It’s been a crazy, crazy (crazy!) year, no doubt. And without debate, the biggest sports story in 2020 has been a pandemic that prevented a fourth-ranked Lake Land women’s basketball team from competing for a national championship, blocked many local golfers, runners and tennis players from competing in a state championship, eliminated any chance a powerhouse Charleston softball team had of earning a likely state tournament berth, delayed football, basketball and volleyball schedules and erased senior seasons for those competing in spring sports.

To speak pejoratively, 2020 majorly sucked.

Except for when it didn’t.

Our athletes worked hard, sometimes on their own, to prepare for fall seasons in golf, cross country and tennis – and many more of our youth are now diligently preparing for sports seasons we all hope take place in 2021. In addition, a great number of amazing individual and team performances took place both last winter and this past fall. We remember many of them in our year-end list below, reminding us there is also much to be grateful.

  1. Lake Land women’s basketball overcomes double-digit deficit to earn trip to national tournament

To read the story, click HERE.

Lake Land overcame an 11-point halftime deficit, forced overtime and eventually upended No. 9 Illinois Central Community College in a NJCAA regional basketball championship in Peoria, 80-75, to qualify for the national tournament for the first time since 2012. Lake Land was awarded the No. 4 seed. However, the pandemic wiped away the tourney, making this their final game of a 29-3 season. In the semifinals of the Region 24 Tournament, freshman Carsyn Fearday had hit a 3-point shot with under a minute left to lift Lake Land over No. 5 ranked Lincoln Land, 63-60.  

2. Mattoon advances to state dual team wrestling finals with historic win

To read the story, click HERE.

Mattoon posted four pins, fended off take downs against some celebrated opponents in two other matches and defeated Troy Triad, 42-30, to qualify for the school’s first-ever appearance in an IHSA state dual team tournament. Mattoon also sent four wrestlers to the individual state championships, which you can see in No. 7 below.

3. Angela Coe qualifies for state in 4 swim events, sets every Charleston individual record

To read the story, click HERE.

Sophomore Angela Coe won four events at the IHSA sectional swim meet, setting four pool records and qualifying for all events for a state meet that was canceled. Coe joined Lauren Pentzien as the only Charleston girls swimmers to win a sectional event. Coe would have been seeded No. 2 in both the 200 IM and 100 fly based upon sectional times the state typically relies upon. She easily won the 200 IM by 16 seconds in 2 minutes, 1.56 seconds, and took the 100 fly by .64 in 54.12. Coe also posted the fourth best time in winning the 100 breast by nearly 9 seconds in 1:02.58 and clocked 4:57.09 to win the 500 free for the fifth best time in the state. Coe also set every Charleston High individual school record.

4. Green Wave capture their 1st regional girls basketball title since 2017

To read the story, click HERE.

Mallory Ramage scored 28 points to set the school’s single-season scoring record and Mattoon smothered host Centralia defensively to capture the Class 3A girls regional basketball title – its first championship since 2017. The Green Wave started the season 12-0, went undefeated in winning the Apollo Conference title and took first in two holiday tournaments earlier in the year.

5. MHS’s Meade Johnson overcomes horrid start to win regional golf title

To read the story, click HERE.

Meade Johnson carded a triple-bogey on the first hole and then bogeyed the next hole – yet the Mattoon senior then played a grinding, sometimes sensational round to eventually capture the IHSA Class 2A regional individual boys golf championship. 

6. Numerous talented local athletes sign to play for colleges

Coles County continues to produce a great number of talented athletes. In 2020, athletes committed to schools across the country, including at a few national powerhouses.

CHS’s Shae Littleford signed to continue her basketball career at UT-Martin, MHS’s Mallory Ramage verbally committed to play basketball at Loyola-Chicago, CHS baseball player Ben Hess will pitch at the University of Indiana, CHS’s Reagan McGahey will play softball at the University of Southern Illinois University as will MHS’s Delainey Bryant at Illinois State. Plus, MHS’s Kylie Haacke committed to run at Eastern Illinois University, CHS’s Megan Garrett is headed to Division II cross country powerhouse Adams State, CHS’s Kat Blase will compete for perennial national NJCAA volleyball title contender Parkland, CHS’s Mallie Hanner signed to play soccer at the same Champaign school and CHS’s Ty Coartney is headed to Lake Land to compete in baseball.

