14 earn softball varsity letters, dynamic duo share MVP

Fourteen members from the St. Joseph-Ogden softball program were awarded varsity letters for their contribution to this season's 22-10 record and 11th consecutive regional title.

"We graduated four seniors who made a lot contributions for the Spartans over the past four years," said first-year head coach Larry Sparks.

SJO senior Ashtyn Cromwell throws a pitch
Ashtyn Cromwell winds up for a pitch on April 8 against visiting Rantoul at Randy Wolken Field. Cromwell, who was awarded the Brittany Rodgers Award at the end of the season, pitched 57.2 innings this season and finished her final prep season 8-3 from the circle. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

This season's seniors earning varsity letters were Ashtyn Cromwell, Hannah Lewis, Katie Poulter and Savannah Smith.

Cromwell pitched 57.2 innings and closed out her final year high school softball with an 8-3 record from the circle. She was also awarded the Brittany Rogers Award.

Lewis, also a pitcher, appeared in eight games. She struck out five batters in role this spring and was winner of the Jennifer Esworthy Award.

In her 95 trips to the plate, Poulter batted a respectable .326. She was a large contributor to SJO's success recording 31 hits and scoring 28 of the team's combined 288 runs this year. She also chipped in six homers to help break the program record for home runs in a season.

The Spartan program used to be well-known for its ability to take extra bases, almost at will, to run up game scores. In this new era of SJO softball, it is players' ability to put the ball over the fence that is becoming the new trademark. The team pummeled 58 home runs this spring surpassing the previous school mark of 52 in a single season.

Smith finished her final prep season with 40 hits and knocked in 34 runs. She scored 25 runs in the 32 games she played.

Look for the Spartans to be just as sharp offensively in the 2020 season.

"We are extremely happy to be returning most of our lineup for next season," Sparks said. "We will be returning nine players who lettered and got a lot of game experience this past season."

Returning letter winners next spring will include freshmen Kennedy Hudson and Jacey Lewis, both who earned Rookie-of-the-Year recognition from the teammates. Sophomores Raegan Crippen, Sophia Martlage, Audrey Short, Lauren Trankina, and Kaylee Ward are also expected to return as juniors to make a huge impact and support the star-studded senior class.

Alabama commit Bailey Dowling, two-sport standout Hannah Dukeman and veteran pitcher Zoey Witruk, who will be seniors in just a few short months, round out the letters recipients for the season. Expectations are high that the trio will lead the Spartans to the state finals in East Peoria next June.

Dowling, who owns healthy set of IHSA home run records, and Dukeman, an explosive hitter at the plate as well, shared this year's Most-Valuable-Player Award.

"Yes, we have co-MVP’s this season," said Sparks. "Bailey Dowling had another monster offensive season while also fielding at .960. The other winner was Hannah Dukeman, who like Dowling had a monster year offensively and defensively as well."

Dukeman led the team offense putting 50 runs across the plate, scoring 52 times herself all while hitting .545 across 32 games this season. She also hit 13 home runs this spring.

Dowling is well on her way to becoming a legend in Illinois high school softball.

With her junior year in the books, Dowling has a state record and program best 65 career home runs to her credit. She has hit 21 or more home runs in a single season three consecutive times. A member of the USA Junior National Olympic team this summer, she was walked 31 times this season tying slugger Elizabeth Everingham with the same number in the St. Joseph-Ogden record book.

"They were both First Team All-State and All-Area," Sparks said, listing the duo's 2019 accolades. "They were unanimous First Team All-IPC Conference. Both were picked MVP by the players and coaches."

Dowling and Dukeman shared another award along with Savannah Smith. All three were recipients of the team's Gold Glove Award. Smith also won Most-Improved-Player recognition from her teammates and coaches.

Taylor, Hamilton earn track MVP recognition

Next spring, without Maclayne Taylor sporting the maroon and Columbia Blue, the St. Joseph-Ogden girls track team has some pretty fast shoes to fill.

The senior who was named the program's Most-Valuable-Player earlier this month was instrumental in the program finishing in the top three of all Class 1A schools the past three season. Back in the middle of last month, Taylor added four more state medals to her collection of seven earned in three seasons.
Maclayne Taylor is SJO's MVP

Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Maclayne Taylor runs to the finish line in the Class 1A 4x400-Meter Relay prelims at the Illinois High School Association's State track & field meet on Thursday, May 16. The senior was named the track team's MVP earlier this month. The SJO relay squad finished first in their heat with a time of 4:07.42 and went on to win the silver medal in Saturday's finals. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

During her three state appearances only once, and that was this past May competing in the four-by-one, did Taylor and her running mates cross the finish line lower than in second place in an IHSA state final event.

