Stillman Valley enters the hall of fame game


Add Stillman Valley to list of school districts instituting an Athletic Hall of Fame. It will include teams, individuals, coaches and friends.

As an observer of the Cardinal sports scene since 1970, three names immediately pop out to me – Bucky Babcock, Mike Lalor and Craig Young.

Coaching Stillman to five state football says it all about Lalor. As far as Young, he was among the best distance runners in the state in a one-class system in the early 1970s. Babcock dominated football fields and wrestling mats.

Don’t get me wrong. There are loads of other standout individuals, especially in baseball, football, wrestling, softball and girls basketball.

I also recall unheralded Dan Godfread, who amazingly made it on two NBA rosters, even if just for a few games.

And lets not forget chess, where Phil Bratta has been at the helm since the early 1980s. Indeed, there has been a rich heritage of achievement at the school.

With so many recent state football titles, a difficult part for the HOF committee is determining a yearly pecking order.

No word yet on whether athletes from the former Monroe Center High School which closed around 65 years ago and absorbed into Stillman Valley would be eligible for the HOF.

With Forreston, Oregon and Stillman starting HOFs this year, that leaves Polo as only school in Ogle County without one.

The Ogle County Track and Field Meet will be held at Rochelle this Tuesday, April 30. It has been going on for over 50 years and Forreston-Polo has hopes of winning the boys and girls meets in the same year for the first time ever.

Rochelle has hosted the meet all but a couple years in the late 1970s after Oregon also got an all-weather track. Right now, Polo remains the only school without an all-weather surface, relying on old-fashioned limestone.

This year will be one of the most balanced county meets in recent memory, as Stillman Valley has substantially improved and though Rochelle has always had the enrollment advantage, the Hubs are capable of being beaten.

The top two athletes are pole vaulters, Leo Cardenas of Oregon and Andrew Nuyen of Rochelle. Both have unique stories.

Cardenas was a promising Hawk freshman, but he moved to Arkansas his sophomore and junior years, where he placed downstate. Returning to Oregon for his senior year, he tied for top height (14-feet-2) at the 1A indoor state meet.

Nuyen made remarkable progress from his freshman to sophomore year, going from nine feet to 15 feet. In vaulting circles, a six-foot increment is almost unheard.

Not only that, but he was 2A indoor state champ, besting a stiff field. Both Cardenas and Nuyen have benefitted from attending pole vault teaching academies in Bloomington and Joliet.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the Ogle County meet will be those two going at it in the vault.

In baseball, Byron, Forreston and Stillman Valley are all having fine campaigns and their records may be misleading because of the tough schedules they have played. Each has high hopes for the post season.

As is usually the case in high school baseball, availability of pitching will be the key.

Softball is a different story, with one strong arm carrying a team. As expected, Stillman Valley is carrying the banner among county schools.

The Cardinals got a big 6-2 win over North Boone on a windy April 19 afternoon, knocking the Vikings off an eight-game winning streak. Both squads are contending for Big Northern supremacy, with SV currently leading the way.

Andy Colbert is a longtime Ogle County resident with years of experience covering sports and more for multiple area publications.