7. Four MHS wrestlers advance to state individual meet

To read the story, click HERE.

Four Mattoon wrestlers advanced to the state meet after having qualified 11 for the IHSA sectional – Brady Foster, Kiefer Duncan, Jeremiah Jones and Ricky Wright. Charleston’s Trey Pearcy also qualified for a second straight year. 

8. Mattoon’s Stewart Druin beats teammate Colton Romine in Apollo golf playoff

To read the story, click HERE.

After scrambling on the back nine, Mattoon sophomore Stewart Druin beat his senior teammate, Colton Romine, in a one-hole playoff to earn medalist honors in the Apollo Conference boys golf tournament. Mattoon also earned its first Apollo Conference team title in five years. 

9. Charleston girls golf captures 8th straight regional title

To read the story, click HERE.

Buoyed by a strong team effort, Charleston won its eighth straight IHSA Class 1A Regional girls golf championship by a comfortable margin, beating runner-up Paris by 15 strokes. The Trojans later took second at the IHSA sectional, which would ordinarily have earned a state berth.

10. Josh Hoh becomes first CHS boys swimmer to qualify for state in 4 decades

To read the story, click HERE.

Charleston’s Josh Hoh captured the 100 free in the IHSA Champaign Sectional, winning the event by 1.32 seconds to earn a trip to the IHSA Swimming and Diving Championships in Evanston. Hoh became the first male Trojan swimmer to qualify for state since Steve Boone, a future All-American at Eastern Illinois University, took 13th in the 100 breaststroke in 1977. 

11. Several local runners compete in unofficial state cross country meet

To read the story: click HERE.

Mattoon senior Kylie Haacke finished 20th to earn a medal at the unofficial state cross country meet held in Chillicothe, not far from where the annual IHSA state meet is typically held at Peoria’s Detweiler Park. Haacke clocked 19 minutes, 44.90 seconds for the 5K race, one-tenth of a mile longer than the three-mile distances set for high school meets. That IHSA could not hold an outdoor championships is a shame, although they did extend the postseason to include a regional round. Charleston’s Megan Garrett, Grace Spoonhour, Ila Richter and Mattoon’s Brock Davee also competed in the invitation-only event.

Most-read stories of 2020

We published many features, profiles and some stories that focused on life outside the lines, such as this piece on Lake Land’s softball program helping a local restaurant survive the early days of the pandemic, which was our most-read story of 2020.

Several articles in our series on Coles County sports history were among our most popular as well, including a story on a 1970s Mattoon girls basketball team that helped pave the way for women’s sports in the area and another on the greatest game ever played at the Roundhouse that featured a talented Mattoon softball team.

Our Q&As were also a popular feature, none more so than the interviews with MHS alum Braden Smith who was training to make an NFL team and on former Mattoon multisport star Kyle Hudson, who now coaches for the Cleveland Indians.

It’s probably not a surprise to learn that the football piece is the most read story in our all-decade series – although cross country and wrestling stories are regularly among the most popular during their respective seasons.

A piece about a Charleston principal beginning an off-road cycling team also received attention both on our website and on Facebook, where more than 5,000 people checked it out. In fact, some of our most popular reads have been those we only posted on social media. Stories on Mattoon flat track bike champion Dallas Daniels are by far the most-read stories we have posted anywhere, reaching more than 12,000 reads in one instance. And a Facebook story on longtime youth wrestling coach Mike Bonic generated a top four all-time audience.

It goes to show that one never knows what people want to read, as hard as we try. But this might also prove that if one spends time focusing on the local community, more people will check in.

Thanks so much for allowing us to be part of your lives. We look forward to interacting with you all more frequently in person in 2021. Have a happy new year!