The Column: Farewell Rantoul, Fisher, Armstrong… for now

If you’ve heard the rumors, they’re true.

If you’ve seen the ad in the paper, it’s true.

If you’ve had this thought (good, bad or indifferent), it’s true.

I am leaving the Rantoul Press newspaper.

It’s not easy to type those seven words that spelled out separately might not mean much, but combined together in a sentence, mean a great deal.

I might not make my daily commute to Rantoul anymore, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll stop covering Rantoul Township High School, Fisher or Armstrong-Potomac athletics in the future.

If I do find myself watching the games of the Eagles, Bunnies or Trojans in the months and years ahead, I’ll just do it for the best sports section in the state, according to the 2012 Illinois Press Association contest, down in Champaign at The News-Gazette.

I start full-time work there on Friday, Feb. 1, where I’ll help cover preps and Illinois athletics along with some editing and design responsibilities in the office.

My last official day as the Rantoul Press assistant editor/sports editor is Thursday, Jan. 31.

Working for one of the best sports editors in the business in Jim Rossow along with a talented staff of Fred Kroner, Bob Asmussen, Marcus Jackson, Jeff Huth and several others was just too good of an opportunity for me to pass up.

Whatever duties they assign me, I’ll try to accomplish them to the best of my abilities, which is what I tried to do in my 18 months on the job at the one-story building along Harmon Drive that has served as my second home since July 2011.

To the wonderful people at the Press office who make coming to work each day enjoyable— from Tim Evans to Dave Hinton to Betty Shoemaker to Cindy Eichelberger to Ken Turner to Bob Shelton to Cathy Costa to Eric Bartell to Pat Killion and the numerous people in the back with the press who do a superb job of not only printing the Rantoul Press, but every other community newspaper owned by The News-Gazette — thank you.

Thank you to Tim for giving me the chance to work for this prestigious company. Your help in introducing me to key people in the community when I started here was immeasurable.

Thank you to Betty for always making me laugh and always answering the numerous phone calls we receive on a daily basis in a courteous manner. Your consistency and stability is a true asset for the Rantoul Press.

Thank you to Cindy for always reminding me to turn in my time sheets and asking about my family (journalists are people, too).

Thank you to Ken for his enthusiasm and jokes, to Bob for his help in working out any printer issues and running a top-notch production shop and to Eric and Pat for always waiting patiently while I scurried to their desks to deliver pages on a frantic Tuesday afternoon.

A special thanks to Cathy and the press crew for not making too much fun of me every day I walked past them with my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lunch box.

Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo appreciate it.

Kudos to Jessie Starkey, Cathy Gallahue and Lorraine Buenting for providing photos whenever my lackluster photo skills weren’t quite up to par. It was a tremendous help to me ladies, and I’ll be forever grateful.

A large thank you goes out to my editor, Dave.

Without the abilities of the always-helpful, always-inquisitive, always-persistent and always-reliable Mr. Hinton, this publication would never make it out to our readers every week.

The selfless work he does each and every day is what makes this paper go. His work ethic and pride in his work is second to none.

The biggest thanks of all goes out to my wife Nora.

Without her, I would never have ended up in Champaign County or probably even applied to the Rantoul Press.

Her understanding, patience, support and encouragement were, and still are, huge factors in letting me work the odd hours journalists have to deal with.

She was, and will continue to be, my greatest sounding board, critic, friend and much more.

Turning to the coaches, athletes, fans, parents and readers out there, thank you for your support.

Your criticism.

Your suggestions.

Your time.

Most important, to the coaches and athletes, your time answering all the questions I had (some thoughtful, others simply not) made my job so much easier.

It’s always my goal to get the perspective of games and to tell stories from a player’s point of view, not just from the coach, and I don’t believe I was ever once turned down for an interview by a coach or an athlete.

At RTHS, many thanks to the access given to me by coaches Brett Frerichs, Jeff McKaufsky, Shane Carter, Jon Donovan, Travis Flesner, Ken Ross, Jay Bennett, Greg Van Hoorn, Crystal Richard, A.J. Richard, Harbert Jones, Mitch Wilson, Wes Cox, Craig Acree, Dusty Frandle, Allen Jones Sr., Tom Hess, Joe Bendoraitis, Ira Jefferson, Ryan Parker, Andy Graham, Mel Carver, Rich Thomas and Joe Gradney, along with Superintendent Scott Amerio, Principal Todd Wilson and School Resource Officer Kurtis Buckley.

