Outside of the mean streets of Bradford and Buda that require full attention behind the wheel, the drive between Peoria and Sterling allows for quite a bit of thinking.
Saturday afternoon with a belly full of ground beef and onion rings from the Burger Barge, I made this trip sifting through possible leads for stories on Sterling's fourth-place finish at 3A state softball and pondering other deep thoughts about the area sports scene.
When I arrived at the office, I had several phone messages.
One was from Newman wrestling coach Steve Davis, who had an interesting question.
It seems that seniors Maison Bittner and Nick Rude have done something unique for the Sauk Valley.
Bittner and Rude have been on state team championship squads in three different sports in three different seasons.
The Newman duo won in football in 2010, wrestling in 2011 and boys track & field in 2013.
Davis asked in the message if that has ever happened before.
My answer without having to pore over rosters and record books would be no.
I have a handy-dandy list of team champions and that streak of titles by Newman is the only time that a school has won state titles in three different sports during a 4-year stretch in Sauk Valley recorded history.
The fact sort of highlighted what had been running through my head on the way back from EastSide Centre.
The last month of the high school sports season saw nearly unprecedented success at the state level.
It started at the girls state track & field meet where the Erie-Prophetstown Panthers came up four points short of the team championship, placing second.
The next week, Rude, Bittner and friends brought home the state crown for Newman at the boys meet.
Erie-Prophetstown finished third, followed by Oregon in fourth.
On a side note, it was quite the year for Erie and Prophetstown in sports. The co-op went to the playoffs in football for the first time in a decade.
Prophetstown's girls basketball returned to the sectional round for the second year in a row, and Erie's boys basketball team won a regional.
The Panthers' wrestling team finished second at the regional level, and the E-P baseball team tied for the Three Rivers crown with Morrison and lost in a close sectional-title game to Oregon.
Once the track state meets were done, the Sauk Valley spent two weekends in East Peoria for state softball.
First, with the Milledgeville Missiles in their run to a 1A title, and then with the Sterling Golden Warriors.
In all, that's five state trophies in 4 weeks. Not too shabby.
I'm guessing that's never happened around here either. That would take a little more research, but my gut tells me no.
So now, it's all over. A group of seniors will venture out into the world. A new group of freshmen will filter into our radar.
All that's left is the postseason awards. We'll start with baseball all-area here at SVM in Saturday's edition. Softball will show up next weekend.
After that, we'll name our athletes of the year.
In between will be the SVM All-Star Classic on June 20th at Sauk Valley Community College. Don't miss out on the action, and be sure to check out the first glimpse at the rosters in today's section.
State trophies this spring
Girls track & field – Erie-Prophetstown (2nd)
Boys track & field – Newman (1st)
Boys track & field – Erie-Prophetstown (3rd)
Softball – Milledgeville (1st)
Softball – Sterling (4th)