC Prairie State Profile: Eagles’ Deege plays vital role in helping younger teammates grow

Liberty senior Landon Deege is the Eagles' defensive anchor in center field and a top left-handed hurler. | Submitted photo

LIBERTY, Ill. — Landon Deege understands the reality the Liberty baseball team is facing. “We’re young, but we’re growing,” the senior said. With that comes the ups and downs of inexperience. The Eagles have won one game to date — a 1-0 victory over Illini West in which Jackson Sims struck out eight over five…

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JWCC Prairie State Profile: Brown County softball team looks for experience to lead to more postseason success

Brown County's Cyrah Dunlap, right, is one of four seniors the Hornets will rely on heavily in their pursuit of a third consecutive Class 1A regional championship. | Photo courtesy Scott Bemis

MOUNT STERLING, Ill. — Graduation hit the Brown County softball team relatively hard, taking away eight players who contributed to back-to-back Class 1A regional championships. By no means should that suggest the cupboard is bare. Buoyed by the return of starting pitcher Taryn Moorman, the twin tandem of Katey and Klare Flynn and versatile Cyrah…

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JWCC Prairie State Profile: Payson’s Dieker develops confidence as strong as his game

Payson Seymour senior forward Bryan Dieker has been as physically dominant and aggressive on the hardwood as he was on the gridiron. | Photo courtesy Sarah Donley Photography

PAYSON, Ill. — All of those running backs who were stopped dead in their tracks the past couple of seasons by Unity-Payson linebacker Bryan Dieker might find this funny. Five years ago, he didn’t know how to tackle. Those trying to defend Dieker on the basketball court might find this funny, too. Three years ago,…

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JWCC Prairie State Profile: Macomb’s Ladd finds perfect college fit in own backyard

Macomb linebacker Ethan Ladd, left, is staying home for college, having signed with Western Illinois University. | Matt Schuckman photo

MACOMB, Ill. — Navigating his way home from wrestling practice Thursday morning wasn’t too treacherous, but Ethan Ladd realized more snow and blizzard-like conditions were coming. “I’m not a big winter guy,” the Macomb senior said. “I’m not going to lie. I hate snow.” But what if the Western Illinois University football team ended up…

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JWCC Prairie State Profile: Unity’s Arnsman sets sights on carrying success from Unity to QU

Unity forward Ashlynn Arnsman has signed a national letter of intent to play basketball at Quincy University. | Matt Schuckman photo

MENDON, Ill. — Ashlynn Arnsman sees her future with a clear view. For those whose sights are a little more murky, she has a plan to help them, too. The Unity multi-sport standout who recently signed a national letter of intent with the Quincy University women’s basketball team plans to study biology and use her…

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JWCC Prairie State Profile: Illini West’s Deitrich uses right mental approach for on course success

Illini West senior golfer Nolan Deitrich has made consistent strides in his game heading into the Class 1A postseason. | Matt Schuckman photo

CARTHAGE, Ill. — The physical tools Nolan Deitrich needs to excel at both golf and basketball are decidedly different. The mental approach is remarkably the same. Rolling in 4-foot par putt with a top finish at stake and hitting clutch free throws in a hostile gym will equally test your concentration and resolve. “The pressure…

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JWCC Prairie State Profile: Brown County’s Wort relishes experiencing memorable moments

Brown County's Colby Wort, right, has been a three-sport standout and emotional, vocal leader for the Hornets. | Photo courtesy Scott Bemis

MOUNT STERLING, Ill. — The roar of the Harley Davidsons. The swaying of the crowd. The green and white banners everywhere. How could a Brown County football player not be energized coming out of the locker room and running into such an environment? “It is the greatest thing ever,” said Colby Wort, the Hornets’ senior…

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JWCC Prairie State Profile: From golf course to broadcast booth, Macomb’s Keene remains focused on community impact

Macomb's Justice Keene watches his putt on the first hole at Spring Lake Country Club during a quadrangular event in Quincy. | Matt Schuckman photo

MACOMB, Ill. — Justice Keene always understood golf to be an individual sport. What he has come to embrace and relish is the team aspect of the game. When you’re playing alongside golfers you respect, trust and have a bonafide bond with, the team result becomes as important, if not more, than the individual score.…

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JWCC Prairie State Profile: Muegge ready to help Unity-Payson pancake opponents

Unity-Payson junior lineman Brady Muegge made his own pancakes for the filming of the Mustangs' intro video. | Photo courtesy Brian Shoemaker

