OTHS board approves FY19 budget

Superintendent Darcy Benway presents the budget to the board members and assembled administrators. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

By Nick Miller

O’FALLON – The District 203 Board of Education approved the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, totaling $34,596,843 at their monthly meeting on September 20.

The budget does continue the district’s deficit spending, running $1.89 million into the red.

The district projects it will bring in $31,743,300 in direct revenue and the budget accounts for more than $34.5 million in expenditures.  While that adds up to a deficit of slightly more than $2.8 million, the district has built in contingency spending, planning for potential unexpected occurrences that may never occur. Those contingencies total $955,000, which is how the district arrives at the final deficit of $1,898,543.

Revenue did increase this year versus last and is attributed to increased funding through the state and a higher EAV in O’Fallon. Expenses also increased, in part due to contractually negotiated salary increases. 

“We budget conservatively. We tend to budget a little bit high on the expenditures and a little bit low on the revenues and we built in contingencies to account for the ‘what if’s’ so we know we’re covered,” Superintendent Darcy Benway explained. 

Benway stated that a portion of the deficit is planned. 

“We’ve been saving money over the years in our Health, Life, Safety Fund so we can do a bunch of HLS projects. We’ve been saving, stockpiling money to do these projects and now its time to spend. We’re not getting as much revenue in because we have been getting it in over several years so we can now spend that money,” Benway explained. 

The board has previously discussed using Health, Life, Safety Funds to increase security measures at the two campuses. 

Benway said the district does have the reserves needed to cover the deficit, with cash reserves estimated to be at around $15,562,057 at the end of June, 2019.

The board voted unanimously to approve the budget. Board President Lynda Cozad participated in the meeting by speakerphone.

Benway’s presentation and the Fiscal Year 2019 budget are both available to view on the district’s website, www.oths.us.

Soccer team collects pair of wins

Jordan Ellis gets one by Granite City to score the first goal of the game. 
(Photo by Ken Voelkerding)

By Nick Miller

The O’Fallon Panthers boys soccer team continue to roll through the season, racking up wins, and last week was no exception.

On Tuesday, September 11, the blue and gold took on the Granite City Warriors at home. The Panthers would take the victory, winning 2-0. Senior Jordan Ellis and junior Sean Rhodehamel would both score a goal each, while junior Brendan Hill and senior Caden Brown would both get the assists. 

Jordan Ellis gaining position for a shot on goal (Photo by Ken Voelkerding)

Later in the week on Thursday, September 13, the Panthers travelled to Belleville East to take on the Lancers. OTHS would once again take the win, defeating East 1-0. The Panthers defeated East 6-5 on penalty kicks to take the win.

With the pair of wins the varsity Panthers moved to 7-3 for the season. 

The Panthers would next take on the Belleville West Maroons in a matchup on Tuesday evening after this edition went to press. From there the Boys take on the Edwardsville Tigers at OTHS on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

Sophie Koesterer proves to be a solid rock for golf team

Sophie Koesterer

By Nick Miller

Sophie Koesterer, the lone senior for the Lady Panthers, has been nothing but superb the past ten days. 

The Lady Panthers had five openings in their roster from the graduation of a group of seniors who made three consecutive state tournament appearances. Sophie through her hard work this off season has done an excellent job leading the Lady Panthers team to another very successful season which has already been highlighted with six tournament victories. 

On September 7, Sophie helped the Lady Panthers win their home invitational with a career low 81 which placed her eighth. 

On September 13, Sophie finished second in the Belleville East Invitational by shooting a score of 58 on the par 54 hole layout at Yorktown Golf Course. The next day, on September 14, Sophie helped lead Illinois to defeat Missouri in the Illinois/Missouri River Challenge while helping Illinois bring home the trophy for low Illinois team. 

Most recently on Monday, Sophie shot 38 featuring a hole out eagle in a triangular match at Oakbrook versus Edwardsville and Alton to help the Lady Panthers to a ten stroke victory over Edwardsville and a 40 stroke victory over Alton. 

