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."
Effingham football coach Mike McDonald to retire at year's end
The idea of retirement has been on Effingham football coach Mike McDonald's mind for a while.
But he's finally acting on it, as McDonald announced that he plans to retire as the head coach of the Flaming Hearts at the end of the 2014 season.
Switching it up; Newton's Mammoser trying his hands at switch pitching
American Legion fans around the central Illinois area have started to hear of Newton’s Brock Mammoser.
The pole vaulter, point guard and quarterback also finds time for the baseball field, and while he routinely sat in the middle of the order for Post 20 played shortstop and first base with flair, there’s one thing everyone came back to.
He’s a switch pitcher. Mammoser took to the mound left and right for Newton, literally, pitching games with both his left and his right arm.
It all started with a half-hearted suggestion a few years back.
Czachorski: Extra innings intrigue unmatched
Obscenely long baseball games are my kryptonite. Once I get sucked in, it’s impossible for me to stop watching until it’s over. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Cubs, the Cardinals, the Astros or the Mariners — if it’s on TV and it’s going into the twelfth inning or later, you can bet I’m finding a way to tune in.
Newton's season ends in 14-4 loss
Newton Post 20 almost pulled another comeback off against the Orient Miners, cutting a 5-1 deficit to 5-4 midway through Monday night’s game.
But Newton’s Junior Legion Fifth Division tournament run came to an end, as Orient rattled off nine runs in the sixth inning and clinched a spot in the state tournament with a 14-4 win.
Comeback win keeps Post 20 alive in 10-7 win
Newton Post 120 didn’t let a 4-1 deficit get to them against Highland Post 439, using a patient approach in the face of an elimination game.
Three bases-loaded walks in the bottom of the third tied the game at 4-4, and with the bases loaded down 5-4 in the fourth, Tim Weber broke the game open with a two-run double and an error.
By the time the dust settled, Newton led 10-5 heading to the sixth inning and would hold on to a 10-7 win to keep its season alive.
Salem deals Newton first divisional loss
Mitch Bierman started off Newton Post 20’s game against Salem Post 128 with a bang Sunday afternoon, hitting a leadoff triple and scoring on the next batter.
Post 20’s offense didn’t follow his lead from there, as Newton had just three more hits and no runs, and falling in a Junior Legion Fifth Division winner’s bracket game to Salem 12-1 in seven innings.
Newton Post 20 bests Belleville Post 58 in opener 6-1
After a 9-3 loss to Breese Post 252 Gray Monday night, Newton Post 20 coach John Grunloh predicted the five-day break until the Junior Legion Fifth Division tournament would be good for his players, especially his pitchers.Mitch Jansen proved his coach right, spinning a gem in Newton's opener Saturday afternoon as Post 20 made short work of Belleville Post 58 6-1.
Hearts to prep with Mattoon 7-on-7
Two weeks ago, Effingham was supposed to start shaking off the rust with a 7-on-7 football tournament in Mattoon. Naturally, it rained and was canceled.
So Saturday, the Flaming Hearts will head up to Mattoon and play their first 7-on-7 event of the season, taking part in an 10- team field with Mattoon, Rochester, Robinson, Marshall, Cahokia and Pleasant Plains from Illinois, with Terre Haute North and Northview coming from Indiana. Rochester is bringing two squads.
Newton Post 20 plays Belleville Saturday
With the District 23 tournament behind them, Newton Post 20 now knows its fate for the Fifth Division Junior Legion tournament this weekend in Bethalto.
Newton will play Belleville Post 58 at 2:45 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Bethalto, in the third game of six on the day.
Effingham's season comes to a close with 11-1 loss to Salem
A 1-0 lead for Effingham Post 120 rapidly evaporated, and the post’s Junior Legion season came to an end with a 11-1 loss in five innings to Salem Post 128 Tuesday night.
The game was for the final spot of District 23 in the divisional tournament, with Newton Post 20 and Breese Post 252 Gray punching their tickets by winning their district divisions.
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