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Vote: CSM Fall Athletes of the Week, Oct. 2-8

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

Dozens of athletes from around the area sports put on dazzling performances last week as the postseason looms. Because of them, there are more nominees than usual for the CSM Fall Athletes of the Week, presented by Jake Weston State Farm.

The following athletes are our nominees for CSM Fall Athletes of the Week with information on their standout performances. There are polls for Boys Athlete of the Week and Girls Athlete of the Week.

UPDATE: Carly Whitaker of Morton volleyball won Girls Athlete of the Week with 49 percent of the vote total and Joe Heiar of Dunlap soccer won Boys Athlete of the Week with 42 percent of the vote total. Voting closed at 4 PM Thursday.

Girls Athlete of the Week nominees:

Maya Happel, Washington girls swimming

Washington’s freshman standout helped carry the Panthers to a win in a meet against Peoria Notre Dame and Macomb on Thursday. Happel, who specializes in breaststroke and butterfly, won first place in four events: the 50-yard breaststroke (37:05), 50-yard butterfly (30:92), 100-yard breaststroke (1:17.87) and 100-yard butterfly (1:02.74)

Nellie Melick, El Paso-Gridley girls cross country

Melick helped El Paso-Gridley take a narrow title win over Urbana and others at the Prairie Central/Pontiac Invite. The junior led the Titans with an eighth-place finish in 19:12.49 to finish third individually and lead El Paso-Gridley to a six point win over runner-up Urbana.

Ella Coulter, Peoria Notre Dame girls golf

Coulter has made frequent appearances on this list and for good reason; she capped off her high school golf career by leading the Irish to a third-place finish at the Class 1A State Championship at Red Tail Run in Decatur. The senior finished eight individually, going 79-76 in her two rounds and her second-round 76 included birdies on the par-4 sixth hole and par-3 13th hole.

Carly Whitaker, Morton volleyball

It was a big week for Morton volleyball, as the Potters ended Metamora’s 40-game conference win streak with a 3-set victory on Tuesday and swept Pekin on Tuesday. Whitaker was a driving force in both wins, going for 14 kills, 10 digs, a pair of blocks and assists and an ace against Metamora and four kills against Pekin.

Allison Straub, Bloomington girls swim

Straub’s week was littered with first-place finishes in a pair of meets. In the Bloomington/Normal Intercity meet, she won the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:13.71 and the 100-yard butterfly in 59:27. The James Madison commit also took home two more wins and two third-place finishes in a meet against Champaign Central on Tuesday.

Sophie Muir, Dunlap girls tennis

Muir and the Eagles ended their regular season in fashion and won the Mid-Illini Conference title. The Dunlap standout won the 100th match of her career on the Eagles’ Senior Night, then teamed with Alassea Michel to take home the Mid-Illini doubles title over Metamora in a come-from-behind, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win.

Natalie Downing, Canton girls golf

Downing qualified for the Class 1A State Championship as an individual, becoming just the second Canton girls golfer in program history to do so. The junior made the cut and finished T70 with a 199.

Levyn Snow, Normal U-High volleyball

Snow and the Pioneers took on strong competition on Saturday against Breese Mater Dei and Nazareth Academy, winning both matches to advance to 24-2 on the season. Snow paced U-High with 11 digs against Breese Mater Dei while also chipping in seven kills and four assists. She also had 10 kills and six digs against the Roadrunners.

Katie Sell, Dunlap girls cross country

Sell ran a 17:52.2 at Metamora’s Gene Jones Runnin’ Red Invite on Saturday to finish six as individual and help Dunlap finish third. The time was a personal best for the the Eagles junior and was her sixth top-10 finish this season.

Boys Athlete of the Week nominees:

Eddie Lorton, Fieldcrest football

The Knights’ workhorse tailback helped Fieldcrest keep their postseason hopes alive in a 40-0 win over Fisher last week. Lorton carried the ball 23 times for 244 yards and three touchdowns –more than all of Fieldcrests’ other offensive players combined– and added five tackles on defense.

Fieldcrest makes playoffs in our latest projections: IHSA Football Bracketology: Full playoff projections for all 8 classes

Gavin Young, Bloomington Central Catholic boys soccer

Young had a scorching-hot week for the Saints, netting a total of seven goals as BCC closed its regular season with a pair of wins. The senior midfielder had four goals in a 10-1 win over Rantoul and netted all of the Saints’ goals in a 3-1 win over Urbana University High.

Connor Watson, East Peoria boys golf

Watson made another berth at the Class 2A State Championship, finishing even better than his T44 finish last year. The junior shot 77-79 at Weibring Golf Club in Normal to finish in a tie for 25th.

Dean Witzig, El Paso-Gridley boys cross country

The Titans senior won the Prairie Central/Pontiac Invite on Saturday for his first title of the season. El Paso-Gridley also won the event as a team thanks to Witzig’s time of 15:42.27.

Noah Bell-Lorentzen, Washington football

Bell-Lorentzen and the Washington defense were all over Dunlap in a key 28-7 Mid-Illini win. The junior defensive lineman scored an unlikely touchdown off an interception to give the Panthers a 21-0 lead shortly after halftime and led a stout Washington’s stout defensive front with five tackles, including one for loss.

Joe Heiar, Dunlap boys soccer

Heiar saved the game –quite literally– for the Eagles in a Mid-Illini clash with Washington, who was tied with Dunlap and Morton atop the conference heading into last Saturday’s game. Heiar made multiple outstanding saves, including one flying in the air in the final 30 seconds, to preserve the Eagles win. He also posted shutouts in a 7-0 win over Bloomington and a 0-0 draw with Morton last week.

Read about Heiar and Dunlap's win over Washington: Heiar’s heroics, pair of early goals help Dunlap soccer take down Washington

Jack Coulter, Peoria Notre Dame boys golf

Coulter capped off a stellar freshman season with a T25 finish at the Class 2A State Championship, shooting an 82 in the first round and rebounding with a 75 in the final round. Coulter made a leap in his play on the back nine of his second round, shooting a 36 to help set the tone.

Fisher Rinkenberger, Washington boys cross country

Rinkenberger was Washington’s top finisher at the Gene Jones Runnin’ Red Invite on Saturday, running the 2.94 mile course in a time of 15:14.40, good enough for eight place overall. Washington finished in third place as a team at the meet.

Jaiduan Cranford, Metamora football

Cranford was the epitome of efficiency in Metamora’s 56-7 win over Limestone on Friday, rushing just three times for 107 yards and two touchdowns while adding a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown. The sophomore phenom has ran for 259 yards and scored six total touchdowns in the last two weeks for the Redbirds.

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