RTHS inducts Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2021

The RTHS Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2021 includes Dale Cappel, Brooke Hatfield, William E. Helms, William May and Lexie Sondgeroth. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Honorees include Dale Cappel, Brooke Hatfield, William E. Helms, William May and Lexie Sondgeroth

ROCHELLE — Rochelle Township High School inducted two new classes into its Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday. The Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 were both recognized during a ceremony before the varsity football game against Johnsburg.

The Class of 2021 includes Dale Cappel, Brooke Hatfield, William E. Helms, William May and Lexie Sondgeroth.

Dale Cappel

Cappel graduated from RTHS is 1977.  As a Hub, he was a multiple sport athlete all four years of his high school career. He played one year of football, three years of golf and four years of basketball, track and baseball.

Cappel received twelve varsity letters at RTHS, including two in golf, and was captain of the team his senior year. Cappel earned two in basketball and was a recipient of the Hall Free Throw award. He earned four varsity letters in track and held the triple jump record for over 30 years until it was recently broken in 2019.

Cappel earned four varsity letters in baseball, receiving awards for leading the conference in hitting his sophomore year, high team batting average his senior season. His overall athletic achievements made him an excellent choice for the Rochelle News-Leader Award.

Following high school, Cappel remained active playing park district and recreational sports.  In 1988, he entered the National Fitness Challenge Competition, winning the regional competition and later the national finals. That victory led to an offer to be captain of a team to compete against the Soviet Union. After eight months of training, the competition was cancelled due to political tensions.

Dale and his wife Anita are parents to three daughters and grandparents of four. He and his wife own and operate a RV Resort Campground in Sycamore.

Brooke Hatfield

Brooke Hatfield spent her fall and winter seasons at RTHS as a cheerleader.  She earned letters for the four years as a football cheerleader and again for the basketball and competitive season. Brooke could be found at the track in the spring. She earned four varsity letters and named overall MVP her junior season and Most Improved as a freshman.  

As a member of the Lady Hub track team, Hatfield earned three trips to the IHSA State Meet.  Her sophomore year, she was part of the 1600-meter relay team that placed sixth. Her junior year, the 3200-meter relay team earned a third-place finish. She finished her high school career as a senior by finishing fifth in the 800-meter relay and eighth in the 300-meter hurdles.

The RTHS outdoor school records still stand for Brooke’s performance in the 100-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles, 800-meter relay and the 3200-meter relay. The 2010 indoor meet time in the 55-meter hurdles still stands today.

Following graduation in 2011, Brooke Hatfield chose to attend UW-Madison. She was a member of the Badger cheer team, making trips to the 2013 Rose Bowl, 2014 Capital One Bowl and 2015 Outback Bowl. She cheered at two Final Four basketball tournaments (2014, 2015) as well as the 2015 NCAA Basketball National Championship.

Brooke currently is working as a dermatology physician’s assistant.       

William E. Helms

Helms was a biology teacher, athletic director and a coach at Rochelle Township High School between 1935 and 1970.

Helms graduated from Macomb High School and attended Western IL State Teachers College having studied PE, social science and biology. He taught and coached at DePue High School and LaSalle High School prior to being hired at Rochelle. He later earned his master’s degree from Northern Illinois University in 1954.

Helms began his employment at Rochelle in 1938. He served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II, interrupting his teaching/coaching tenure to do so, returning for the 1945 school year. While at RTHS, Helms coached basketball, football, track, cross country and was director of athletics.

He grew the athletic program from one coach (himself) to 13 coaches overseeing about 500 boys.
Helms was acknowledged for many years of service to high school athletics by both the Illinois High School Athletic Association and North Central Illinois Athletic Conference in 1970 upon his retirement. The William E. Helms Athletic Complex on the Rochelle Township High School 1921 campus was dedicated to him in November 1974.

Helms, who served as the Leatherneck football team captain in 1927, was inducted into the Western Illinois University Hall of Fame in 1975. Helms died at age 88 in the Franklin Grove Nursing Home.

William May

May graduated from Rochelle Twp High School in 1905. He was a member of the first track team in 1902.

In the 1904-05 track season, May qualified for the Illinois State Championships. Not only did he qualify, he won the 50-yard dash tying the world record as a high school student. William became the first state champion in any sport to represent Rochelle High School. This was at a time when local track events were held on a horse track on the south side of town.

May graduated and moved on to the University of Illinois. At U of I, May ran the 100 and 220-meter races. He lettered all four years and became the first Rochelle athlete to win a Big Ten championship in 1907-08. taking first in the 100 and second in the 220.

May represented the United States in the 100-meter and the 220-meter races at the 1908 London Olympics. Although he did not medal, he is the only local athlete to have qualified for the Olympics. He later ran for the California Athletic Association and in 1909 tied the world record for the 220-meter dash.

May enlisted in 1917 and became a 1st Lieutenant in light field artillery. With a degree in business, May became a buyer for Montgomery Ward in Chicago and later in New York where he died in 1979.
Lexie Sondgeroth

Sondgeroth graduated from RTHS in 2011.  While in high school, she lettered with the Lady Hub volleyball team her junior and senior seasons. Her greatest athletic accomplishments came as a part of the RTHS track and field team.

She excelled in her events, still holding school outdoor records in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash, long jump and 800-meter relay.  The indoor school records in the 55-meter dash and 400-meter dash still stand. She was named the Sprinter MVP all four years at RTHS as well as the 2011 Field Event MVP and Overall MVP.

In college, Sondgeroth was a 14-time All-American, NCAA Women’s Athlete of the Year for the Midwest Region and a national champion in the 400-meter dash and long jump.  She holds the UW-Whitewater indoor records for the 60-meter dash, 200-meter dash, 800-meter relay and long jump along with outdoor records for the 400-meter dash and long jump. She received her master’s degree in sports leadership and management from DePaul University.

She’s enjoying being a mom to her 3-year-old and waiting for her new arrival.

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