There was a lot to cheer about in 2014-15 if you’re a fan of the Alton Redbirds.
At the top of the list of AHS highlights are Bryan Hudson and LaJarvia Brown. They are definitely in the conversation as the two best Alton athletes ever.
Hudson signed a $1.1 million contract with the Chicago Cubs last week after being drafted in the third round of the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft in June. Brown, who still has her senior season ahead, is currently in Cali, Colombia, competing in the triple jump on the U.S. team for the International Association of Athletics Federations World Youth Championships. Brown won her second Class 3A state title in the triple jump for the Birds this spring.
A 6-foot-8 talented lefty hurler, Hudson owns a plethora of career pitching records for the Redbirds, including wins (25), strikeouts (324), innings pitched (198.0) and lowest ERA (1.32). He also holds single-season marks in strikeouts (152), lowest ERA (0.46) and is tied in single-season wins (10).
Scouts raced in droves to Lloyd Hopkins Field inside Gordon Moore Park this spring to watch Hudson pitch, including Cubs’ President Theo Epstein. It’s a season and career at Alton that will never be forgotten.
As for Brown, her stock is still rising. Winning consecutive state titles in the same event is a benchmark never reached by another female Redbird athlete. She also boasts the school and state record in the triple jump, with a leap of 41 feet, 6.25 inches. At a recent AAU national meet in New Mexico she even went further, stretching it to 41-6.75.
But she’s more than just the triple jump; she finished fifth at state this spring in the 300-meter low hurdles and sixth in the long jump.
The college recruiting process will become more intense during her senior year. We’ll be watching intently to see where she lands.
It was more than just the individual accomplishments of Hudson and Brown that made 2014-15 a year to remember in Alton, though.
On the team front, with the help of Brown, the AHS girls’ track and field program finished eighth at state, the highest finish in school history. On the baseball diamond, the Birds set a new record in wins, going 30-7. The boys’ basketball squad tied a school record in wins, going 27-5. The boys’ hoopsters matched the win totals of ‘04-05, ‘05-06 and ‘06-07.
The wrestling team also tied a school record in wins, going 20-3, matching the total from ‘03-04 and ‘10-11. The AHS mat-men sent a school-record five individuals to state also, with Phyllip and Nicholas DeLoach each nabbing fourth-place finishes. That marked the first time multiple Redbirds won state medals in the same season.
Heading to the bowling lanes, Lucas Pejakovich became the first boys’ kegler for the Birds to secure multiple top 10 finishes in his career. He was seventh as a senior and ninth as a junior.
In the fall, the Alton girls’ golf team secured the first sectional title in school history and only the second state berth for the program. They finished 10th as a team.
College signings were plentiful for the Redbirds, too. All four of the starting seniors from the boys’ basketball team are seeing their athletic careers continue. Carlos Anderson is off to SIUE, Darrius Edwards signed with SWIC, Isaiah Thurmond is going to Carl Sandberg College in Galesburg and Hudson, who could have easily played college basketball, is off to the Arizona Cubs to start his professional baseball career. Hudson had inked a letter of intent to pitch for the Missouri Tigers.
The DeLoach twins will wrestle at Mizzou next year, girls’ tennis player Janelle Wilson will play at Nebraska-Omaha, Matt Hopkins is playing baseball at Air Force, Addison Kauffman will swim at Cleveland State and there are a slew of others who will continue their careers at Division II, III, NAIA and junior college institutions.
Dakota Mermis, a former standout Alton hockey player, recently signed a contract with the Arizona Coyotes of the NHL. Mermis, who paid his dues in junior hockey, is the first AHS grad to sign with a NHL team.
Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State, who took the country by storm when the Buckeyes won the college football national title, is an Alton native. Though Elliott was never a Redbird, he grew up on Brown Street and has plenty of family ties to the Birds, including grandpa Leon Huff, who was a standout basketball player. Elliott, a phenomenal running back, is gaining hype as a pre-season favorite for the Heisman Trophy.
But it all starts at the top with Hudson and Brown. If they stay on the paths they’re on, we could possibly be celebrating a major league starting pitcher and an Olympic track and field athlete in the near future.
It feels good to be a Redbird.