“Sophie is extremely coachable and has worked very hard this off season to improve her golf game. I could not be happier and more proud of Sophie for her hard work and success this season,” said Coach Chris Eddy.

Sophie says her favorite thing about golf is that you are constantly competing against yourself to improve from the day before. Sophie says even though golf is an individual sport you can never give up because your team is always counting on you to play your best and be focused on every shot. 

Sophie enjoys the camaraderie and constant support from her teammates and is looking forward to what the rest of the season entails. 

Lady Panthers continue to roar and pick up hardware along the way

The Lady Panthers celebrate their victory at the Illinois/Missouri River Challenge.(Submitted Photo)

By Nick Miller

The Lady Panthers roared through the week by winning two tournaments and then helping the Illinois contingent to victory against their Missouri counterparts in the IL/MO River challenge. 

During the coed event on September 11, in which the Lady Panthers paired with a member of the boys team in a two-person scramble, O’Fallon score of 269 proved to be too much for the six team field. Taking full advantage of the format, the O’Fallon team of Brianna McMinn and Logan Lowery lapped the field by combining for a 12 under par score of 59 that beat their nearest competitors by six strokes. Chloe Davidson and Taylor Patterson (68) and Elizabeth Henken and Ethan Ourada (70) also broke Tamarack’s par of 71. Rounding out O’Fallon’s scoring were Kelly Short and Kyle Dismukes with a score of 72. 

“The girls and boys team really seemed to enjoy this event. The girls got a chance to showcase their talent to the boys. Briana and Logan shooting 59 is an incredible score. All six schools really enjoyed the tournament so I am sure this is something we will try again next year,” Coach Chris Eddy said.

Thursday found the Lady Panthers winning the Belleville East Invitational by 19 strokes at Yorktown. With tournament medalist Brianna McMinn leading the way with a superb individual score of one under 53, the Lady Panthers’ score of 230 was low among the 12 teams. Other top 10 individuals from O’Fallon were Sophie Koesterer (58), Elizabeth Henken (59), Kelly Short (61), and Chloe Davidson (62).  

The team shows off their first place trophy from the Belleville East Invitational at Yorktown. (Submitted Photo)

“Our girls played great today. To have five girls in the top seven is outstanding,” Eddy said of Thursday’s effort.

On Friday, against one of the toughest fields they have seen this year, the Lady Panthers combined with Pinckneyville, Alton-Marquette, and Edwardsville to beat the Missouri squad of St. Joseph’s, Francis Howell, Ursuline, and MICDS by 18 strokes at the Illinois/Missouri River Challenge. Earning top 15 individual medals, O’Fallon was led by Brianna McMinn and Kelly Short with respective scores of 82 and 84. 

“Our girls are continuing to work hard and improve which is going to be important during the final stretch of the season. Our depth continues to be our strength as we have different girls scoring for us every night,” Eddy said.

This week finds O’Fallon traveling to a tri-match at Oak Brook against conference foes Alton and Edwardsville prior to traveling to Lick Creek for the Pekin Invitational on Saturday.

Emiley Fritz steps seamlessly into captain’s position

Emiley Fritz

By Nick Miller

Stepping up into a leadership this role, Emiley Fritz has proven to be an invaluable piece of Coach Erin Thoman’s tennis team.

“Emiley is our captain. She steps in wherever she is needed. She normally plays #2 singles and #1 doubles, but the first match of this season she stepped up and played #1 singles because of the #1 player being out sick. She has a great work ethic and is definitely a huge team leader,” Thoman said.

Thoman said Fritz, a four year varsity letterman, does a great job of leading by example.

“Emiley is a great role model. She’s always cheering and pumping up her teammates. She’s a tremendous asset to the tennis program and offers a great example for the other girls to look up to,” Thoman said.

Fritz has worked hard to achieve success on the court. Thoman said that hard work has been noticed.

“Emiley was named the Most Improved Player in the Southwestern Conference last year. She puts in a lot of time and effort before, during, and after the season. She had a tremendous jump in level of play from her sophomore to her junior year,” Thoman said.

While Thoman said Fritz is still deciding on her college plans, she is enjoying her time coaching her now.

