PEORIA, Il.. — The year 2019 is winding to a close.
Time look back at the top sports stories in central Illinois for the past year. In our annual top ten list of the biggest sports stories, here’s a look at the first five.
No. 10: Peoria High School receives a grant from football equipment maker Riddell, which picks the Lions as a ‘team of the future’ and outfits the players in new helmets and shoulder pads for the season. Former NFL star Peyton Manning surprises the team by attending an August practice.
No 9: Illinois State athletics has a banner year. The football teams makes the FCS playoffs for the first time in three years. The volleyball team wins the Missouri Valley Tournament title and advances to a second straight NCAA Tournament. And the baseball team beats top-ranked Vanderbilt in the regular season and wins two games in the NCAA Regionals. Center fielder John Rave, a Bloomington High School grad, is selected by Kansas City in the fifth round of the baseball draft.
No. 8: Tiny Illini Blufs High School, with an enrollment of 253 students, had a huge year in girls sports. The basketball team advanced to the state’s Sweet 16, the softball team finished class 1A state runner-up and the volleyball team won a school-record 40 games and finished second in state.
No. 7: Washington High School wins a fourth straight state wrestling championship. Jace Punke, an individual state champ at 195 pounds, leads a group of seniors that won the class 2A team state dual wrestling title every year of high school.
No. 6: After having a three-year string of state championships snapped by Peoria Richwoods, the Morton girls basketball got back to the top. The Lady Potters beat Richwoods in the sectional title game and rolled to another state championship at Redbird Arena. Morton has won four of the last five state titles in class 3A.
The top five will be revealed Wednesday night on WMBD News.