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."
Illini coach Groce stops in Effingham; Speech focuses on team building
A crowded ballroom met for "An Evening with John Groce” Thursday inside the Thelma Keller Convention Center.
Groce has been the men's basketball coach at the University of Illinois since March 2012. Prior to that, he was the head coach at Ohio University, where he led the Bobcats to a Sweet 16 appearance in 2012.
His speech was focused on team building and Groce said it was the a variation of the same speech he will give Sunday evening at his beginning-of-the-year players' meeting.
St. Anthony second at Charleston scramble
In their first meet of the season, the St. Anthony Bulldogs came out firing, taking second place at the Charleston Invitational Thursday afternoon.
The tournament was a scramble at Charleston Country Club, and the hosting Trojans took home the tournament with a combined score of 72. St. Anthony was five shots back, shooting a 77. Effingham finished fourth with an 88, and Teutopolis took ninth with a 98.
Czachorski: Lunt the right man at QB
There haven't been many times I've put pen to paper — or I guess more fittingly finger to keyboard — and written about the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Part of it is due to their football team's struggles, as it's hard to have an opinion on them outside of "man, they went 1-7 in the Big 10 last year" or "I remember that one time they went to the Rose Bowl, but that's about it." Part of it is staying in my wheelhouse, which is MAC football and my alma mater Central Michigan Chippewas, a topic that doesn't concern many, if any, around here.
Neoga prepares for upcoming volleyball season
Another area team finds themselves with a new coach holding the clipboard this season.
Susan Hutchinson is the new volleyball coach for the Neoga Indians, but she isn't new to the game of volleyball. Hutchinson coached at Mattoon for seven years when they were still in the Big 12 Conference. She said her new players had to get used to her coaching style very quickly.
Bulldogs fifth at ISU
St. Anthony took to the links for the second-straight day and had a strong showing at the Raider/Redbird Classic.
The Bulldogs finished fifth among a 20-team field, shooting a 318. East Peoria shot a 312 to win it, Normal U-High and Lincoln each shot 315s with Normal winning the tie-breaker, and Bloomington took fourth with a 317.
St. Anthony will lead with speed
For the last five years, Eric Morales has been the assistant coach of the St. Anthony Bulldogs soccer team. But this season he will have his chance at the helm and try to help lead the Bulldogs to their first regional title since 2010.
St. Anthony is missing six seniors from last years team, including its leading goal scorer and starting goalie.
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.
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- Illini coach Groce stops in Effingham; Speech focuses on team building