PEORIA — Champions abound this year in the annual Tri-County sports awards, presented by the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame.
The organization announced Eureka cross country coach Olivia Morris, Dunlap girls track and field coach Pat Garst, Washington wrestler Jace Punke and Illinois Wesleyan track and field athlete Amelia Glueck as its coaches and athletes of the year for 2018.
Also, Junior and Jackie Watkins were named winners of the Neve Harms Award for Meritorious Service to Sports in the Peoria area.
The award winners will be honored at the 38th annual GPSHOF induction banquet on March 30 at the Peoria Civic Center. Hall of Fame inductees are scheduled to be announced next weekend.
Morris is the Tri-County Female Coach of the Year after she led the Hornets girls team — led by individual champion Emma Argo — to the Class 1A state championship at Detweiler Park in Peoria. The boys team finished 10th.
Garst is the Male Coach of the Year for leading the Eagles to a dominant, title-winning performance at the Class 2A state finals at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. Dunlap made the finals in 14 of 16 events and scored 102 points as a team, the first to reach the century mark in the three-class system.
Punke is the Male Athlete of the Year after a great calendar year. Last February, he capped a 45-4 season by winning the IHSA Class 2A state championship at 285 pounds. The 220-pound Punke, ranked No. 10 nationally by FloWrestling, also won the 220-pound Junior Greco-Roman title at the U.S. Marine Corps Junior Nationals in July. In the fall, he started at lineman for Washington's state-ranked football quarterfinalist.
Glueck is the Female Athlete of the Year. The Tremont native and former Journal Star track athlete of the year won the long jump national title at the 2018 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field championships. She also was a top 30 finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year award, which included 10 from each of the three NCAA divisions. According to the NCAA, each finalists "demonstrated excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership."
The Watkins are the Neve Harms Award winners. They "have been inseparable, working on various phases of basketball leagues, as well as other aspects of athletics in the Peoria community," according to the GPSHOF. The active volunteers founded, promoted and directed the Hersey Hawkins Summer League for 35 years and were on the athletics advisory board for the Peoria Park District.
Junior, a member of Manual's 1962 state finals team, has been a volunteer official at many levels and a team host for the IHSA state finals for more than 20 years.
Jackie is a singer and has been part of the entertainment at the GPSHOF banquets. She also has performed at events at Dozer Park, Carver Center and the PPD.
Tickets for the awards banquet are $35 if purchased through March 19 and $40 if purchased between March 20-26. Tickets can be ordered by calling 309-691-3553 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets will not be available at the door.
For more information, visit the sponsoring organization’s website at gpshof.com.