“She gives the program 110 percent every day. She is enthusiastic and fun to watch,” Thoman said. “Emiley is so self motivated and is a pleasure to coach!”

Volleyball wins Lincoln Tourney four years running

The team celebrates bringing home the Lincoln Tournament Championship for the fourth year in a row. (Submitted Photo)

By Nick Miller

The Lady Panthers Volleyball team came into the Lincoln Tournament ready to make a statement and they did just that, winning the championship title for the fourth year in a row.

Head Coach Melissa Massey said she was really proud of the team and their level of play.

“Coming out of the Edwardsville tournament we obviously were facing some tough competition and we didn’t do great that Saturday at that tournament, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the girls but they went out there and handled their business,” Massey said. “It was impressive and you could see them set the tone for going forward. We don’t have another tournament for about three weeks so it gives us some groove heading into the Metro-East tournament in Belleville which will also be stacked.”

The Panthers began the tournament taking on the East Peoria Raiders, taking them in two sets, 25-14 and 25-11. They ended play on Friday evening against the Danville Vikings, also defeating them in two sets, 25-18 and 25-11.

Saturday saw a different level of competition and at one point the team was down to a strong Quincy Notre Dame team. 

“We played Quincy Notre Dame who are actually really good. We were down the first set 17-11 and we came back to win 26-24 and then won the second set. I was really, not shocked really, but excited to see the girls come from behind and handle the game like that,“ Massey said. 

Seniors Kenzee Simmers, Abby Braswell, and Lauren LePere were all named to the All-Tournament team. (Submitted Photo)

The Panthers would defeat the Quincy Notre Dame Raiders 25-10 in the second set before moving on to play the St. Teresa Bulldogs in the playoff match. O’Fallon had their hands full with St. Teresa in the first set, winning 28-26, but defeating the Decatur area school 25-14 in the second set.

Finally, in the tournament championship, the Panthers defeated the Deer Creek-Mackinaw Chiefs in two sets, 25-17 and 25-19, to take the trophy home for the fourth year in a row.

“We’ve been going to this event for the last five years. I like to go up there because the teams we face are ones that we tend to see past regionals. Teams like Springfield, Normal West, teams like that we wouldn’t normally see down here,” Massey said.

In addition to winning the top spot, the Panthers also saw three of their own honored for their play during the tournament. 

“We had three players on the All-Tournament team, out of ten, which is impressive. Kenzie Simmers, our outside, had the most votes. She’s averaging six to seven kills per game and is killing it for us. Then Lauren LePere, our other outside, is great at the net and very strong defensively for us. I think she gets overlooked so much and she does so well for us in back court. And Abby Braswell our setter got all-tournament as well,” Massey said.

The Lady Panthers continued their season taking on the Belleville East Lancers at Belleville East on Tuesday evening after this issue went to print. 

Person of interest named in bank robbery

O’FALLON – The O’Fallon Police Department has developed a person of interest in the armed robbery of the 1st National Bank of Waterloo, which is inside of Schnucks, 907 E. Hwy 50, O’Fallon, Illinois.

The O’Fallon Police Department believes Daryl A. Smith Sr., a 48-year-old black male, may have information regarding this investigation.  The O’Fallon Police Department is asking for the public’s assistance in locating Smith.

Should anyone know the whereabouts of Smith, they are asked to call the O’Fallon Police Department at (618) 624-4545 or call 911.  

Smith has in the past used addresses in E. St. Louis, Cahokia, and Swansea, IL.

Ribbon cutting signifies official opening of Lebanon area bike trail

By Nick Miller

LEBANON – Years of hard work and persistence culminated in a ribbon cutting on Saturday morning to dedicate Lebanon’s newest bike trail.

The Trestle Trail, which begins at the end of East McAllister Street and runs for a quarter mile into Lebanon Township, has been the dream for the Gateway East Trails organization for a number of years. GET President Robert Wilhelm beamed with excitement as he spoke prior to the ceremony.

