ALTAMONT — While his lead was whittled down to just four points Thursday afternoon, Ronnie Gillespie left little doubt who was the best harness racer at this year's Effingham County Fair. Gillespie entered the day up 42-25 on Jared Finn, who went on a nice three-race run to start Thursday's action. Finn won the day's first two races and took second in the third, cutting Gillespie's lead to just 42-38.That'd be as close as it got, however. Gillespie took the harnesses on Who Called Kellie in the seventh race, and took American Desire a win in the eighth race to claim the driving championship at the Effingham County Fair for the second time in three years. Gillespie won the 2011 County Fair Championship as well as the Effingham County Fair championship, and Thursday's final day of Harness Racing at the fair in Altamont was invigorating for the Macon, Miss. native as he took home the title. "I'd say it's the best," Gillespie said. "Today was nice, it gets me excited as a driver."Despite Finn's push, the two wins and a second-place finish came in the only three races he was entered in. Gillespie's win on Who Called Kellie clinched the championship. Hillcrest Dynamite led at the halfway point, but Gillespie and Who Called Kellie came back undeneath at the three-quarter pole and cruised to the finish in 2:05.6. Gillespie rode American Desire in its first-ever race in the eighth race, going wire-to-wire for American Desire's first win as well.. Gillespie was holding off Go Run N Tell that until the three-quarter pole, which the horse broke stride, allowing Gillespie to win the eighth race by 10 lengths. Finn came out of the gates on fire Thursday. Riding Annrenee out on the first race, Finn held off Harold Finn Jr. on Willing Heart in a close race. Annrenee led the whole way, finally separting from Willing Heart and the pack at the three-quarter pole and winning by 1.5 lengths in 2:03.6. He had less competition in race two, as It'll Do was scratched, leaving just three racers. Finn still had to fight riding Richard Tracy, as WM Larry Binley led on Paradise Ragtime for nearly the whole race. Richard Traci and Finn made their move at the corner, taking the outside lane and sprinting past Paradise Ragtime to win in 2:02 by a length. Finn couldn't keep the win streak going in his third and final race of the day, riding Become Legendary to a second-place finish behind Dillon Cox on Spill the Beans. Finn made a late move on the outside, but couldn't get out there quick enough and settled for second. Cox and Spill the Beans won in 2:01.6.Jerome Daniels and So Photogenic rode to a huge 12-length victory in 2:05.8 in the day's fourth race, besting Stacy De Rousse on Teela Girl. Harold Finn Jr. fended off a huge pushe by Ava Destruction in the fifth race, as he and Frontier Rose rode to a wire-to-wire win in 2:06.4.Merle Finn Jr. kept the wire-to-wire wins going in the sixth race, winning on Wings in 2:06.5, holding off Shifting Interlude for the victory. The day's final race, the amateur driving race, was won by Raymond Morgan on AR Sissy, besting the field for the wire-to-wire four-length win in 2:02.6. The race also feature Leah's Hero, a 13-year-old horse that was the oldest at this year's fair. Gillespie was crowned the champion by a 52-38 margin over Jared Finn. As for going for a third win next year, the answer was a no-brainer. "Oh yes," he said. "I'll be back."
Flaming Hearts win St. Anthony Invitational
The Flaming Hearts of Effingham were the overall winners and also had the medalist. Effingham shot a team score of 312 to beat the host Bulldogs by nine shots. Hearts senior Jackson Wendling finished with a 72 to take medalist honors.
Teutopolis takes opener against St. Thomas More
Teutopolis took the course with a new coach and four players, but as coach Becky Probst said, it takes four to score.
And those four Lady Shoes took their first match of the year, topping Champaign St. Thomas More 216-227 in both teams' openers at Cardinal Golf Course in Effingham.
Time to tee off, golf season starts fall sports campaign today
The fall sports campaign kicks off in earnest Monday afternoon, with the first area varsity contests being held in Windsor and Effingham this afternoon.
The St. Anthony Invitational boys golf tournament will be held at Fox Prairie Golf Course at 1 p.m. in Windsor, while the Teutopolis Lady Shoes host St. Thomas More at Cardinal Golf Course at 4 p.m.
Flaming Hearts' flexibility a plus; Effingham prepping for upcoming soccer season
Three days into the practice season, Effingham soccer coach Aaron Witges sees a lot of flexibility.
It was something his squad had last year, with 10 seniors but young players forcing their way into the lineup as well.
Coming off a 10-8-3 season, some of those young players will find themselves in new positions for the Flaming Hearts this season.
Flaming Hearts set with new coach
The Effingham Flaming Hearts volleyball team will have a new but familiar face leading them on the sideline this season.
As a former player for the Hearts, coach Mindy McCollum-Boswell will look to lead her team to their first regional title since 2008.
Czachorski: Bears backups worrisome
This might sound shockingly similar to a number of columns I've written in the past, but it bears repeating (excusing a terrible pun).
The quarterback situation is worrisome.
Newton soccer kicks off, inaugural season starts Sept. 2
For the first time in the history of Newton High School, a soccer team will be a part of the fall sports season.
Pocrnich wins national ATV title
As people get older, their chance at a national championship diminishes, but Effingham’s Kevin Pocrnich was able to win one at 49 years old.
Pocrnich won the Class 16 Senior 40+ Mountain Dew ATV Motocross Championship and according to the league website, finished fourth in the Class 14 30+ Veteran division. He went out with a bang, winning the final race of the season in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee Saturday.
Teutopolis alum Thompson part of no-hitter
A pair of Effingham natives are making some noise up in the Northwest League.
Teutopolis alumnus Derek Thompson and Effingham alumnus Nick Gardewine, both members of the Spokane Indians in the Texas Rangers organization, earned some recognition over the past week.
Comets coming off stellar season
The Stew-Stras Comets finished in second-place at the state championship last season, a high-water mark for the program in recent years.
Coach Ronda Schlechte lost five players who played quality minutes from last year’s team, but she said she has a lot of freshmen that have the ability to help the team.
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- Flaming Hearts win St. Anthony Invitational