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By Reese Lorton
At JCHS, winter sports athletes and coaches are hard at work preparing for the upcoming season. Girls basketball, boys basketball, wrestling, bowling, poms, cheer and e-sports make up the roster of sports offered to JCHS students during the winter season. For many of these teams, practices began as soon as fall sports drew to a close, and for some the competitive season is set to begin as soon as this week.
The girls basketball team will be led by new head coach Caleb Willams and assistant coaches Dylan Griffith and Jessa Vetter. The team began practicing on Oct. 31, though athletes attended many summer training opportunities such as open gyms and weight training. The team’s number one goal is to improve from last season, which, according to Coach Williams, is an objective they hope to achieve with the help of “[four varsity returning starters]: Tessa Crawford, Ella Smith, Meredith Gray, and Cali Breden.”
As for boys basketball, the team will be led by head coach Matt Murphy, JV coach Jeremy Gibson, freshman coach Zac Ridenour and varsity assistant/staff assistant Drake Kannallakan. The team started practicing in early November but, much like girls basketball, had many pre-season training opportunities for athletes.
“We had summer basketball four days a week this summer,” Coach Murphy explained. “During the fall we [held open gyms from] 6:15-7:15 a.m. This was held for non-fall athletes. We did a lot of shooting drills just working on [getting] shots up.”
The team hopes to utilize this hard work in both the on and off seasons to not only improve their technical skill, but further their passion for the sport as a whole.
“Our goal is to fall in love with the process,” Coach Murphy claimed. “There will be good and bad days. It is about being committed, consistent, and connected.”
The wrestling team is led by head coach Frank Speidel and assistant coach Zoe Chin. Official practices for the team began in early November, but open mats were made available to athletes starting in mid-October.
According to Coach Chin, “[These open mats] really benefited those athletes who have never tried wrestling before and wanted to see what it was all about. They were a huge success as we have some of the biggest numbers we have had in wrestling in a long time.”
With the new, larger numbers the team is seeing this year, they have high hopes for success.
“The goal of our team this year is to win. We would love to have some sectional and state qualifiers,” Coach Chin explained. “We are also happy to just be building the program. More so the goal is to develop athletes with a tough mental capacity and who enjoy the sport of wrestling.”
The bowling team, which is separated into boys bowling and girls bowling, underwent an abrupt change in head coach during the first practice week of the season and is now coached by Trent Morgan. The boys team began practicing early November and required try-outs, which were unnecessary for the girls team due to the smaller number of interested female bowlers.
Junior Corree Yates explained her aim for this season, stating: “My overall goal for the team this season is to make it farther than we did last year. I hope that, with the help of Coach Morgan, both boys and girls can make it to sectionals if not state.”
The poms team is coached by Brenda Mccreary and there is a tryout process for athletes hoping to secure one of the limited spots. Practices for poms began at the beginning of the school year and increased in frequency as the winter competition season approached.
According to senior Reese Eschbach, “The overall goal for the team this season is to qualify for state, but most importantly, work as a team and improve as a team as we attend different competitions throughout the season.”
The winter cheer team is coached by Maddy Hansen. Cheering at football games acts as pre-season conditioning for the competitive cheer season, but Coach Hansen also offered open gyms to prospective cheerleaders.
“There are tryouts for our team, we have a limited number of spots per our IHSA rules to compete,” Coach Hansen explained.
The team has been practicing since Oct. 23, and Coach Hansen’s number one goal for the upcoming season is “to make top 10 at state again and place first or second at a local regional in southern Illinois.”
Finally, the newly established e-sports team at JCHS is gearing up for a competitive winter season in a league of around 100 teams. The team is led by Coach Joe Shipley and they have already participated in a fall season this year.
“For the fall season, we started practicing in September, and for the winter league, we’ll start practicing in January,” Coach Shipley stated. “We have practice in the esports lab that’s on the second floor. Practices are on Tuesday and Thursday, with Wednesdays designated as an open-lab day for those who may not have made the competition team, but still want to participate.”
Due to how large their league is, the team is unsure how the season will play out, but Coach Shipley’s ultimate goal is to “have fun, develop good teamwork, and [create] a sense of belonging to a group that shares the same interest.”
Overall the JCHS winter athletic program is feeling optimistic for the upcoming season. Athletes and coaches are incredibly excited to compete, and hope to see the community come out to show their support.