Rockford Public Schools will celebrate the seventh annual Champions Ball and Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center. The event is a fundraiser for the Rockford Sports Coalition and a way to recognize Rockford's history and athletic accomplishments.
The 2019 Hall of Fame inductees:
Skip Thoren – Athlete Award – Duane "Skip" Thoren played basketball for Rockford East High School and led East to the Elite 8 in 1961. The same year, Thoren was named to the All-State team. The 6-foot-10 center played for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and graduated as the Illini's third all-time leading scorer and leading rebounder. He was named MVP in 1964 and 65. Thoren was a fourth-round NBA draft pick in 1965 and continued playing from 1967-1970 with the American Basketball Association, which includes making one ABA All-Star game. He was elected to the Illini Men's Basketball All-Century Team in 2004.
Bobby Anderson – Athlete Award – Auburn High School's Bobby Anderson led the boys basketball team to a sectional victory in 1979. The point guard scored 24 points for Auburn; double his season average of 12 points per game. Auburn went on to win the game 71-69 before ultimately falling in the supersectionals. In football, Anderson set a school record for passing before graduating and playing defensive back at Northwestern University for four years. He also played basketball with the Wildcats for two years.
Jean Cione – Athlete Award – East High School graduate Jean Cione is the RPS 205 alumna who found the most success playing for the Rockford Peaches. Cione was a pitcher in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1945 to 1954 and won 75 games. After the league folded in 1954, Cione taught sports medicine and physical education at the university level for 29 years, earning hall of fame recognition across the country. The Rockford Peaches inaugural season began 75 years ago. The community celebrated that anniversary earlier this year with the International Women's Baseball Center in partnership with the Friends of Beyer Stadium. She died in 2010.
Scott Kitzman, Steve Kitzman – Athlete Award – Jefferson High School brothers Scott Kitzman and Steve Kitzman dominated local swimming from 1985 to1990, winning a combined 14 state medals and breaking numerous NIC-10 titles. Scott earned seven of those state medals from 1985-1988, finishing as high as second place in the 200-meter individual medley in 1987. Steve, who qualified for state from 1987 to 1990, won nine state medals, including a pair of state titles in 1989 in the 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly.
1964 West High School football team – Team Award – West High School's 1964 football team is among five undefeated football teams in RPS 205 history. IHSA playoffs for high school football didn't begin until 1974; this team finished the season with a perfect 9-0 record as conference champions after a 49-6 win over defending conference champions Freeport. This year's induction includes team head coach Bodie Westen and assistant coach Tom Schwalbach.
Andie Goff – Service Award – Longtime East High School softball coach Andie Goff retired from teaching in 2011 after 37 years, and from coaching in 2014. The Rockford native also coached girls basketball at Jefferson and Guilford high schools. In 2014, she told the Register Star, "I never had any children. I think God's plan for me was to be a mother to the children of 205."
An advocate for women's sports – especially at East, Goff was the driving force behind a new softball field built at East in 2008. She coached the Guilford girls basketball team to a regional title in 1995 and drew attention to girls sports by scheduling girls basketball games before the start of the boys games. While coaching at Jefferson, she scheduled a Hononegah and J-Hawk conference game before the start of a Rockford Lightning game at the former MetroCentre; now the BMO Harris Bank Center. She told the Register Star, "It was about getting notice for all girls. They put in just as much practice time as the boys, and this was creating an opportunity for people to get the chance to see girls play."
The Rockford Sports Coalition's mission is to preserve, support and promote interscholastic athletic programs and facilities in RPS 205. Tickets for the annual fundraiser are $50 and available at rockfordsportscoalition.org.