Sixteen Montgomery County athletes were among those honored by the State Journal-Register on Thursday, June 27, at the Springfield newspaper's Best of Capital Region Preps awards banquet, held at the Bank of Springfield Center.
Of those 16, 11 came from Hillsboro High School, including two who were honored as their sport's player of the year. Hillsboro seniors Kai Hanner and Sammi Matoush were named the small school players of the year in softball and girls basketball respectively, beating out a talented field from the State Journal-Register's coverage area. Both Hanner and Matoush will continue their athletic pursuits in college, with Hanner going to St. Louis University and Matoush attending Washington University in St. Louis.
Hanner would be one of three Toppers picked for the all-area softball team, joining fellow senior Katie Schaake and sophomore Haley Major. Hillsboro would also have two female athletes in the track honorees as senior Kyra Huber and freshman Kaci Papin were honored.
In boys' sports, Alex Eickhoff, Dane Huber and Alex White, all of whom will be seniors this year, made up half of the small school all-area team, while senior Jordan Gregg and junior Jonah Harkins were honored for the football and wrestling all-area teams.
Three Litchfield High School athletes would be honored as well, including one who earned player of the year honors. Senior Sam Painter was named boys basketball small school player of the year after a superb season, one that earned him a shot at college basketball at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington.
A pair of sophomores joined Painter on the all-area list as Carter Powell was a selection in wrestling and Carson Lemon was a selection in track.
The Nokomis duo of Carter Sabol and Maddie Sowarsh rounded out the Montgomery County honorees at the event. Sabol, a junior last year, was a selection in basketball, while Sowarsh, a senior, capped off her prep career with a nod in softball.
Overall, approximately 400 athletes from 48 schools spread across 12 central Illinois counties in 23 different sports were recognized after being named to an all-sport team. Each team and the award winners were selected by members of the State Journal-Register’s sports department, which includes Dave Kane, Trevor Lawrence, Ryan Mahan, Justin Peddycoart and Bill Welt.
In addition to the player recognition, the night also featured a guest appearance from former NFL running back Marshall Faulk, who was joined on stage by former State Journal-Register sports editor Jim Ruppert and Paul Wappel.
In addition to the Montgomery County honorees, Mt. Olive wrestling coach Ron Ryan was honored with a lifetime achievement award after 50 years as head coach for the Wildcats. Carlinville's Jarret Easterday, who has family in Nokomis, was the small school football player of the year, while Staunton's Lydia Roller was the athlete of the year in both girls cross country and girls track at the small school level.