Boys track team takes the top spot at 2019 SWIL Relays

On Friday, March 22, the OTHS Boys Track team took part in the 2019 SWIL Relays at Edwardsville High School. The team gave it their all and came away from the event as the team champions in the men’s division. 

Additionally, Damien Ross won the championship in the 300IH and Rei’Shaun Spires was named the champion in the Triple Jump.

The team was also successful achieving two relay championships. Taylor Lehman, Tevion Holmes, Jourdan Holmes, Damien Ross brought home the shuttle hurdle relay. Rod Williams, Taylor Lehman, Alex Tillock, Ryan Somraty won the 4×400 relay. 

Dorian Brown won second place in 100 meter race. OTHS also took second in the 4×100, Distance Medley, and Sprint Medley.

Will Ray placed third in the 1600 meter. OTHS also took third in the 4×200.

A number of OTHS athletes placed fourth in their respective events. Zach Claxton won fourth in Pole Vault, as well as Rei’shaun Spires in Long Jump, Nick Farmer in Discus, and Taylor Lehman in 300IH. OTHS also placed fourth in the 4×800.

Chris Wichlac placed sixth in the 1600 meter. While Miles Shaw brought home seventh place in the shot put. 

“We had a great day against many good track programs. With our schedule it is always difficult to win track meets, so it was really nice to come away with a victory. Our athletes showed a tremendous amount of poise and determination. We knew going in to the last two events that we were behind by a couple of points to Edwardsville. The 4×400 was able to shut the door and seal the victory for us by placing first. We have a young team and that effort and performance is key to them learning how to compete at the level we need from them,” said Coach Joe Speaks.

Boys Lacrosse team starts off season with five-game win streak

The O’Fallon Boys Lacrosse Panthers kicked off their 2019 season with a five-game win streak defeating Hickman, Rock Bridge, Fort Zumwalt, Shawnee Mission South and Republic.  

The Panthers outscored their opponents by a combined total of 70-14 during the first five games. The offense spread the ball around well with Attackmen Josh McIntyre, David Tady, and Captain Nolan Bradley scoring for a combined 47 goals. Braden Gaab and Gabriel Picato have been strong on the faceoff, winning 70 percent of the matchups. Gaab, Picato, and the other starting Mid-Fielders, Evan Carney and Cale Holan, have been strong picking up 215 ground balls.  

The Panther Defense, led by Captain James Randolph, limited offensive opportunities with Goalies Tommy Fulford and Steven Myllo saving 56 percent of the shot attempts.

The Panthers look to keep the streak alive when they travel to Nashville this weekend to take on two out-of-town opponents.  Their next home game is April 2 when they take on Rockwood Summit.

Photos by Scott Gaab

Baseball Panthers starting season strong

Senior Wes Collins (21) and Senior Kyle Becker (27).
(Submitted Photo)

The O’Fallon Panther baseball team has had a strong start to their season with a current 4-2 record.  

The Panthers defeated Alton Marquette 3-1 in their home opener at Blazier Field on March 13. 

The team continued a busy week and played in the Metro East Kickoff Classic powered by Prep Baseball Report March 14-16 which included 47 of the best teams from the state of Illinois. The O’Fallon Panthers also hosted several games at Blazier Field during this event. The team faced three tough teams from the Chicago area including Oswego, Kaneland and Brother Rice. 

Senior Josh Gibson
(Submitted Photo)

It came down to the wire in the game versus Oswego, with the Panthers taking victory 14-13 on a walk off double by Wes Collins. The Panthers took an early lead in the 11-6 victory over Kaneland, but unfortunately lost 12-5 in the match up versus one of the state’s top ranked teams, Brother Rice. Senior Wes Collins hit his first home run of the season in the fifth inning versus Brother Rice.  

Last week, the Panthers traveled to Columbia where they fell to the Eagles 6-2, despite Josh Gibson’s 3 for 3 performance at the plate. 

Junior Logan Lowery
(Submitted Photo)

The week ended with a 10-3 home victory over the Highland Bulldogs. The Panthers grabbed an early lead with multiple hits by seniors Tyler Stanton, Josh Gibson and Wes Collins, including a home run for Collins in the third inning. Sophomore Kaden Joggerst started on the mound with Juniors Ben Koenig and Logan Lowery in relief. Koening threw three scoreless innings. Lowery also threw three scoreless innings and allowed no hits.

