The Du Quoin 2020-21 high school sports year might have gotten off to a late start and had to contend with shortened seasons and in some sports no playoffs, but Indians athletes turned in some excellent performances. For their efforts the Elks All-Sports Banquet put an exclamation point on the unforgettable COVID-19 sports year.
A normal high school season usually begins in the heat of August and ends in late May, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic the 2020-21 sports year that normally would have lasted 10 months was condensed into a 4½-month span.
"Except for cross country and golf every other sport was played from the first weekend of February until mid June and I hope we never have to do it again," said Du Quoin Athletic Director Derek Beard, who also coaches football and boys track. "The overlap of seasons was very tough to get through for everybody, I think.
"I'm just thankful we had an administration that supported us, and that we got through with very few injuries," he added. "Our kids did a great job getting through every day and working through many different obstacles. Hopefully this year we'll have a little more normalcy when we get back to business on Aug. 9."
The Elks Boys All-Sports Banquet -- always a highly-anticipated event -- honored four senior boys athletes, and one superfan.
The Senior Athlete of the Year award was won by cross county and track star Jonathan Gomes.
"For the first time since 1984 (and only the third time overall) our cross country team would have qualified for the state meet and Jon was the senior leader of that crew," Beard said. "He's a four-year guy who worked his tail off at his craft and finally his senior year would have qualified for state if they would have had a state meet.
"In track he was a state qualifier as a sophomore on our 4x800 relay team. Of course his junior year there was no track and this year he was state qualifier in the 4x800 again, the 800-meter run and the 4x400 relay.
"The relay teams ran their best times at the last meet of the year and Jon was very instrumental at getting those guys there. He kept improving and did a lot of good things during his high school athletic career. This year he fought through some injuries and kept on working. I think what earned him Athlete of the Year was his work ethic."
Trae Horn won the Whitney Miller Award given to the best blocker on the Indian football team. High school football was postponed from the fall to the 2021 spring, running from March 22 to April 26 with no playoffs.
"Trae was an All-Conference center in 2019 and this season," Beard said. "He's a very dependable kid. He never missed anything. He was at every workout and every practice. He's a great example of what you want a high school football player to be."
Wade Roberson won the Darrell Anders Award, given to a top Indians basketball player. Basketball was also a shortened season -- it began Feb. 5 and ended on March 9 without a postseason tournament.
"That is an honorable award with a lot of meaning and I couldn't think of anyone more deserving," said Du Quoin boys basketball coach Jason James. "He is a very driven young man and works his tail off in everything that he does."
Away from the trail and track of glory, Gomes' twin brother David won the William Theobold Award that is reserved for excellent athletes who also have stellar academic careers.
"David had the highest GPA of all our athletes," Beard said. "David and Jon are both great kids. They have great personalities and I have no doubt they are going to go and do great things in life. They're both going to SIU Carbondale in the fall for school."
The hallmark of Du Quoin athletics is its fan base and this year's "Fan of the Year" is Wayne Halstead.
"Wayne is a long time Du Quoin sports fan you can see at just about every game you come to and every track meet we have at home," Beard said. "He's been a very loyal fan for a long time. He's very deserving of the award."