“Before today, exiting Lebanon to the west, south, or east was a very dangerous prospect. Highway 4 and 50 have heavy traffic and tight shoulders making them unsafe. Now we have a different way out. Ten years ago, a group of us met in the basement of the Visitors Center and decided this had to change,” Wilhelm said. 

Wilhelm had nothing but praise for the other members of the organization and their hard work to bring the Trestle Trail to completion. 

“I think this Trestle Trail is a lesson from God to show what even a small group of people can do when they work together as a team. I’ve had a great team of people to work with and they’ve always been so tremendous,” said Wilhelm.

Wilhelm praised the members of the Lebanon Township Board for their support of the Trestle Trail project. 

“These guys have shown unwavering support. They’ve been through a lot and they’ve stood behind the trail and worked to support it all the way to its completion,” Wilhelm said.

The trail was completed with funds raised by the group’s annual event, the Tour de Stooges, a grant from the Metro East Parks and Recreation Department, donations from Christ Brothers Paving, and many other donors. 

The event Saturday featured a ride and walk along the trail to Berkemann’s Baker’s Dozen in New Baden. 

The bicycle enthusiasts continue to work to develop a trail to the west to connect Lebanon and O’Fallon. 

Shiloh exploring sale of sewer system

By Nick Miller

SHILOH – Following their return from executive session at their regular monthly meeting, the Shiloh Village Board unanimously approved a measure calling for the village to put out notice that they are accepting proposals to sell their sewer system. Mayor Jim Vernier said the system the village is looking to divest itself from is the smallest in town.

“We have a small system with 1,200 customers. Its just the old part of Shiloh here. We’ve had some interest in it and it’s not like we’d be selling the entire community. The southern half is served by Belleville, St. Clair Township serves a big half. Caseyville Township serves all of the Dierberg’s area. The system we’re proposing to sell has the least amount of customers out of all of the systems,” Vernier said.

Vernier indicated a few times that the village has had interest expressed in the system and they are considering unloading it so they could reallocate manpower to other village needs.

The mayor did indicate no employees will be losing their jobs with the village if a sale comes to pass.

“We’re going to wait and see what comes of it. I don’t see it being controversial like the proposal in O’Fallon. We’re keeping all of our employees. We don’t have that many to begin with. One works a few hours a day on the sewer system. We’ll just reallocate his time,” Vernier said.

Fulton eighth grade student passes away

O’FALLON – An eighth grade student at Fulton Junior High School has reportedly passed away.

In a letter sent to parents on Thursday morning, Fulton Principal Joi Wills and Assistant Principal Alex Herrell shared the news that Darrion Green had died.

“It is with great sadness that I share with you the news that Darrion Green, Fulton eighth grader, has died. The details of his death are not known at this time, but we respect the family’s wishes and privacy at this difficult time and ask that you do the same,” the letter stated.

Fulton counselors, as well as other area school district counselors, will be available to work with both students and staff for as long as needed.

“As a school we will do everything we can support all students. Our hearts are grieving. We know this event will have a profound effect on everyone who knew this young man but we also know that every student on the Fulton campus and throughout our community will be touched by this news,” the letter continued.

In a post on the District 90 Facebook page, it was announced that all after school activities, including practices, have been cancelled for today.

Lady Panthers continue with another strong week on the links

The Lady Panthers celebrate their strong showing at the U-High Invitational at Illinois State University. (Submitted Photo)

By Nick Miller

The Lady Panther Golf team used its depth and a record setting round to shoot a team score of 330 and sit one stroke behind Edwardsville after the first of two conference tournaments. 

Results will be combined with a final conference tournament on September 25 to determine the winner of the Southwestern Conference. 

The Panthers were led again by a record setting round of -5, 67 from Briana McMinn shot at Belk Park Golf Course. The five under par round included seven birdies and two bogeys. Briana’s round overtook a record of 72 in which her sister Alyssa McMinn shot last year at the state tournament. 

Coach Chris Eddy said, “Briana’s round was incredible and displays the hard work and commitment she has put into to her golf game. Briana is a great competitor and it was outstanding to see her play that well during the first conference tournament.” 

