2018-19 Athletic Program of the Year

It was a very successful year athletically in the Illinois Valley.

The Hall boys track and field team won two relay state championships, the St. Bede softball team placed third in Class 1A, the Bureau Valley boys basketball team reached a Class 2A super-sectional.

And many individual athletes qualified for state and brought home medals.

But as an entire athletic program, La Salle-Peru had the best school year.

Based on a formula used by the NewsTribune that awards points for postseason titles, players of the year, etc., La Salle-Peru is the 2018-19 Area Athletic Program of the Year.

“It’s really great, especially since we have a really good area for sports,” L-P junior Ashley Heagy said. “Seeing the state champs like Hall and teams placing in state, it’s really good we can come together as a whole school in sports and be so competitive.”

Teams are awarded points only for its furthest advancement. So St. Bede softball, for example, earns the eight points for being a state medalist but does not also receive the two points for a regional title and four points for a sectional title.

In sports such as track and field, a team only earns points for its highest advancement as well. For Hall boys track, for example, the Red Devils received 10 points for the 400-meter relay team’s state title but did not receive an additional 10 points for the 800 relay or the eight points for Marshall Walk’s ninth-place medal in the 100.

La Salle-Peru scored 61 total points and divided by its 21 sports finished with a score of 2.9 to beat Bureau Valley (2.5), LaMoille-Ohio (2.36) and Putnam County (2.33).

“It’s great,” said Kevin Parker, who is leaving L-P after a two-year stint as athletic director. “It’s rewarding for all the coaches who put in hard work to get the kids ready and for the student-athletes who work not only in season but out of season going to tournaments and summer leagues.

“It’s a testament to their will and desire to become excellent.”

L-P earned the title of top area program for the sixth time since it started in 2007-08. All six of those awards have come in the last eight years.

Hall (2007-08 and 2017-18) and Princeton (2008-09 and 2010-11) are the only other schools to win it multiple times.

“I think it’s huge,” said graduate Marisa Guisti, who helped L-P win the award by being named NewsTribune Volleyball Player of the Year. “I was involved with athletics a lot at L-P and I was also the super fan coordinator, so it means a lot that other sports are succeeding as well.

“With me personally doing well in volleyball this season, I think the younger athletes and other people in the program look up to it and want to do it next year.”

The Cavs claimed the award on the success of the volleyball team and individuals qualifying for state and earning medals.

The L-P volleyball team scored for having a .700 winning percentage and claiming a regional title along with Guisti winning the NT honor.

Heagy earned L-P points for qualifying for state in cross country, being named NT Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year and placing fifth in the state in the Class 2A 800 meters.

L-P also had a state medalist in boys track and field (Jesse Casas) and state qualifiers in girls tennis (Grace Filipiak and Arisu Oya), boys cross country (Logan Johnson), wrestling (Payton Piraino) and boys swimming (Jacob Pocivasek).

Filipiak and Oya and Johnson also claimed NewsTribune awards.

“I think most of the students at L-P and the athletes at L-P are just motivated,” Guisti said. “They want to be there. You can tell they want to come to practice. I think that’s really special because you have to want to do it if you want to succeed.

“The coaches are always willing to help. In every sport, that coach wants to do it, genuinely knows a lot about the sport and knows how to help people get better.”

Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at sports@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.

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