WCIA — Our countdown of the Top 10 High School Sports Storylines from the WCIA 3 viewing area in 2021 continues with six baseball and softball teams making it to their respective state tournaments in June. Springfield High won the Class 3A state baseball title with Mt. Pulaski and Sacred Heart-Griffin finishing fourth in their classes. In softball, Unity and Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond finished fourth, with St. Anthony taking second.
“It’s truly an amazing start to St. Anthony softball,” St. Anthony softball coach Makayla Walsh said. “I really hope this shows to the girls that are younger, ‘Hey I want to come play softball.'”
Fourth on our list, track and field, where 16 individual titles were won by area boys and girls including three by Tuscola’s Alyssa Williams. Salt Fork took home team trophies on the boys and girls side, finishing 2nd and 3rd in 1A respectively. Urbana senior Daniel Mboyo won two state titles, leading the Tigers to a third place finish in 2A, taking home their first team trophy since 1942.
“We’ve just been practicing really hard since the pandemic,” Mboyo said. “A lot of people have been seeing it as an obstacle but we’ve really embraced it and seen it as a time to get better. I’m just happy we could bring it back to Urbana.”
The football state championships returned to DeKalb, to bring us to number three on our list. Thirty-three area teams were in contention but just two made it to the title game at Huskie Stadium, Unity and Sacred Heart-Griffin. The Cyclones fell short of winning their sixth title under legendary coach Ken Leonard. The Rockets also finished runner-up, the sixth second place trophy for Hall of Fame coach Scott Hamilton.
“There’s a lot of people that’d trade places with what we’ve done,” said Hamilton. “We’ve worked together to get a lot of places, do a lot of things, and I’m proud of what these teams accomplished.”
No. 2 on our list, volleyball, with tree area teams making it to Redbird Arena in Normal to play for a state title. Pleasant Plains just missed another championship, finishing second in 2A, while Springfield Lutheran was able to grab fourth in 1A. St. Thomas More fought off two deficits in its state matches to win the school’s second state title.
“We’ve just really loved the pressure, we love high pressure games, we like the challenge,” St. Thomas More senior Anna McClure said. “I think that’s why going into the second set we were all confident.”
And number one on our list of high school storylines in 2021, the return of postseason play. After a year where most state championships were canceled for the COVID-19 pandemic, high schoolers once again had the chance to compete for a trophy. State series were hosted across the map, and plenty of teams took advantage. Going back to competing for something has meant everything to the players.
“Just being able to bring playoff football back to the community and being a part of that with this great team, it’s an honor,” Iroquois West senior football player and Illini signee Clayton Leonard said.
For more on our Top 10 countdown list, watch 10-6 here: https://www.wcia.com/sports/2021-top-wcia-high-school-sports-storylines-10-6/