The Lady Panther’s highlighted round of McMinn was exceptionally helpful as their other counting scores came from depth within the line. Dylan Kirchoff playing in the number five spot added an 85, Sophie Koester in the number four spot shot 88, and Kelly Short in the number seven spot added a score of 90. 

The Lady Panthers then took their young talent up to the U-High Invitational hosted at Illinois State University Weibring Golf Course. The field consisted of 19 schools including the top five teams in the AA sectional and many highly talented class A schools. 

The Lady Panthers finished in fifth place, 15 strokes behind first place U-High and five strokes out of second place. The Lady Panthers were led by a fourth place finish from Briana McMinn with a score of 79. The Lady Panthers also got scores of 87 from Elizabeth Henken, 88 from Chloe Davidson, and 91 from Kelly Short. 

“This is always a great tournament with a great field. This event helps show where you stack up within the sectional and with Briana McMinn being the only varsity returner to a team that lost five seniors to graduation it was great to see the younger girls play well against great competition,” Coach Eddy said.

The Lady Panthers already winning three tournaments have goals of winning the conference championship and making their fourth consecutive state tournament appearance. 

Briana McMinn fires career low at Arnold Palmer Track

The only thing hotter than the weather at Alton-Marquette’s Blastoff hosted at Arnold Palmer’s Spencer T. Olin, was a festival of five birdies from Junior Briana McMinn. 

McMinn shot a 1 over par 73 in the heat and humidity and cruised to a medalist position by 6 strokes over the nearest competitor. In the 16-team field, the scorching heat affected many players as the field saw a few girls not finish due to exhaustion. 

According to Coach Chris Eddy, McMinn has been putting in the work to take her game to the next level. “Briana was knocking down the flag stick today as she had 3 of her 5 birdies within 2 feet of the cup. She got into some trouble mid round but was able to recover and finish solid on the difficult finishing holes,” Eddy said. 

McMinn ran a string of birdies on holes 2, 3, 5, and 6. She struggled in the middle of the round with a couple holes and double bogeyed the par 4 11th hole after a unfortunate tee shot. She got creative and scrambled from behind trees as she found herself in some tough positions. She then came back with a shot that was a near ace and only had a tap-in for birdie at the par 3 12th hole.  

When asked what made the round click for her today, McMinn said “I was able to hit my irons very close today which was nice. My distance control was better today than in previous rounds and I felt very comfortable on the course.” 

McMinn acknowledged that the heat was a factor. She and her playing opponents were feeling the stifling humidity but tried to stay hydrated.

Lady Panther Golf Team beats the heat and the field

O’FALLON – The Lady Panther Golf team continued their impressive performance by capturing first place at Alton-Marquette’s Blastoff hosted at Arnold Palmer’s Spencer T. Olin Golf Course. 

Leading the Panther’s performance was Briana McMinn, who shot a career low and was named a medalist for the tournament, with a score of 73. Chloe Davidson carded an 86 and captured a seventh place finish. Dylan Kirchoff shot 90 and Grace Meade rounded off the top four shooting 91. 

This is the third victory this year for the Lady Panthers. When asked what is making the difference in a team that lost five seniors last year, Coach Chris Eddy said, “Our girls are working harder than ever. The experience in these events is new for most of our team members. They are showing the work ethic to be successful and step into new experiences and challenges.”  

Coming in second, two shots behind OFallon, was St. Anthony’s of Effingham. Third was the tournament host, Alton-Marquette, 15 shots behind. 

This week, the Lady Panthers competed in the first conference tournament Monday at Belk Park Golf Course in Wood River, IL. 

“I am pleased with our team and our accomplishments this year. We remain focused and realize we have a long season and some challenging tournaments ahead of us. We face the conference event Monday and head to Bloomington to play northern IL teams on Thursday”, said Coach Eddy. 

On Monday, McMinn shot a school record 5-under par 67 at Belk Park in the first of two conference tournaments. The Lady Panthers sit one stroke back of Edwardsville, 330 to 329. The second conference tournament to determine the conference championship will take place on September 25 at Far Oaks.

