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It probably came as no surprise to fans of McKendree University or Vandalia grad Eric Hobbie.
Within the last week, the American Midwest Conference men’s basketball coaches met to make their preseason selection for the best team in the conference, and seven of the AMC coaches were of one mind. They cast their first-place votes for the McKendree Bearcats, who finished with 49 points. Park University finished second with 42 points and one first place vote.
“We have some great returning players,” said Harry Statham, McKendree’s head coach. “Park will be some stiff competition for us. The only team they lost to is us.”
Hobbie, who is a Bearcat senior, earned AMC Player of the Year as well as National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division I All-American honors one year ago when he averaged 16.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
He led the Bearcats to a 27-7 overall record and a 13-1 mark in the AMC. McKendree’s season ended with a 73-70 NAIA playoffs, first-round loss to John Brown University.
“Eric just needs to keep doing what he has done in the last three years,” Statham said. “We just want more of the same, except more and better. He enters practice in the best shape of his career. He has been hampered by injury in the past, but not this year. He should have an unbelievable year for us.”
Vandalia grad Drew Bell finished 130th in the Bradley University Classic, which was held at Newman Golf Course in Peoria. The University of Illinois harrier finished the 8,000-meter course in 26:31. Bell was the sixth Illinois runner to cross the finish line. He helped the Illinois “B” team take fourth, with 165 points. University of Iowa won the outing with 67 points. Illinois also competed, although not as a team, at the Illini Open. Bell finished 34th in the race with a time of 27:25. Illinois did not have a team score. The team title was won by NCAA Division II team, Lewis University, which scored 35 points.
Mitchell Whightsil, an Illinois College football player and Vandalia grad, returned from injury in IC’s 40-35 win over Ripon College. Whightsil, who caught two passes for 9 yards, subbed into the contest. Fellow Vandalia grad Brock Doehring, IC’s starting tight end, caught one pass for 25 yards. One week earlier, Doehring caught one pass for 11 yards in IC’s 31-23 triumph over Knox College.
The wins over Knox and Ripon give IC four straight. It is 5-3 overall and 5-2 in the Midwest Conference. There is a logjam at the top of the Midwest, as IC, Ripon, Carroll University and St. Norbert College each have 5-2 records.
Vandalia grad Jessica Earnest started her sophomore season by bowling in Huntsville, Ala., against Alabama State University and Alabama A&M University.
Vanderbilt, which starts the year ranked fourth in the country, split the pair of head-to-head games. Earnest had her best performance in Vandy’s 914-835 win over Alabama State. She rolled a 215 in the contest. In the 914-864 loss to Alabama A&M University, Earnest finished with a 181.
Rockford College’s Maribel Guerrero, a St. Elmo product, helped the Lady Regents put another notch on their Northern Athletics Conference belt. Guerrero had eight digs in Rockford’s 3-0 victory over Alverno College. They were not as fortunate against non-conference foe North Park University, which topped Rockford, 3-0. Guerrero had seven digs in the contest. Rockford is 6-16 overall and 5-6 in the NAC.
We are looking for names. As everyone can tell, the winter sports will soon be upon us. If anyone wants to make sure their son/daughter is on my list, please e-mail me (Dan62801@aol.com). Please put “Vandalia Leader Union” in the subject line of the e-mail. I will need the name of the athlete, the former high school, the college/university they are attending and, of course, the sport they are playing.
There are only two rules to be included in this column. The athlete must be involved in intercollegiate athletics, meaning their chosen school plays other schools. In addition, the athlete must have been a resident of or a graduate of one of the high schools in Fayette County during their prep days.