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Athletes of the Week: Hortin wins state title, Helm nearly hits for cycle

Jun. 3—The votes are in for the final time during the 2023-24 school year. Powered by Copper Creek Contractors, Josiah Hortin of the Tuscola boys' track and field team and Kaitlyn Helm of the Champaign Central softball team are this week's winners. Here they are, in their own words, with their biggest supporters — their teammates:

Josiah Hortin — Tuscola track and field

➜ Why he's Athlete of the Week: Hortin won a Class 1A state title in the 800-meter run on May 25 with a time of 1 minute, 51.98 seconds, just three-quarters of a second off the 1A state meet record. The future Louisville runner also placed third in the 1,600 (4:20.19) to help lead the the Warriors to a second-place team finish at the state meet.

➜ From Hortin: "I'm honored to get this award. I've got a lot of support from people behind me who voted for me, so I'm happy about that. ... I've been working so hard these past couple years. In seventh grade, I placed fourth in the 800, and I got back on the podium my junior year, but I had still never won a state title individually. As one of the better runners in the state, I was like, 'I have to win a state title.' It was really exhilarating to finally accomplish it."

➜ My favorite TV show is ... "Blue Mountain State."

➜ My favorite musical artist is ... Ken Carson.

➜ If I could have any superpower, it would be ... super speed. I'd probably use it in certain races. I couldn't get caught, so I'd have to tame it. And in general, I could basically travel anywhere and do whatever I want. It's the most overpowered superpower.

➜ Something that's on my bucket list is ... I'll probably do this in college once or twice, but racing at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. I also want to attend the Olympics.

➜ My biggest pet peeve is ... chalk scratching on a board.

➜ My favorite running memory is ... winning the 800 at state in 1:51. That was like a two-second PR for me, so that was big, and finally winning a state title has got to be the thing I'm most proud of in high school. The team cross-country title was big, and I loved the team aspect, but the individual title is all you. Both are good in their own way.

➜ My favorite athlete is ... LeBron James, and my favorite sports team is the Los Angeles Lakers.

➜ Before a race ... I always drink a Celsius energy drink an hour out from the race. About 45 minutes from it, I do my warmup. If I'm running in the morning, I'll have peanut butter toast with a banana. If it's an evening race, I'll eat Jimmy John's.

➜ After a meet ... I go watch my other teammates and support them. If somebody's trying to break five minutes in the mile, I'll run around the football field and yell out the times. I'll also just mess around with some of the guys and hang out after the meet.

➜ In five years ... I want to be successful enough to place in conference — I know the ACC is really tough — and hopefully by my junior or senior year, I can contribute to the team on that type of level. Hopefully, I'll be a staple name in collegiate sports where I'm kind of known. I'm going to major in sports administration and minor in business. I'm kind of thinking, if my running career goes how I want, of going into the college coaching realm.

➜ Athlete of the Week finalists: Demarion Forman, Monticello track and field; Graydon Leonard, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley baseball; Dominic Martin, Ridgeview/Lexington track and field.

Kaitlyn Helm — Champaign Central softball

➜ Why she's Athlete of the Week: Helm led the Maroons back to a Class 3A regional championship game with three hits, including a home run to lead off the game, a double, two RBI and three runs scored in a 12-2 regional semifinal win against Mahomet-Seymour on May 22.

➜ From Helm: "My cousins were posting about it and having their friends vote, my mom was having all her co-workers vote and my grandma was sending it to everybody. It just makes me feel good that a lot of people wanted to vote for me and cared enough to vote for me. ... We talked at the beginning of the season about what success meant to us. A lot of us said it was winning, but toward the end, it was more about how productive we were. This was our first winning season in I don't know how long, and it felt good that we could finish second in conference. Even though we would have liked to have a regional title, that was the hardest any of us have ever played."

➜ My favorite movie is ... "10 Things I Hate About You," and my favorite TV series is "Bridgerton."

➜ My favorite musical artist is ... Morgan Wallen.

➜ If I could have any superpower, it would be ... flight so I could get places quicker. My parents wouldn't have to worry about how much gas is going to cost for travel games.

➜ Something that's on my bucket list is ... I want to go watch the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park. Another goal is to hit all 50 states. I've visited a lot with travel softball, but I want to visit them all.

➜ My biggest pet peeve is ... people chewing with their mouth open.

➜ My favorite softball memory is ... We had just gotten second place at 8U state, and my parents had arranged for a limo to come pick up me and my teammates. It drove us all the way from Chatham to B-Dubs in Champaign. I remember listening to Bruno Mars and all the popular 2010 songs on the ride.

➜ My favorite sports team is ... the Atlanta Braves, and my favorite athlete is Austin Riley. He was who I looked up to when I first started high school. My coach was like, "We need someone with an arm at third base, and you're the only one who can get it there right now," so I just watched how Austin Riley played third base. He just became my idol after that.

➜ Before a game ... I like to watch everybody get through their hitting reps first to see how everybody's feeling. You can generally tell, if someone's hitting the ball a little weaker, that they're not feeling it, and if they're hitting it a little harder, they're locked in. It helps me prepare, knowing if I need to work a little harder to make sure I can help if some teammates are down.

➜ After a game ... I go say "Hi" to my parents, talk to my teammates, get on the bus and either fall asleep or do homework.

➜ In five years ... I'm hoping to play at least two years of college ball. I know I want to be graduated and getting ready to start my first job at Carrie Busey Elementary School because I want to be a kindergarten through fifth-grade elementary school teacher. I've been shadowing my first-grade teacher, and she's been showing me the ropes and letting me learn what it is to be a good teacher.

➜ Athlete of the Week finalists: Payton Beith, Danville softball; Alex Brown, Villa Grove softball; Aubrey Wagner, Iroquois West athletics.