This year’s crop of Athletes of the Year marks a new beginning in the way the Fairbury Journal-News is selecting athletes for the award.
In the past, coaches nominations were the primary factor in deciding who gets selected and athletes had to meet the prerequisite of being an upperclassman. In our new selection system neither will be a variable in deciding AOY moving forward.
An additional change to our selection process is picking only one male and one female from each school. That is a drastic change from having no limit on nominations in the past. The award will now scientifically distinguish who is the best male and female athlete from the past school year for each of the schools in our coverage area (Fairbury, Diller-Odell, Meridian, Thayer Central, Tri County, Wilber-Clatonia).
Our paper’s new point-based system rewards athletes for winning state titles, placing at state, and qualifying for state. Additional points are awarded for all-state selections, participating in three sports, and leading their respective teams in statistical categories or events.
While no system of awarding athletes is perfect, this new system puts everyone on an even playing field in terms of eliminating bias for what grades athletes are in and possible favoritism or dislike coaches have for any particular athlete.
After selecting one male and female athlete from each school, the Fairbury Journal-News selected one Area Athlete of the Year according to the criteria previously stated. The award can be given to either gender and has no grade requirement. Athletes can pick up their certificates at 510 C Street, Fairbury.


Area Athlete of the Year: Thayer Central’s Aubrey Fangmeier
Fangmeier’s ability to capture two state titles and a bronze medal at the state track meet, along with leading the cross country team to a runner-up finish at state in Class D earned the five-time state champion the Fairbury Journal-News’ Area Athlete of the Year.
In the fall, Fangmeier placed 20th at the Class D state cross country meet with a time of 17:58.30 to guide the team to runner-up finish.
At the state track meet, The Husker walk-on commit came back from more than 25 meters behind in the Class C 3,200 relay to capture his first gold of 2018 and the following day he earned his second gold in the 800-meter run. The Hebron native earned his final medal in the 400, placing third as a first-time competitor in the event at state.


Fairbury
Male Winner
Trent Grizzle, Sr.
Football – All-State offensive lineman, qualified for state as team with 9-0 record in regular season, led team in pancakes, sacks
Wrestling – State qualifier at heavyweight, 20-25 record
Track – Placed sixth at state in Class B in shot put, led team in shot put


Fairbury Female Winner
Jessa Eden, Jr.
Volleyball – Led team in aces per game, blocks per game
Basketball – Led team in points per game, blocks per game
Track – Placed fourth at state in Class B in discus, led team in discus


Diller-Odell
Male Winner
William McLaughlin, Jr.
Football – Qualified for state as a team with 6-2 record in regular season, fifth on team in all-purpose yards, fourth in touchdowns, tied for fourth in tackles
Basketball – Tied for team lead in rebounds per game
Track – Placed third at state in Class D in 300 hurdles, qualified for state in four events (100, 300 hurdles, 400 relay, 1,600 relay), led team in 100, 400, 300 hurdles


Diller-Odell
Female Winner
Emily Swanson, So.
Volleyball – Third on team in kills and fourth in blocks
Basketball – Led team in steals per game
Track – Placed seventh at state in Class D in 300 hurdles, placed fifth at state as last leg in 400 relay, qualified for state in four events (high jump, pole vault, 300 hurdles, 400 relay), led team in high jump, pole vault, 300 hurdles


Meridian
Male Winner
Micah Noel, Jr.
Football – Qualified for state as a team with 5-3 record in regular season, second on team in tackles for loss, tied for second in sacks, fourth on team in tackles
Wrestling – Qualified for state at 182 pounds in Class D, led team in wins with 35-11 record
Track – Led team in 400, second on team in shot put and discus


Meridian Female Winner
Erin Johnson, Sr. 
Volleyball – All-State setter, runner-up at state in Class D-1 as a team, led team in assists
Basketball – All-State guard on team with 20-6 record, led team in points per game, steals per game, assists per game
Track – Second on team in 100 hurdles, part of 1,600 relay team


Thayer Central 
Male Winner
Aubrey Fangmeier, Sr.
Cross Country – Runner-up as a team at state in Class D, led team at state by finishing in 20th place
Basketball – Third on team in steals
Track – State champion in Class C as the last leg on 3,200 relay team and 800-meter run, placed third at state in 400, led team in 400, 800, 1,600


Female Winner
Chloe Souerdyke, Fr.
Volleyball – Third on team in kills and blocks
Basketball – Tied for fifth on the team in points per game
Track – Tied for fourth at state in Class C in high jump, set school-record in high jump during season (5-4), qualified for state in 3,200 relay, 1,600 relay, high jump, led team in high jump and 400


Tri County
Male Winner
Creighton Niemeyer, Jr.
Football – Third on team in rushing yards, fourth in total yards, tied for fifth in tackles
Basketball – Led team with 18-7 record in blocks per game and rebounds per game
Track – State champion in Class D in 1,600, placed second at state as first leg of 3,200 relay, placed third at state in 800, qualfied for state in three events (1,600, 3,200 relay, 800), led team in 3,200, 1,600, 800


Female Winner
Andie Koch, Fr.
Cross Country – Placed 11th at state in Class D, top runner on team
Track – Placed fourth at state in Class D in 1,600, placed fourth at state as last leg of 3,200 relay, qualified for state in 1,600, 3,200 relay, 3,200, led team in 1,600, 3,200


Wilber-Clatonia
Male Winner
Riley Wehrer, Sr.
Cross Country – Qualified for state in Class D as an individual (28th place), top runner on team
Wrestling – Qualified for state at 126 pounds in Class C,
Track – Placed fifth at state in Class C in pole vault, qualified for state as second leg of 3,200 relay, led team in pole vault, 1,600, 3,200


Female Winner
Katie VanLaningham, Sr.
Softball – Fifth on team in RBIs, tied for second in triples
Basketball – Led team in blocks per game
Track – Qualified for state in Class C in discus and shot put, led team in discus and shot put