(Submitted Photo)

During the week of March 25, the OTHS baseball team will host several games including a double header versus Adalei Stevenson on Monday, Wheaton Warrensville South on Wednesday, and Christian Brothers College on Thursday.

Panthers take home first place trophy from Marist Invite

(Submitted Photo)

The OTHS boys volleyball team captured a first place trophy at the Marist Invite in the silver bracket last weekend. The team had a hard fought road through the tournament, ultimately going 4-1. The team first defeated Chicago Mt. Carmel 2-0 Friday night, before being defeated by the Richards Bulldogs 2-1. Then on Saturday OTHS started the day defeating Providence Catholic 2-0 before moving on and downing Lockport 2-1. Finally, the Panthers defeated St. Rita 2-0.

Gettis can’t wait to begin new position as OTHS head football coach

By Angela Simmons

O’FALLON – OTHS’s new varsity football head coach can’t wait to get to work. Byron Gettis, Cahokia High School graduate, former MLB player, former Division 1 football player, and all around hard worker says he’s honored to have the position. “I’m super excited about this opportunity,” Gettis said. Not only will he serve as the head coach, he was also hired by District 203 to serve as their truancy, residential and diversity coordinator for the 2019-2020 school year. 

This won’t be Gettis’s first position with the OTHS team, and he has a long history in athletics. He played baseball and football at Cahokia. He was a three year starting quarterback, an all state player and chosen player of the year his junior and senior year. After high school, Gettis followed his love of baseball all the way to the major leagues, signing as an undrafted free agent with the Kansas City Royals. In the 2004 season, the outfielder nabbed over 400 outs and had a .179 batting average in 39 at bats, including doubles, triples and an RBI. After the 2004 season, Gettis was picked up by the Detroit Tigers and headed back to the minor leagues for a year before switching gears. 

In 2006, Gettis headed to SIUC to begin earning his degree in the field of education and played as a tight end for the Salukis. In the 2007 season, the Salukis had an impressive playoff run and lost in the semi-finals to Delaware. Gettis noted that the quarterback for the winning Delaware team was none other than Joe Flacco. Next up was three seasons with the McKendree Bearcats before his graduation. 

Right out of college, Gettis wanted to continue using his talents to coach the next generation of athletes, beginning with assistant coaching the OTHS football team. He has also coached at his college alma mater McKendree, helped begin the football program at Lindenwood University’s Belleville campus, coaching there for four years before moving on to serve as an assistant football coach and athletic director at Cahokia. 

His vast experience will help him coach the OTHS team. “It will help in understanding different players, different people, different mindsets and techniques. That helps anyone out the more you know about something. Personal experience is always a good tool, especially with high school players. As you’re molding and shaping young people, the more knowledge you have of different situations that they’re going to go through, you can give them more direction and guidance on which way to go,” he said. 

His passion and drive have pushed him through his athletic career, and that mentality is also a tool he will bring to the new position. Gettis said “I tell people I wasn’t a straight A student, I wasn’t the most athletic, I think my biggest attribute is my work ethic. You may be taller, stronger or faster than me, but I’m going to work harder than you. That’s what I’ve built my foundation on, that kind of blue-collar mentality that if you give me any opportunity…you know, give me one rep, it’s going to be the best rep ever. When you get these opportunities, don’t squander them; Work hard and good things will happen. You can control your work ethic. When a team, or anybody, says that they’re going to outwork people, that lends you to goal-setting and goal-reaching. It can bring a team together. Different background and different diversities all come together when they have the same discipline and the same mindset.”

Gettis is already planning on beginning work with the team immediately, saying he can’t wait. With a chunk of the offseason already gone, he plans to jump right in to weight-lifting, including possible competitions to help fire up the players for the upcoming year. He also plans to build relationships with the players and other team staff so that when the season begins, they’re ready to compete on all levels. “The team was young last year, and they got some valuable experience in the teams that they played. This year, they’ll be able to use that to help move forward. I have a simple plan. We’re going to show up and out work everyone, we’re going to compete and be disciplined, and we’re going to have fun. Those are the things we’re going to live by. X’s and O’s to me don’t matter as much. You could have the best X’s and O’s, but if you don’t have the heartbeat of your team, and your team is not willing to work for you, those X’s and O’s don’t matter,” he said. 

