NeveHarms As a member of the first four-year class at Limestone High, Larry Stranz was eager to help get a positive athletic tradition started for the Bartonville school. All he lacked was talent.
"It took me very little time to find out I was just terrible in everything," said Stranz.
So Stranz chose to contribute in many other ways. That is why he was chosen to be the 40th recipient of the Neve Harms Meritorious Service to Sports Award.
Stranz figures he set the Greater Peoria record for "playing the last few seconds in (Rockets) games.. .and as a result I've always had a soft spot in my heart for athletes who sit on the bench."
As generations of Limestone athletes - stars and deep reserves alike - should have a soft spot in their competitive hearts for Stranz.
"I'd rather not think about what our athletic programs would be like without Larry around," said Larry Hodge, athletic director at the Mid-Illini Conference School. "He's been involved in about every sport you can imagine. You can always count on him. He's always there when we need him."
Stranz has always been there as a scorer, clockkeeper, statistician, volunteer coach, organizer, fundraiser, promoter and in many other sports-related capacities throughout the Limestone school system.
He's also humble - and admits to an ongoing struggle in the search for at least one sport in which he has a chance to become proficient.
"I can't golf, can't bowl, darts... I really can't do anything well," said Stranz, 60, an electrician by trade who is facility manager at the Peoria County Courthouse. His behind-the-scenes contributions have also benefited Illinois Central College.
"I'm proud of this award and very grateful," said Stranz, "but please mention there are people who have done the same things at every school, hundreds of them."
Consider it mentioned.
Through the years, the Stranz family - wife Pat, children Chris and Deana - has shared in Dad's tireless athletic activities. That makes it an even better story. Even if he has trouble throwing a Frisbee.
As a member of the first four-year class at Limestone High, Larry Stranz was eager to help get a positive athletic tradition started for the Bartonville school. All he lacked was talent.
To be inducted into the GPSHOF while continuing your career in coaching, requires some serious “credentials.” John Gross’s career in coaching high school girls basketball certainly meets that criteria. At the time of his election into the Hall, he had coached nearly 1,000 games, and his teams had won more than 75% of those contests. Close to 70% of those victories came during John’s 26 seasons at Limestone Community High School (Bartonville). From 1976-2001 the Lady Rockets compiled a record of 544-168. John’s 1991-92 team (32-1) lost only to Chicago Marshall in the championship game of the IHSA Class AA (large schools) State tournament at ISU’s Redbird Arena. After a semifinal win over LaGrange (Lyons) earlier in the day, the fatigued Rockets, trailing most of the game, “dug deep” in the 4th quarter to tie the game with under 10 seconds to play, only to lose on a last second basket by Marshall. Beginning with 2004-2005 campaign, John coached for 5 seasons at Richwoods (Peoria) where his teams compiled a 147-26 record. The Lady Knights won State Championships in 2005 (Class AA vs. Bartlett) with a perfect 38-0 record, and in 2009 (Class 3A vs. Freeport) with a record of 34-3. (A four-class system was introduced by the IHSA for the 2007-08 season.) John came out of “retirement” in 2015. In his second season at Princeville, the Lady Princes won their first Regional Championship since 1988. At the time of his election into the GPSHOF, he was guiding Princeville through another winning season. Not surprisingly John has received several honors both at the State and National levels. Gross was twice named national coach of the year and has been inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.