The coaches of Rend Lake College’s athletic teams honored their best during the annual Rend Lake College Warrior / Lady Warrior All-Sports Athletic Banquet, held earlier this month at the Rend Lake Resort Great Room.
Receiving top honors for the night were baseball player Aaron Johnson (Slaughters, Ky.) and softball player April Gibson (Tilden), who were named the 2005 Male and Female Scholar / Athlete of the Year. Johnson earned a 3.944 grade-point average and has signed with Armstrong-Atlantic State University in Georgia. Gibson holds a perfect 4.0 GPA and is under consideration for Academic All-American.
Athletic Director Tim Wills said the voting for these two awards was exceptionally difficult this year, with numerous qualified students.
Learning Enhancement Specialist Tara Sullivan works with most student athletes in the Learning Enhancement Center, where they are able to concentrate on and receive assistance with their studies.
Sullivan recognized the cross-country and softball teams as showing the most academic improvement. The cross-country team sports five Academic All-Americans and the softball team had the highest team grade-point average last year.
This year, the men’s basketball team and the women’s tennis team were honored for having the highest grade-point averages. The tennis team earned a collective 3.52 GPA while the men’s basketball team chalked up a 2.93.
“In each of your athletic accomplishments, I celebrate for you because I see you as a student as well,” Sullivan told the athletes.
Athletic Trainer Jenn Robinet, who works with RLC’s injured athletes, was on hand to announce freshman baseball player Kevin Williams (Harrisburg) as the winner of the Perseverance Award, which is bestowed to an athlete who has been injured and has put forth exceptional effort to return to the team.
Robinet said Williams has been in the training room every day since Aug. 10. He has undergone two shoulder surgeries in the past year.
“He kept a positive attitude and a great work ethic. He always wanted to do more,” Robinet said of Williams. “He wants to play ball.”
It also was announced that next year, there will be another team up for honors at the annual banquet. The new RLC Competitive Dance Team recently held its first tryouts and 16 members were selected for the squad.
Additional award winners ...
Baseball – Although the RLC Warrior baseball team’s season ended the day of the banquet, Head Coach Bobby Simpson said he was not disappointed because his team put forth a great effort in what may have been their best game of the season. Plus, there is hope for the future in the 17 freshman on the baseball roster.
“Every single coach in the conference has rated our freshmen best in the conference, bar none,” Simpson said. Of the six sophomores on the team, two (Seth Hall, Harrisburg, and Corey Lewis, Marion) have accepted offers to SIUE, two (Elijah Hiatt, Mt. Vernon, and Luke Koehn, Ava) have signed with Berry College in Georgia, Daniel Jewett (West Frankfort) has a tentative verbal agreement to play for Northern Illinois and hurler Kyle Schwartz (Harrisburg) is contemplating five offers, including two Division I schools.
Jewett was named team MVP, Hunter Robinson (Louisville, Ky.) was named Mr. Hustle, Best Pitcher was Hiatt and Best Average was Chris Clark (Paducah, Ky.).
Men’s Basketball – Head Coach Wills said the team experienced “a very interesting year.” He said his team worked hard in spite of losing four players to injuries, including a broken foot, a shoulder injury and two anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.
“We were playing our best ball at the end of the season,” Wills said.
Sophomore Keith Scarbrough (Glen Carbon) was named Most Valuable Player for the team and sophomore Delance Rowell (Sparta) was tapped as Outstanding Defender. Scarbrough also has been named All-Region and All-Great Rivers Athletic Conference. All of Wills’ second-year players will graduate and will include two Academic All-Americans – Scarbrough and Sam Kleber (Urbana).
Women’s Basketball – In his first year as head coach of the women’s basketball team, Gerald Mumbower believes his team has lived up to its name – Warriors.
The pre-season pick to finish last in the league responded by finishing third at 8-6, 19-13 overall, upsetting two number-one Division II teams (Illinois Central and Carl Sandburg) along the way. Of its 13 losses, seven were by three points or fewer, Mumbower said.
The team MVP award went to freshman Rebecca Harris (Mascoutah), and two other awards, the Hustle Award and the Leadership Award, went to sophomore Felisha Prescott (Murray, Ky.) and sophomore April York (Hoyleton), respectively.
Cheerleaders – Although the RLC Cheerleaders perform at all home men’s basketball games and at other events, they have never been a competing team. However, Head Coach Bobbi Shadowens said she hopes that will change next year.
Shadowens, a Literacy Specialist at Rend Lake College, thanked the parents of her cheerleaders for instilling a terrific work ethic in their children.
Freshman Megan Basso (Mulkeytown) was given the Miss Hustle Award and sophomore Lauren Polbinski (Christopher) was named team MVP.
