July 23, 2021

6 of Peoria’s best prep athletes now finalists for Illinois High School Sports Awards

Finalists for statewide honors at 7 p.m. Thursday at the inaugural Illinois High School Sports Awards, presented by USA TODAY.

Illinois area finalists include: Brimfield senior Haley Wallace (Female Athlete of the Year), Peoria High football (Team of the Year), Peoria High football coach Tim Thornton (Coach of the Year), Eureka junior Anna Perry (Female Cross Country Runner of the Year), Metamora senior Anna Peplowski (Female Swimming and Diving Athlete of the Year) and Morton senior Lauren Doerr (Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year).

In addition to finalists, another six central Illinois athletes were named at statewide honorees: Limestone’s Wilson Georges (cross country), Brimfield’s Jeremy Ott (golf), Richwoods’ Zack Dollman (swimming and diving), Metamora’s Brian Lelm and Harry Hawbaker (tennis) and Bushnell-Prairie City/West Prairie’s Maleigha Huston (track and field).

The statewide event will be hosted by sports broadcasters Seth Greenberg and LaPhonso Ellis, and be available free on the event website. Athletes of the year in 25 nationally recognized sports will move on from the Illinois show to the national USA TODAY High School Sports Awards show airing Aug. 5.

Here’s a look at the the six statewide finalists from central Illinois:

All the winners in Peoria:2021 Central Illinois High School Sports Awards results

Brimfield second baseman Haley Wallace throws to first against Illini Bluffs on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 at Brimfield High School. The Indians fell to the Tigers 8-3.

Haley Wallace, Brimfield
This 5-foot-8 senior is a two-sport standout. The all-state basketball player was the central Illinois girls player of the year after averaging 19.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.3 steals for the Class 1A No. 2-ranked Indians. She went on to become an all-star honoree in softball — the sport she’ll play at the next level with Loyola-Chicago.

Peoria High football
Even with no football playoffs in Illinois, the central Illinois team of the year capped its season with some hardware. Tim Thornton and the Lions won their final three games to take the first (and likely only) Big 12 Conference tournament. All season, the offensively minded Lions used big play after big play from quarterback Darius Beckum and running back Eddie Clark behind a dominant offense line.

Tim Thornton, Peoria High football
The central Illinois coach of the year’s contribution to Peoria High football extended well beyond the field in 2021. The 11th-year coach deftly navigated the pandemic-shortened season, leading the Lions to victory in the Big 12 Conference tournament — but also creating and maintaining the use of a unique virtual bubble inside the school. It kept his players contained and doing virtual work under the watch of coaches.

Anna Perry, Eureka
The junior won nine of 10 races, including the Heart of Illinois Conference title by 22 seconds, the regional by 56 seconds and the sectional by a minute and 15 seconds. The central Illinois female cross country runner of the year had the second-best time in Class 1A this season and won the Division I title at the de facto state meet.

Anna Peplowski, Metamora Co-op
The senior led the Peoria area in seven of the eight swimming events. The central Illinois female swimming and diving athlete of the year went 40-0 in the pool and was selected to the all-conference and all-state teams. She broke four school records formerly held by her older sister Noelle, and will join her sister swimming for Indiana next season.