MENDON, Ill. — Spend enough time exploring YouTube, TikTok or any other video streaming service and you are bound to run across an entrance or hype video featuring an offensive lineman devouring something. With that in mind, Brady Muegge knew he needed to be different. Biting the cap off a bottle of syrup accomplished that.…

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JWCC Prairie State Profile: Suns’ Ramsey ready to make another volleyball season shine bright

Southeastern's Summer Ramsey celebrates a point during last year's Class 1A state championship match against Champaign St. Thomas More at Redbird Arena in Normal, Ill. | Photo courtesy Clark Brooks, PhotoNews Media

AUGUSTA, Ill. — An opportunity to watch an NCAA Division I women’s volleyball program play an exhibition match presented itself to the Southeastern volleyball players and heightened the Suns’ anticipation for their own season opener. “It was like I had an adrenalin rush,” said Summer Ramsey, a 5-foot-6 outside hitter. “I don’t even know why.…

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JWCC Prairie State Profile: Pursuit of bodybuilding career boosts record-setting track efforts for Liberty’s O’Neil

Liberty senior Shannon O'Neil, shown here competing in the 100-meter hurdles during the Mark Twain/Becky Thatcher Relays in Hannibal, Mo., has set three Liberty school records this season. Photo courtesy Mathew Kirby

LIBERTY, Ill. — Jared Schmidt’s excitement is understandable. Despite a spring in which the weather has been “absolutely atrocious,” the Liberty girls track and field team has piled up a number of school records in individual events. Now the weather is ripe for running as the Eagles head to Friday’s Class 1A Beardstown Sectional. “So…

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JWCC Prairie State Profile: Pittsfield’s Cox carries on family tradition with integrity and confidence

Pittsfield's Katie Cox clears a hurdle in the 110-meter hurdles race at the Class 1A state championships last year in Charleston, Ill. Photo courtesy Clark Brooks, PhotoNews Media

PITTSFIELD, Ill. — Steve Smith became known throughout West-Central Illinois as one of the region’s most influential and impartial basketball referees. For Katie Cox, he was simply grandpa. “He truly always wanted me to be the best,” said Cox, a senior three-sport athlete at Pittsfield High School. “With everything I did, he was pushing me.…

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JWCC Prairie State Profile: Mustangs’ Schaffnit puts heart and soul into community service

Unity senior Annabelle Schaffnit, who plays catcher and outfield for the Mustangs, has paved a path to college with her extracurricular activities. Submitted photo

MENDON, Ill. — Annabelle Schaffnit started to be apologetic for her answer. What the Unity senior softball player didn’t realize in the moment was how much her answer resonated. After chatting a little about the Mustangs and their ongoing season, Schaffnit was asked about how much her life revolves around sports. “I’ll be honest,” she…

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JWCC Prairie State Profile: Dickhut matures into talented three-sport athlete for Central

Central senior Keaton Dickhut is a pivotal piece of the puzzle for the Panthers this spring, playing both corner infield positions and pitching. Photo courtesy Mike Pritchard

CAMP POINT, Ill. — Keaton Dickhut harbored ideas of being a multi-sport athlete when he entered high school, but physically, he didn’t exactly fit the part. “I couldn’t even jump up and touch the net if I wanted to,” said Dickhut, now a senior three-sport athlete at Central who said he checked in at 5-foot-7…

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Prairie State Profile: Youthful Panthers look to make state take notice in wrestling regional

Central sophomore wrestler Conner Griffin, left, carries a 37-7 record into the postseason. Matt Schuckman photo

The Prairie State Profile will appear each week to highlight Illinois area student-athletes. CAMP POINT, Ill. — The youth wrestling program designed to promote the sport and serve as a feeder program for Central’s high school team is working. Saturday, the rest of the state will start to see how well it works. The Central…

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Prairie State Profile: Illini West’s Kirkham develops into area’s pre-eminent playmaker with guidance from basketball-savvy family

Illini West point guard Caydee Kirkham drives to the basket during a game against Unity in Carthage, Ill. Photo courtesy Rick Goettsche

The Prairie State Profile will appear each week to highlight an Illinois area student-athlete. CARTHAGE, Ill. — Technology has changed the method of delivery, but the messages are similar to what they were three decades ago. The intent is the same, too. It’s to give Caydee Kirkham all the knowledge she needs to succeed at…

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