In September 2004, the RLC Cheerleaders performed at Busch Stadium prior to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game.
Cross-Country – The reigning three-time NJCAA Division II champs experienced success this season also. Four-time National Coach of the Year Brent McLain named Justin Kunz (Lebanon) as the Most Valuable Player of this season’s cross-country team.
Team members Rey Alvarez (Danville), Tim Clark (Indianapolis, Ind.), Jeremy Kunz (Lebanon) and twin brother Justin Kunz were named All-Americans, while Brett Simon (Florissant, Mo.), Matt Jackson (Pinckneyville), Lucas Roethlisberger (Scheller) and the Kunz twins were named Academic All-Americans.
Men’s Golf – The Warriors golf squad won three times during the fall, including its first Illinois State Championship, and was runner-up three other times, making for a ranking of fifth in the nation. The team qualified for the NJCAA National Tourney May 24-27 and, according to Head Coach Dave Smith, has a chance to win a trophy.
The Fall MVP was sophomore Charlie Throgmorton (West Paducah, Ky.), and the Spring MVP was John Singleton (Merseyside, England).
Women’s Golf – Head Coach Cindy Corn started the women’s golf program six years ago and quickly took it to a place of national honor. Most recently, the team won two consecutive tournaments – the McKendree Women’s Invitational and the Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville Cougar Spring Invitational – over a span of five days, with RLC golfers medaling at each tournament.
Sophomores Casey Biddinger (West Lafayette, Ind.), Ashley Hemann (Highland) and Danielle Kaufman (Nashville) all have signed to play for SIUE, and although no definite plans have been set by sophomore Nicole Adams (O’Fallon), Corn said she believes Adams will follow her teammates.
Corn also recognized the efforts of Assistant Coach Elizabeth Kasey, who was the team’s first All-American and was ranked ninth in the nation in the team’s first national tournament.
Corn is resigning as head coach after this season.
Softball – Head Coach Dave Ellingsworth’s team finished 26-30 and was fifth in the GRAC, but they were able to advance to the Region XXIV Final Four.
“These young ladies have been through some adversity and they have dealt with some tough losses that were heartbreaking,” said Ellingsworth of his team. However, there was a highlight for Ellingsworth’s team and for himself when the team’s fifth win of the season marked Ellingsworth’s 500th victory as a coach.
Two team MVPs were named – sophomores Jenifer Hoffman (Collinsville) and Ashley Schaeffer (Nashville). The Top Pitcher Award went to sophomore Brittany Schafer (Flora), who has accumulated a 1.61 earned run average. Hoffman and Schafer have accepted offers to play at the University of Illinois at Springfield and Schaeffer has signed with Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
Women’s Tennis – The RLC women’s tennis team finished 6-4 and was ranked 19th in the nation in Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings in Division I.
Freshman LeAnn Nitz (Centralia) was champion at the Region 24 Tournament and sophomores Sunny Thomas (Salem) and Sarah Dixon (Benton) and freshman Lisa Parker (Centralia) were each finalists. Laney Gillespie (Mt. Vernon), Kady Nelson (Carmi), Laura Hamilton (Mt. Vernon) and walk-on Jenna Petty (Shelburn, Ind.) each won all of their dual matches this spring.
Track and Field – The reigning Region XXIV champions were NJCAA Championship Runner-up Indoors to Barton County (Kansas), losing by a mere 1.5 points. However, the team can boast a national champion, sophomore Jason Craig (Huber Heights, Ohio), who won the 400 meter.
Craig also is a member of a world-record-holding team. The Team USA 4x400-meter relay quartet set a world record at the World Junior Championships held in July last year in Grosseto, Italy, with a time of 3:01.09, bettering the previous record of 3:01.90, which also was set by Team USA in 1990.
Craig was recognized as the team MVP at the banquet. Eric Alberter (Belleville) was honored as Track MVP while Courtney Haywood (St. Louis) was named Field MVP. Haywood is ranked fourth in the U.S. Juniors (19 and under) in discus, and Alberter is ranked third in the nation in the U.S. Juniors in the 800 meter.
Volleyball – Head Coach Rhonda Carlton’s squad finished their season third in the GRAC, a showing made possible by great players who worked hard, she said.
She named co-MVPs this year, Larissa Verdeyen (Germantown) and Ashlee Pyron (Du Quoin). Verdeyen’s season ended with 64 aces, 813 assists and Second Team All-Region honors. Pyron received the team’s Top Hitter Award with 323 kills, as well as the Top Blocker Award with 87 stops. She was named First Team All-Region XXIV and Second Team All-Conference.
The team also earned academic honors as the NJCAA Academic All-American Team of the Year in volleyball.