Gettis spoke about how much football, especially Southwest conference football, means to Metro East communities, and how the growth and support in O’Fallon will be part of an exciting season. “We have one of the top bands, we have great community support, we have diversity. It’s exciting, it’s a big deal. A lot of people know about the achievements of District 203, and I’m so excited to be a part of it and seeing these young men grow up in this type of environment and have success,” he said. 

The self-described “people person” said it doesn’t matter where someone is from or what background they have, he enjoys being around them and having conversations, but he especially enjoys mentoring people and seeing them achieve their goals. “Females, males, younger people, peers, it doesn’t matter. We can have a positive effect on everyone through the little things we do. The Metro East is one tight knit community that is both competitive and supporting, and it’s part of why I wanted to come home and make an impact,” said Gettis. 

He noted that his gift of building relationships is something he’s counting on, both in coaching and in his new position at the high school, as he rekindles old relationships and builds new ones “with familiar and welcoming faces.” It also means he will face off against some of the people he’s worked with for the past few years, as OTHS will play Cahokia in their next two seasons. “The state is moving to districts, but we will play them for the next two years. We play Cahokia this year in week nine at O’Fallon, and then we will go there in 2020. It was difficult for me to play O’Fallon when I worked at Cahokia, and with that being my home and the special relationships I’ve built, it will be different standing on the other sideline, but I’m looking forward to the competitive spirit. They know we’re going to compete, we know they’re going to compete, so it should be really fun,” he said. 

Gettis said he wants O’Fallon community members and OTHS students and families to know “I’m going to work hard for them. I’m going to work hard for the students. I’m going to work hard for their families. I’m going to work hard for this community. They will be proud of me as a leader, as a mentor. Whether it’s the kid that plays every snap, a kid that plays some snaps, or a kid that isn’t into athletics at all, I can’t wait to work with them, and my goal is to give all that I have for them, and for OTHS.”

Boys Tennis takes second in Triad Tournament

(Submitted Photo)

O’FALLON – The OTHS boys tennis teammate off to a very strong start to their season, finishing second in the recent Triad Tournament.  

The team defeated Peoria Christian, U-High Champaign, and U-High Normal before ultimately losing in the finals to Dunlap, 2-3.  

Senior Captain Niko Papachrisanthou led the team and was 4-0 at #1 singles. Evan Potter and Gavin Sohn were 3-1 at #1 doubles.  

Other players competing were Kaden Vollmer, Noah Kellermann, Nic Strobel, Luke Russo, Aidan Kiser, and John Werner.

Girls Lacrosse dominates in season opener

Junior Maddie Dalonzo (Photo by Tim Grout)

The OTHS girls lacrosse team began their season in exciting fashion with a big 22-9 victory over Washington High School on Saturday, March 16.

Sophomore Alexa Prouhet was selected as the team’s player of the game. Prouhet scored two goals on three shots, had one assist, nine draw controls, three ground balls, one interception, and caused one turnover.

Leading scorers for the team included juniors Kaylie Grout and Maddie Dalonzo and senior Olivia Branz.

Junior Kaylie Grout sizes up how to go for the goal. (Photo by Scott Gaab)

Coming up next, the Panthers will take on the Westminster Christian Wildcats in a non-league contest, on Thursday, March 21. O’Fallon will attempt to improve on its 1-0 season record.

Senior Olivia Branz dodges defenders.
(Photo by Tim Grout)
Sophomore defense players Jackie Curtis, left, and Allie Huller, right. (Photo by Tim Grout)

Imes inducted into High School Bowling Conference Hall of Fame

Coach Mike Imes, left, and John Solomon celebrate the OTHS boys bowling team’s 2018 sectional championship victory. (Submitted Photo)

By Kate Crutcher

O’FALLON – For 22 years, Mike Imes has been coaching students about the finer points of a game he loves, bowling. Imes is now being honored for spreading the love of the game by being inducted into the Southern Illinois High School Bowling Conference Hall of Fame. 