The athletes at RTHS the past two school years are too many to list, but those that come to mind include Travis Britt, Hannah Wascher, C.J. Morris, Jackson Carver, L.C. Franklin, Terry Deaville, Chris Deaville, Luke Pannbacker, Larry Crayton, Cord Church, Joe Barton, Chad Hensley, Seth Wilson, Jamie Hedrick, Grace Bjornbak, Kalista Lutes, Diamond Walker, Jasmine Riggs, Johnny Jones, Greg Morrow, Kimmy Schwartz, Taylor Duitsman, Javen Cobb, Hunter Adkins, Cody Pierce, Tanner McLain, Talon Hardin, Devine Thompson, Tom Wood, Josh Oliveras, Tim Morgan, Amanda Johnston, Arin Bishop, Tahalia Rusley, Carson Church, Allison Carver, Hayley Bell, Sadie Adkins, Sarah Hunt, Syrus White, Mercedes Porter, ChaQuera Cross and Ryne Worthington.

At Fisher, it’s always a treat to talk to coaches like Matt Leng, Ron Ragle, Ken Ingold, Jon Kelly, Ben Derges, Allison Pentti, Matt Jokisch, Josh Carter, Levi Horsch, Mark Varner, Steve Arnold and Lenny May.

Not to mention athletes like Taw Fredrickson, Dylan Chapman, Carson Perrero, Parker Perrero, Hans Carmien, Marissa Williams, Jacy Cochran, Hannah Fink, Hans Carmien, Carli Clifton, Kristen Paris, Aubrey Pettenger, Brad Pettenger, Hayden Fiedler, Tyler Rogers, Kyle Williams, Grant Pointer, Brody Farrar, Luke Harvey, Caitlin Cole, Gina Masko, Elyssa Browning, Justin Coy, Ashley Miller, Sydney Blackwell, Olivia Heffernan, Boyd Estes, Kelcie Fredrickson, Tate Estes, Patricia Webb, Wade Williams, Brendan Kuhns, Hannah Varner, Josh Wallick, Cameron Schwing, Hunter Lowry, Cameron Heiser, Kalli Gosser, Sydney Baker and Leah Williams.

Driving down U.S. 136 to Armstrong-Potomac was always interesting just because it always felt like you were venturing to the end of the Earth.

But the coaches that help the Trojans (and Comets for some sports) out like Darren Loschen, Brian Russell, Tim Lee, Nick Hipsher, Joni O’Banion, Gary Denhart, Jeremy Dirksmeyer, Sean O’Brien and Mike Twidwell have provided me with all the necessary information I need no matter how many times I might have repeated myself.

Plus getting to know athletes like Brooke Markwalder, DJ Davis, Luke Gernand, Brandon Sparks, Nathan Gayheart, Sarah Reardon, Aaron Whitlow, Shayla Boen, Morgan Zindars, Zach Horatschki, Davin Miles, Wade Rogers, Kolton Vermillion, Kirsten Newnum, Shay Fitzsimmons, Rachel Miles, Dawson Loschen, Dentler Loschen, Lewis Irvin, Emerson Grey, Blake Davis, Shawn Johnson, Erika Sieberns, Abbie Stewart, Courtney Hambleton and Megan Porter was an added bonus.

Summer is typically seen as a time to unwind for sports writers who deal primarily with high school sports, but keeping tabs on Garry Smith’s Rantoul Senior Legion baseball team or Lindy Loschen’s Gifford-Flatville Gif-Flats in the Eastern Illinois League or the efforts of Kellie Wahl to organize a RTHS boys basketball alumni tournament always kept me asking for more room in the paper each week.

The help, support and life lessons from people like Mark Wilkerson, Milt Kelly, Bub Bayler, Gregory Harman, Luke Humphrey, Tammy Evans, Michelle Ramage, Jennifer Ernst, Michelle Wagner, Mark Bjornbak, Bob Bolton, Craig Rogers, Matt Mayer, Kevin Hunt and Hans Flessner have gone a long way in my brief, but fun time I’ve had at the Rantoul Press.

From the highs of watching the RTHS boys basketball team beat rival Mahomet-Seymour in a thrilling overtime game at RTHS last winter to the lows of seeing the seniors on the Fisher football team or boys basketball team realize their prep careers were done after successful regular season that were followed by postseason success last school year, to the blowout losses the RTHS football team suffered the last two seasons to the uncertainty the RTHS athletic department has gone through in the last 18 months, to the unexpected glee that happened after the RTHS softball team rallied to stun Mahomet-Seymour and win a Class 3A regional championship last May, to see the unfettered joy the A-P girls basketball team had after beating Danville Schlarman in last year’s 1A postseason and the tear-streaked faces of Fisher girls basketball players after losing a 1A regional championship last year, these moments all are a part of me.

Thank you for sharing them with me.

This isn’t necessarily a painful good-bye on my part.

I hope it’s not with all the people I mentioned above along with the wonderful people I’ve met during my time here that aren’t listed.

It’s simply saying I’ll miss you all until we meet again.

Matt Daniels is the sports editor of the Rantoul Press newspaper until Jan. 31. Like the column, love the column or hate the column? Let him know at mdaniels@rantoulpress.com

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