ROCKFORD — Aubrey Headon was stunned when she learned she would be joining the best high school student-athletes in the Rock River Valley area for a special banquet at the BMO Harris Bank Center this past Thursday.
Headlined by Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, the All-Star Preps Best of the Rock River Valley Banquet featured six Rochelle Township High School student-athletes who qualified by being named to one of the Rockford Register Star and The Journal-Standard’s All-Area teams this past school year. Caleb Gould (boys basketball), Noah Griffith (boys tennis), Alex Harvey (wrestling), Matthew Drendel (boys track) and Andrew Myers (boys track) were also in attendance.
“It made me feel like all my hard work in a new sport was paying off,” said Headon, an All-Area swimmer and the only girl from RTHS to make the All-Area list. “It was a privilege… I am still in shock. It was bigger and better than I could have imagined.”
The 2016-17 season proved to be a prosperous one for many RTHS athletic programs. The varsity football team returned to the playoffs after a two-year absence, and the Hubs won 20 varsity basketball games including the EC Nichols Holiday Classic at Marengo High School.
“The experience was great,” said Gould, who led Rochelle in points this season and earned First-Team All-Conference honors. “There were a lot of athletes getting recognized… It feels good to have shared the moment with other athletes from Rochelle. It feels good because you realize people are paying attention to what is going on and bringing Rochelle back on the map.”
The Rochelle wrestling program won its first IHSA Individual Regional title in school history after winning its first Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference title two years ago. Eight Hubs qualified for the IHSA Individual Sectional, with two boys reaching the IHSA State Championships in Champaign including Harvey.
“I was very excited when I learned I made the All-Area list,” Harvey said. “Being recognized always feels great and it helps to fuel the fire for future goals… Showing that Rochelle can be successful in a variety of sports was really cool.”
Griffith carried the Rochelle boys tennis team, winning over 25 singles matches throughout the year and earning a top-4 finish at the sectional tournament to advance to the IHSA State Championships for a second straight year. It was also Griffith’s second consecutive year attending the All-Star Preps banquet.
“I was very proud to be back again,” Griffith said. “It’s an honor to be recognized and it’s even better with other Rochelle athletes. Hopefully next year we will have more Rochelle athletes recognized.”
The Hubs track and field team capped off the 2016-17 school year by sending five individuals to the IHSA State Finals at Eastern Illinois University, with Drendel competing in both the 800-meter run and the 1600-meter relay. Myers reached the state finals in the high jump, clearing his season goal of 6-6.
“It was a true honor to be recognized with my fellow Rochelle athletes and by people outside of the community,” Drendel said. “I am so proud of the others that were able to make the team, and it feels good to know that the best of my abilities can get me recognized by others. It was a huge self-confidence booster.”
“It made me feel like I accomplished something during my track career and I was ecstatic to find out that I made it,” Myers added. “It was pretty cool to be there with teammates and people that I have competed against and it was awesome to get honored in front of all the people there.”