Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Sports

June 11, 2014

Czachorski: Dual state runs defy the odds

EFFINGHAM — In preparation for and after a crazy weekend in East Peoria, covering Altamont's and Teutopolis' runs to the state title games, I did some math.

The first bit was the easiest. There were four teams playing for state titles in Class 1A and 2A — two of them resided in Effingham County. Fifty percent.

I checked some census data online and came up with some more numbers. Effingham County is 478.78 square miles, making up 0.8 percent of Illinois.

According to the United States Census Bureau's quickfacts site, a 2013 estimate put Effingham County's population at 34,307. Out of the state of Illinois, that's 0.27 percent of the state's total population.

And yet, here we are. One state champion. One runner up. Both playing for state championships on the same day. It defies any traditional measure of odds.

Of the people at the IHSA state tournament I spoke with, officials and sportswriters alike, few could think of any time two or more teams from the same county pulled off the trick Altamont and Teutopolis did Saturday — playing for state championships in the same sport. It was a little less rare than we thought.

The IHSA's Matt Troha did some digging for me — thanks to Matt — and the feat has been pulled off six times in baseball, 20 times in boys basketball, eight times in girls basketball and eight times in softball. It's also happened a number of times in volleyball.

But looking at the list, it's populated nearly exclusively by Cook County. A few other counties, like Dupage, McLean, Rock Island, Sangamon, Madison, and Peoria, also appear, counties that have major cities in them and dwarf Effingham's size.

Only two counties similar to Effingham show up: Madison, with Breese Central and Mater Dei both playing for volleyball titles in 2011, and Johnston City and Herrin represented Williamson County in 1998, both playing for softball state titles.

That's it for the major team sports in the state and the team sports in the Effingham area. Two other times, counties around the size of Effingham have risen up like Altamont and Teutopolis did. Softball has been the sport least dominated by Cook County in this regard, only pulling it off twice, while Rock Island has done it three times, and Dupage, McLean and Williamson doing it once each.

Being there, the energy and excitement from the fans was clear. Teutopolis fans showed up to watch Altamont, Altamont fans stuck around after the Indians' title win to watch Teutopolis — until the rain came. Even St. Anthony coach Crystal Tipton showed up, sporting orange for Altamont and then navy blue for Teutopolis.

This isn't the first time I've written a column about how impressive the sports scene around Effingham is, and it probably won't be the last.

Altamont's state title was a sight to behold, as the school grabbed its first-ever championship; and watching the fans and players' reactions is hard to describe with words.

And even though Teutopolis fell short against a very impressive Rock Island Alleman team, with a young core, it's not hard to imagine this team will be seen in East Peoria again.

It doesn't take any math, however, to describe why this weekend was special: two area teams combined to play an impressive brand of softball and came away with trophies most schools only dream of — both Altamont and Teutopolis had only dreamed of them before this weekend.

Now that school's out, math is over. Hats off to an excellent season, baseball, softball and track teams. I look forward to next school year's craziness.

 

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