Lauren LePere brings quiet intensity to the volleyball court

Lauren LePere

By Nick Miller

Senior Lauren LePere has been a constant presence on Coach Melissa Massey’s girls volleyball team since she was a freshman. Massey said that it was rare for a freshman to see playing time in 2015, but the fact that Lauren did says a lot.

“The one thing about Lauren is that, not just this year, but over the past four years, she’s just been so solid for us. She’s a coach’s dream, for sure. Besides her solid play on the floor, she’s so committed on the off-season and plays summer ball. She’s a great leader,” Massey said.

Lauren is known by her teammates for her intensity and drive, which some may mistake for aggression.

“I have to laugh because some people may think she’s mad or something, but we know she is intense. I think the girls don’t mistake her for being mean, they just recognize her intensity,” Massey said. 

Coming into her senior year this season, Massey said Lauren has really embraced her role as a leader on the team.

“It’s funny with Lauren, because she’s a quiet person. But, this year especially, she’s really stepped up and become more of a vocal leader. I expect a lot out of my seniors. This year I have six seniors and it can be difficult to step up and find your voice. But she’s really taken on a big leadership role. For example, just today, we were doing drills and it wasn’t going great. She stepped up, took care of it, got everyone together, and got everyone on track. She’s not afraid to do that,” Massey said. 

Lauren has proven to be valuable in a number of positions through the years, which Massey said is a huge accomplishment. 

“In volleyball these days to be a six rotation player is a big deal. You have so many specialty people… defensive specialists… liberos… and all that, and to be a six rotation player three out of the four years she’s played for me is incredible,” she said.

According to Massey, Lauren wants to attend a larger college and is considering attending one of five schools: the University of Alabama, University of Washington, University of Michigan, University of Florida, or University of Minnesota. She has yet to sign anywhere and is narrowing down her final decision. 

Ultimately, Massey knows she has a solid, strong player in Lauren and will look to rely on her a lot during this fall season.

“I have never seen somebody show me in and out every day that they are going to work hard by the way she works hard. A lot of kids may say they will, but Lauren is a gamer. She is intense, but not disrespectful. She works her butt off on the floor during practice and games. She is a constant player for me,” Massey said. 

Briana McMinn steps up into leadership role on team

Briana McMinn

By Nick Miller

When your sister is named the 2017-2018 Female Athlete of the Year at O’Fallon Township High School, has won six tournaments, finished fourth place at the IHSA State Tournament, and holds 11 scoring records at O’Fallon, its a big set of shoes to step into. 

According to girls golf Coach Chris Eddy, Briana McMinn is doing just that, following behind her sister Alyssa who heads off to the University of Evansville.

Most recently Briana, a junior at OTHS, took home first place at the Bob Goalby/Jay Haas Invitational held at St. Clair Country Club on Thursday, August 16. She shot a 37 to earn the top spot at the tournament.

“Briana averaged 82 for us last year and was our number five last year. But since we graduated five of our top six, we were looking for her to lead the way this year,” Eddy said.

According to Eddy, Briana finished in the top ten in a number of events last year. She also first team all-conference, first-team area selection, voted on by all of the coaches. 

She’s shown signs of playing very very well this year. While she still struggles a little bit, but I believe she’s going to be the leader of this group this year as we’re creating a whole new group,” Eddy said.

Eddy can’t say enough good things about Briana’s work ethic and believes a competitive nature with her sister may push her forward.

“Briana works extrmemely hard. She has the advantage of having a sister who was just voted Female Athlete of the Year due to her golf for last year, so the younger sister has a lot of interest and competitiveness to want to beat their older sister. I think that heavily influences her work ethic,” Eddy said.

  “She knows she’s expected to lead this team and she’s working hard to lead it both by the actions of her golf game, as well as by trying to teach the other girls the way that we do it around here,” Eddy said. 

Briana led the team at the Illinois Prep Tour Showcase on August 9 posting an 84. Then on the next day, she and her partner, Elizabeth Henken, scored a 71 in OTHS’s first place win at the MetroEast Scramble/Shamble. 

Last weekend at the Belleville West Invitational, she would tie Henken for ninth overall with a score of 90.