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Softball takes Regional Championship over Southwestern

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Advance to Sectional Semi-Finals

The Gillespie High School girls softball team poses for a picture with their Regional plaque after winning Regionals Saturday morning. The girls will play Alton Marquette Wednesday afternoon in Vandalia.

The softball team pounded Southwestern on Saturday 11-1 at Hillsboro Regional in six innings. The Miners scored four runs in the fifth on an RBI single by Abbie Cline, an error, and an RBI single by Payton Anderson.

Molly Gray racked up two RBIs on three hits for GHS Softball. She singled in the second, fourth, and sixth innings.

Laura Halpin racked up six strikeouts in the win as she allowed no earned runs, three hits and five walks over six innings.

The Miners jumped out 2-0 in the first inning as Payton Anderson knocked Ellen Gray in and then later came around to score on an error. The early advantage sparked the Miner team for the next three innings as only four players got to bat.

Two innings later, the softball team moved ahead 5-0 with the help of Abbie Cline and Payton Anderson. Laura Halpin was able to score on an error while Abbie Cline knocked Molly Gray in on a line drive to center field. Cline later scored on an RBI line drive from Anderson.

Southwestern then changed pitchers, but it did not pose any trouble for the Miners as the bats were still hot against WIlfong. Just the next inning, bottom of the fifth, the Miners loaded the bases as Loni Manalia doubled, Molly Gray walked, and Ellen Gray walked. Abbie Cline brought all three runners to home with a line drive to center.

Payton Anderson then knocked in Abbie to bring the score to 9-0. In the top of the sixth, the Piasa Birds finally were able to add a digit to the away side of the scoreboard as Wooldridge reached home plate on an infield error.

Now with the score 9-1, the Miners had no trouble bringing in the last two runs to get the short game over the Birds. Loni Manalia reached second with her second double of the game while Laura Halpin walked to put the two game-ending runs on base. Molly Gray came through with a slap over the first baseman’s head to bring both runs home.

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The two runs won the game for the Miners as freshman Molly Gray was the unanimously player of the game. Molly Gray and Payton Anderson led the team with 3 hits each while Abbie Cline racked 2 hits in the Regional Championship game. Abbie Cline led the team with 4 RBI’s while Halpin got the win on the rubber.

The Miners advanced to the semi-finals in Sectionals and will play Alton Marquette Wednesday, May 23 in Vandalia with the game scheduled to start at 4:30pm.

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School board deals with personnel issues during special meeting

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Stephanie Bray

Meeting in special session Monday night, members of the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education accepted “with regrets” the resignation for purposes of retirement of Stephanie Bray, one of the district’s three technology integration specialists, effective June 4.

The board called a special session to deal with the apparently unexpected resignation before the board’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting later this month. However, board members tabled action on approving a revised job description for the Student Information System/Data Integration Specialist position, pending further discussion.

The board also tabled action on posting the newly created vacancy and tabled posting a district-level secretary’s position.

In February of 2022, the board accepted “with regrets” Bray’s announcement of her retirement “no later than the end of the 2025-26 school year.” There was no indication of why Bray moved her retirement date up by two years.

On a motion by Weye Schmidt, seconded by Amanda Ross, the board voted unanimously to accept Bray’s resignation. The action followed a 50-minute executive session to discuss personnel issues behind closed doors. The public portion of the meeting lasted less than 10 minutes.

In other action, the board voted to renew the district’s One Room contract to offer a remotely taught Spanish class to fulfill the district’s foreign language requirement for the 2024-25 school year. This will be the second year an off-site teacher will teach foreign language at GHS, using remote communication technology. Supt. Shane Owsley said the district had no applications for the vacant teaching position last year. This year, an applicant from Brazil explored the possibility of teaching in Gillespie but ultimately accepted a tutoring position at Greenville University. Owsley said hiring the applicant could have become cumbersome because she was not yet certificated to teach high school Spanish. He said he recently changed the job description from Spanish to foreign language to expand the pool of potential applicants.

In other personnel action, the board approved the maternity leave request of Amber Allan, BenGil Elementary physical education teacher, effective Aug. 28 through Jan. 20.

In separate actions, the board accepted Nathan Henrichs resignation as Gillespie High School freshman football coach, posted the position as vacant, and appointed Henrichs as a varsity assistant football coach. The board also voted unanimously to appoint Alex Jasper as an assistant freshman football coach. The board unanimously accepted Wayne Ireland’s resignation as a volunteer assistant football coach, and voted unanimously to appoint Jarrod Herron and hire Trenton Cleveland as volunteer assistant football coaches.

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The board voted unanimously to hire Michael Rodriguez as a high school volunteer assistant women’s basketball coach.

On a motion by Schmidt, seconded by Kelli Vesper, the board hired Alexis Ollis as a head cook and kitchen staff member, pending documentation of certification and a background check. The board also Brittany Hughes as a district kitchen staff worker, pending documentation of certification and background check.

On a motion by Vesper, the board voted unanimously to post a vacancy for a one-on-one paraprofessional aide.

Board members voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Jessica Kelly as a middle school assistant track and field coach and voted unanimously to hire Jay Weber as the high school head track and field coach.

The regular monthly meeting of the board is set for 6 p.m., Monday, June 24, at the district’s administrative office.

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Americana festival set for July 4 at Benld Park

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Jess Barker, The Lodge Brothers, and The New Prairie Drifters are set to take the stage at Benld City Park on Thursday, July 4 as part of the Americana Festival.

The music festival intends to celebrate the birthday and spirit of America with thriving local culture of music, food, and art. It is scheduled to begin at 12 noon and end at 6 pm.

Food will be available for purchase from The Barracks American Table, a new Gillespie restaurant, and skincare products will be available from Nature’s Bliss, a Benld gift shop.

The park is located at 305 North Main Street in Benld. Admission is free.

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Macoupin County Fair underway until Sunday

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Rides, tents, food trucks, music, animals, and plenty of other offerings fill the grounds at the Macoupin County Fair for the 172nd year. The fair is held June 4 through June 9 at the Macoupin County Fairground north of Carlinville.

The oldest county fair in Illinois, the Macoupin County Fair welcomes thousands of guests to the area and unites agriculture, family, and community. The fair continues through Sunday with highlights every evening.

The fair also meets the needs of families on a budget, for just $10 per person you get parking and all-access to the carnival rides. The cost-friendly fun draws in visitors and locals who get to embrace the county’s namesakes.

Tracy Lawrence and Walker Montgomery are set to take the stage Thursday evening, June 6, at 7:30pm. Friday evening features the tractor and truck pull, and Saturday evening is the crowd-favorite demolition derby.

The fair opens every morning at 8am and closes at 12 midnight. For a full list of schedule of events or to pre-pay for entry, visit the fair’s website here.

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