Like Taylor, Atleigh Hamilton is building quite a collection of her own. The sophomore received the team's nod as the Field Events MVP after winning her second IHSA state long jump title.

In addition to her gold medal in the long jump at last month's state meet in Charleston, Hamilton won a second in the 4x200 meter relay. She also picked up a medal for a 5th place finish in the four-by-one and a silver medal in the Class 1A 4x400 meter relay.

The track team bestowed Most-Improved-Player honors to junior Jillian Plotner. Senior Rylee Sjuts earned the Spartan Award.

This year's seniors earning varsity letters are Cassidy Bagby, Rylee Sjuts, Brianna Suits and Maclayne Taylor.

Junior letter winners are Lindsey Aden, Jenna Albrecht, Mimi Allen, Hailey Birt, Danie Kelso, Ally Monk, Jillian Plotner, Hannah Rajlich and Anna Wentzloff.

Ten underclassmen, two sophomores and eight freshman also awarded varsity letters.

Sophomores Atleigh Hamilton and Payton Vallee along with future SJO track stars Addie Allen, Abby Behrens, Angie Chahine, Kailyn Ingram, Ava Knap, Ashlyn Lannert, Hope Rajlich and Grace Schmitz won varsity letters this season.

2019 SJO football schedule announced

The Illinois High School Association released the 2019 football schedules earlier today. St. Joseph-Ogden opens their 2019 campaign with home game against St. Thomas More on August 30th.

Last fall, SJO opened the 2018 season with four consecutive wins at the beginning of the season with victories over St. Thomas More, Rantoul, Central Catholic and Unity. This season head coach Shawn Skinner and the Spartans look to improve on the squad's previous 5-4 league finish.

All contests, both home and away, are scheduled to kickoff at 7pm.

Blake Dable makes a big block
St. Joseph-Ogden lineman Blake Dable makes a big block on Monticello's Garrett Wilkin in their week 9 football game. The Spartans, who suffered a 50-7 loss in their regular season finale to the undefeated and eventual Illini Prairie Conference champion Sages, look to turn the corner on a 5-5 record this fall. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks


SJO Football Schedule

Aug 30 St. Thomas More - Home
Sep 6   Rantoul - Away
Sep 13 Central Catholic - Home
Sep 20 Unity - Away
Sep 27 Pontiac - Home
Oct 4    Prairie Central - Away
Oct 11 Illinois Valley Central - Home
Oct 18 Olympia - Home
Oct 25 Monticello- Away

20 earn varsity track letters this season

It was a good season to be a Spartan for Hayden Knott. Earlier in the month he was named as the SJO's boys track team's Most-Valuable Player. He was also honored as field event MVP in addition to earning his second varsity track letter.

Knott, whose best marks in the shot put at 49 feet-3.25 inches and 145 feet-11 inches in the discus, set new personal records in both events this season. The sophomore won three meet event titles at two different events this season. He brought home two gold medals from the Rantoul Invite and one from a multi-school meet with Urbana, Monticello, Danville and Rantoul.

Lane Gaskin runs anchor leg
St. Joseph-Ogden's Lane Gaskin runs anchor leg in their preliminary race in the 4x200-meter relay at the Illinois High School Association's State track & field meet on Thursday. Despite their best effort the Spartans ran a 1:31.7 failing to qualify for Saturday's state finals. Gaskin was one of nine seniors who earned varsity track letters this season. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Ethan Vanliew was named the fresh/soph MVP. Vanliew competed in the 60-Meter, 100-Meter and 400-Meter dashes. In addition to competing in the high jump his first season in the Spartan uniform, he was also a member of 100, 200 and 400 relay squads

Earlier this week, senior Aiden Meyers signed his National Letter of Intent to run track at Eastern Illinois University. Meyer, who was named Most-Improved Player, will join SJO alumni Riley Baker and Austin Earp on the Panther roster next fall.

Meyer was a top three finisher in seven of the five outdoor meets he competed in this season. In his first meet of the year, he PR his 100-Meter Dash time at 11.11.

Twenty members of the track team, which includes four freshman athletes, earned varsity letters.

Senior letter winners include Joel Branson, Dwight Colvin, Nathan Emmert, Lane Gaskin, Kaleb Harshbarger, Isiah McCune, Aiden Meyer, Hanson Rieches and Keanen Swanson. Juniors earning a varsity letter was Max Chatterton, Brayden Grimsey, Nolan Peacock and Eric Poe. Three sophomores, Brady Buss, Hayden Knott and Brandon Mattsey along with frosh runners Elijah Mock, Jonny Poulter, Luke Stegall and Ethan Vanliew.

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