Prior to his retirement, Imes served in the United States Air Force as a Senior Master Sergeant. He also bowled regularly at St. Clair Bowl. After he retired from the service, he was asked to return to the lanes, not as a bowler, but as a coach for O’Fallon Township High School’s program. 

“Unless people have done it and come out to see how hard it is, they don’t realize that there is some knowledge and hand eye coordination that goes hand and hand with bowling,” Imes said. 

Each year brings new students to Coach Imes’s teams. In fact, Imes is now coaching some of the children of his first and second year students that he taught back in the ‘90s. 

“OTHS is just a big part of The High School Bowling Program and they were one of the first schools to enter. They are one of the reasons that this program is so successful,” Imes said. 

Founded in 1996, the High School Bowling Program started with only eight teams. Today there are over 25 teams.

The team has practices two days a week, with two matches the same week. Imes has had several students come and go through the program who then go on to bowl for universities and even nationals. Some have even gone off to join in the Air Force. Imes feels like he has made a difference in his students lives and could not be more proud of them. 

“Watching them mature and grow to become better bowlers is where I get my satisfaction to have such a great group of students come together,” Imes said. 

On Tuesday, March 5, Imes was inducted into the Southern Illinois High School Bowling Conference Hall of Fame. He was recognized as an Ambassador, along with his service as the boys bowling coach. He was also recognized for his accomplishments on building the program from the ground up and maintaining it for over two decades. 

Imes was awarded with a coin that was specially made. Only members who get inducted into the Southern Illinois High School Bowling Conference Hall of Fame receive this coin. 

“Phil Kammann was the one that hired me and he got all the support to get the high school program going. Matt Shelladarger, was also someone who helped assist me to make the high school bowling conference happen. Phil was the previous owner when I first started coaching and then his son-in-law, that’s Matt, bought it and took over. Their funding is what made this program so successful and I just want to thank both of them,” Imes said. 

Aside from coaching boys bowling at OTHS, Imes serves as the current Youth Director at St. Clair Bowl.

O’Fallon Middle School Tennis Program to begin March 14, open to boys and girls

O’FALLON – The O’Fallon Middle School Tennis Program will take place beginning March 14 and is open to local boys and girls in the sixth, seventh and eight grade. 

There will be a total of eight sessions that take place on Thursday’s from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m at the OTHS tennis courts. Sessions will take place on: March 8, March 21, March 28, April 4, April 25, May 2, May 9 and May 16.

According to the OTHS Tennis Team head coach Erin Thoman, this will be the seventh year for the middle school tennis program. 

“The middle school tennis program is for all levels,” Thoman said. “It allows middle schoolers to have a chance to see how they like tennis. For some, they decide they want to continue on and play competitively in high school. For others, it is recreational.”

Current OTHS tennis players will serve as instructors for the program. Participants in the program will receive a t-shirt. 

A $50 fee covers all eight sessions of the program. Checks can be made payable to Erin Thoman (OTHS Tennis) at 600 S. Smiley St. O’Fallon, IL 62269. 

Participants in the program are responsible for their own transportation to and from the tennis courts. 

Girls Track has strong showing at Carbondale indoor meet

O’Fallon’s girls track team took part in an indoor meet with other southern Illinois schools in Carbondale on Wednesday, February 27. Pictured in the far left lane is Simoriah Longhorn and in the far right lane is Marlita Reeves. (Photo courtesy of the Pinckneyville Press)

In the second OTHS Girl’s Track meet of the season at Carbondale on Wednesday, Feb. 27, sophomore Zoie Howard won the 60 dash for the second time in a row. 

The four by eight relay took third place at the meet and included: freshman Peyton Schieppe, sophomore Sofia Parker, senior Leah Corso and junior Kaitlyn Walker. 

OTHS Track Head Coach Neil James said while they previously ran down at Marion High School, the completion level was “a little bit higher” in Carbondale with conference schools present. 

James said both meets served as a good way to break up training and for the girl’s to be able to compete. 

