The daily pitch from Sports Editor Matt Daniels: May 7, 2024

May 7—➜ . Russell has won The News-Gazette's High School Female Athlete of the Year honor for the 2023-24 school year.

➜ . The future Eastern Illinois distance runner was a valuable contributor in cross-country, volleyball and basketball and is still thriving in track and field and softball this spring at Salt Fork.

➜ . Stay tuned to find out who the honoree is.

22 feet, 61/4 inches

How far Illinois freshman long jumper jumped on Saturday during the Illini Tune-Up at Demirjian Park in Champaign, setting Big Ten, Illinois and Demirjian Park records while equaling the U20 American record set last year by Alyssa Jones of Stanford at the NCAA Championships. Beckmon won the United States Track & Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association National Athlete of the Week, the USTFCCCA announced on Monday.

➜ . The Illini will need an unlikely run at the Big Ten tournament to pull off a surprise NCAA tournament bid. Starting Wednesday when the 12th-seeded Illini (21-30) take on the fifth-seeded Gophers (27-24) at 1:30 p.m. in a first-round game on Iowa City, Iowa.

➜ . Two of the top teams in The News-Gazette's weekly rankings are scheduled to meet at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Randy Wolken Field in St. Joseph.

➜ . Centennial, Champaign Central and Danville will make the long trek south on Thursday to go up against big schools from south of Interstate 80 and vie for a spot in the IHSA state meet.

Three questions with Tri-County football coach and track and field coach TJ Blake, who coaches both sports for the co-op program that includes athletes from Kansas, Oakland and Shiloh:

➜ the Dallas Cowboys.

➜ Bill Belichick, Nick Saban and Andy Reid.

➜ in the coaching realm is poor effort or attitude. If someone is committed to something, effort and attitude are two biggest things that they can control. Poor effort and attitude are the biggest weaknesses or poisons an individual can provide to a team. My biggest pet peeve in general is wet socks. Once my socks get wet, I instantly get in a sour mood or feel it's more beneficial to just be barefoot. It just ruins my day if I'm in a situation where I can't change my socks and shoes.