Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Kurt Pegler receives IHSA Distinguished Media Service Award

Kurt Pegler receives IHSA Distinguished Media Service Award, Metamora Herald

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) is proud to announce its sixth class of recipients of the IHSA Distinguished Media Service Award. The 2018-19 honorees include a pair of veteran TV sports directors on the preps scene in Chris Duerr of Quincy’s KHQA-TV and Kurt Pegler of Peoria’s WMBD-TV. Daily Herald sportswriter Marty Maciaszek, whose career in prep coverage began in 1987, is the third honoree, while one of the longest serving high school media members in the state, Cass County Gazette sports editor Don Chipman rounds out the class.

The IHSA Distinguished Media Service Award was created 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.

“I have had the privilege of working with all four of these individuals during my decade at the IHSA” said IHSA Assistant Executive Director Matt Troha. “They are all incredibly deserving and have contributed to high school sports in Illinois in so many ways, but the one thing that really sets this group apart is their sheer work ethic. I am not sure you will find many people who pour themselves into their jobs like they do, and I can’t even fathom the number of hours they have spent on high school fields and courts during their careers.”

IHSA member schools submitted nominations for the award, with Duerr and Chipman being nominated by Warsaw High School and Beardstown High School, respectively. Maciaszek was nominated by two schools, north suburban Hersey High School and Wheeling High School, while all eight members of the Mid-Illini Conference jointly nominated Pegler.

“Congratulations to each one of these gentlemen on this incredibly deserved honor,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “I have known Kurt and seen his work firsthand for many many years. He is the consummate professional, as are all of his peers being recognized this year.”

The IHSA’s media advisory committee, and a veteran committee of retired media members voted on each nominee. Those who received the required percentage of votes were named honorees with a limit of one winner per IHSA Board Division. Each winner will be honored at a high school event of their choosing during the 2018-19 school year.

“A vital element of this award is the recognition within the community,” said Troha. “We look forward to seeing this year’s winners being recognized in front of the students, coaches, and communities they have impacted with their exceptional work.”

Kurt Pegler’s lifelong love affair with sports journalism began as a student at Hoffman Estates High School, where he also played baseball and hockey for the Hawks. Kurt was the sports editor for the school newspaper, The Hawkeye View, and got a start on his play-by-play career by calling the action into the camera that team managers were using for scout video of the basketball games. His work for the school newspaper even included a chance encounter with Chicago Bear legend Walter Payton, who stopped by to watch a HEHS football game and ended up breaking the game down for Kurt as they watched together. After graduating from Illinois State University, Kurt made the trip down I-74 to Peoria in 1987, where he has covered high school sports ever since for WMBD.

 He has also worked on IHSA TV broadcasts calling play-by-play or as a sideline reporter/host for football, boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball, volleyball, and baseball, while he continues to call play-by-play for Illinois State University basketball and football games on television. “The best part of covering high school sports is telling stories,” said Kurt. “Game nights are fun, but I enjoy telling the stories of athletes and coaches who are pouring their lives into their schools, their teams, and their sports. Some of my most memorable stories aren't with the star players following a game. But rather with the athletes who understand that a great high school experience isn't always about the wins and losses -- it's about how you play the game. And how you use what you're learning in athletics -- leadership, sportsmanship, teamwork -- to impact other parts of your life.”

 With over 30 years of experience, there are countless athletes, coaches, and teams that standout to Kurt. Two athletes he vividly recalls are future Olympian Ogonna Nnamani and Farmington High School's Josh Ruchotzke. Nnamani was the #1 ranked player in the country when she led Normal University to back-to-back IHSA Girls Volleyball State Championships in 1999 and 2000, while Ruchotzke overcame four amputations to become an all-conference infielder for the Farmers. Kurt calls Ruchotzke the “most inspiring athlete I've ever covered.” You can’t talk Peoria sports without talking about the IHSA Boys Basketball State Finals, as Kurt fondly recalls Manual’s four consecutive IHSA Boys Basketball State Championships from 1994-97, as well as the classic 1989 Class AA title game that saw East St. Louis outlast Peoria High School 59-57 in triple overtime. Another Peoria State Final also stands out to Kurt, as he calls the atmosphere at Detweiller Park for the IHSA Cross Country State Finals each November “magic”.

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