The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) is proud to announce the inaugural recipients of its IHSA Distinguished Media Service Award. The 2013 honorees include sportswriter Tony Baranek of the SouthtownStar in Tinley Park, the iconic voice of high school sports in West Frankfort Bruce Fasol, retired Arlington Heights Daily Herald sportswriter and columnist Bob Frisk and recently retired radio announcer Lanny Slevin of WLPO in LaSalle.
The award was created based on a recommendation from the IHSA Media Advisory Committee and seeks to recognize media members who have covered high school sports and activities in Illinois for a significant period of time, while maintaining perspective on the amateur events they report on.
“These are four legendary figures in their areas of the state,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “I have been privileged to work with or know all four during my career at the IHSA and have seen firsthand how much they mean to the schools and communities they serve. I am not sure there could have been a more exemplary inaugural class for this award.”
IHSA member schools submitted nominations for the award. The IHSA’s media advisory committee, and a veteran’s committee of retired media members that included former IHSA administrator Jim Flynn, then voted on each nominee. Those who received the required percentage of votes were named honorees. Each winner will be honored at a high school event of their choosing during the 2013-14 school year.
“One of the important parts of this award is the recognition within the community,” said IHSA Assistant Executive Director Matt Troha. “We believe it will be very rewarding to have the award presentation occur in front of the students, coaches and communities they have impacted through their exceptional work.”
A brief bio and information on the award presentation date for each honoree is listed below:
Presentation: Halftime of Andrew vs. Lincoln-Way Central football game at Andrew on Friday, September 20
Tony Baranek reflects on his childhood saying he was a “voracious reader of the newspaper…cutting sports stories out of Chicago Today and the Chicago Daily News.” When Tony arrived at Bremen High School, he excelled in his English classes and discovered he had a talent for writing, eventually being hired as a stringer for the Harvey Star-Tribune while still in high school. Tony has patrolled Chicagoland and the south suburbs for the SouthtownStar and Sun Times Media since 1974. He recalls athletes like Oak Forest’s Joy Beauregard, Richards softball coach Julie Folliard, Mother McAuley’s girl’s volleyball coach Nancy Pederson and a number of state title teams (Mt. Carmel basketball in ’85, Lincoln-Way East ’02 & Lockport ’04 softball) as those who will always standout from his career. Tony cites the “honesty and passion” of student-athletes and coaches as the reason he loves covering high school sports.
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Presentation: Halftime of St. Bede vs. Rockridge football game at St. Bede on Saturday, October 5
Lanny Slevin’s love affair with radio began when he was six years old growing up in Peoria listening to Bradley basketball and Notre Dame football on the radio. He played high school football at Spalding Institute (now Notre Dame HS) in Peoria and attended St. Ambrose University before a 42-year career working in radio that he calls a “childhood dream come true.” Much of that time was spent at WLPO in the LaSalle-Peru area, while also working on the IHSA Sports Report and the IHSA TV Network throughout the years. He counts calling his children’s high school games and emceeing the 100th IHSA Boys Track & Field State Finals in Charleston among his career highlights. Lanny retired following the 2012-13 school year, and fittingly, his final radio call came at an IHSA State Final, as he brought fans the action from the St. Bede softball team’s state tourney semifinal game.
Presentation: Halftime of Frankfort vs. Benton boy’s basketball game at Frankfort (tentatively November 30)
With coaching in his family tree, Bruce Fasol was indoctrinated into sports at a young age, as he participated in four sports at West Frankfort High School and also began his work in radio as a junior in high school. Bruce returned to the area after attending Southern Illinois University and has spent nearly 40 years in the radio business. He is a staple in the West Frankfort community, having called over 3,000 Redbird athletic contests with broadcasting partner Rick Westermeier, often from their booth perched atop Frankfort High School’s Max Morris Gymnasium, also known as “The Supreme Court”. The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Famer was named the West Frankfort Citizen of the Year in 2000 and remains active in coordinating community projects throughout Southern Illinois. Bruce’s favorite part of high school sports is seeing athletes grow to become important parts of the community.
Presentation: Halftime of Hersey-Prospect boy’s basketball game at Prospect (tentatively February 1)
Bob Frisk’s junior high yearbook lists his life ambition as becoming a sportswriter. He made the first step toward achieving that dream when he became the sports editor for the high school newspaper and yearbook while at Arlington High School in Arlington Heights (Arlington HS closed in 1984, students now attend either Hersey or Prospect). As a high school student, he was also hired by the local newspaper, the Daily Herald, which started a 56-year career at the paper that was interrupted only to attend the University of Illinois, where he covered high school sports for the Daily Illini and Champaign-Urbana Courier during his four years on campus. Bob’s efforts have produced a litany of awards and honors, including IBCA Hall of Fame induction, as well as Hall of Fame enshrinement from three local high schools. Bob retired in 2008 and surmises his love of high school sports with simplicity by saying “sports at this level are still refreshing. I love watching kids compete.”
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