James said there were some events during the meet where the OTHS girl’s hadn’t participated in before. 

“We had some places where we had to fill some people in,” he said. “We were kind of feeling things out and seeing where people are going to fit. It’s been kind of tough since we’ve been inside so much because of the weather.” 

OTHS will play host to an invitational event on Friday, April 12 with 13 teams present.

Fulton volleyball team starts season strong

Both the varsity and JV Fulton Junior High School volleyball seasons have started off strong with winning records and as tournament champions.  The varsity team won the Columbia Middle School Tournament on February 9 beating cross town team, Carriel, in the championship game.  This past weekend the JV team went 5-0 to win the Wesclin Middle School tournament, beating Breese in the championship game.  

Team members include:  Taegen Benson, Bailey House, Kelsey Street, Allie Tredway, Sophia Waitukaitis, Jenna Denton, Kenzie Hampton, Emma Janning, Kendell Kingdon, Rebecca Koenig, Camryn Lawary, Tessa Posey, Jansen Scrivner, Reagan Bridgeman, Kayla Graney, Alyssa Frederking, Ellie Johnston, Hannah Kim, Annalie McWhorter, Aubree Noles, Ansley Ori, Sierra Sanchez, Maddie Sprouse, and Abby Tamblyn.

Freshman Lady Panthers win back to back conference championships

The O’Fallon Township High School Freshman Lady Panthers recently celebrated winning the Southwestern Conference for the second year in a row. 

The Lady Panthers achieved the back to back championships both times by defeating the East St. Louis Flyers. Last year the girls won 65-54 and this year the Lady Panthers won 60-48. During the game, Rhylea Johnson scored 20 points, and racked up 12 rebounds and 3 assists. 

Congratulations to Coach Todd Porter and the members of the Freshman Lady Panthers.

Riley Maher named IHSA nominee for NFHS Spirit of Sport Award

The Illinois High School Association is proud to announce that its nominee for the 2018-19 National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Spirit of Sport Award is O’Fallon High School senior Riley Maher.

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) developed the Spirit of Sport Award in 2008 as a way to recognize individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics. Student-athletes, coaches, athletic administrators, administrators, trainers and other individuals associated with a school’s athletic programs are all eligible for the honor, which generally recognizes individuals who have overcome adversity or gone above and beyond their peers. The IHSA receives one nominee to represent the state of Illinois each school year.

“We are proud to have Riley represent Illinois and the IHSA,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “When we talk about the life lessons that participation in high school sports can provide, dealing with and overcoming adversity are often at the top of the list. The stakes were obviously much greater in Riley’s battle, and we are overjoyed to see her recover and be able to play the sport she has so much passion for, while also representing her school so well in the classroom and community.”

Riley Maher showed incredible determination in her battle with cancer, going from diagnosis to returning to play lacrosse for the Panthers in a six-month span. After showing no prior symptoms, Riley went to the doctor in October 2017 experiencing chest pain she believed to be caused by a bruise in a lacrosse game. Over the course of the next six days, she would be diagnosed with B-Cell Lymphoma and begin undergoing aggressive chemotherapy treatment. Each of her 21-day chemo treatment cycles required a five-day hospital stay followed by 16 days of recovery at home. Her passion for lacrosse and her teammates motivated her in recovery, and amazingly, she was cleared to return to practice on March 21 and played in her first game on April 9. Riley helped guide her team to an IHSA Sectional title a month later. Riley is straight A student who volunteers in her community, and recently accepted a post as the Teen Life Council Member at St. Louis Children’s Hospital where she was treated.

“There were times where I wondered if I was going to get to play (lacrosse) again, said Riley. “I was really missing my team. Open gyms, tryouts, practices. I was there for as much of it as I could be. As I began feeling better and knew the treatment was working, I got brighter, and was excited to start working my way back. On and off the field, I got so much support from so many people I didn’t even know.”

On and off the field, Riley’s presence impacted the Panther team.

“Riley is such an inspiration to our athletes,” said O’Fallon girls lacrosse head coach Rob Garrison. “She showed us that there are things in life we cannot control, but that we can control how we react to them. She faced an obstacle head on and refused to be defeated.”