Coach of the Year Award

Nominations for Coach of the Year are open year-round at this form. A final list of nominees for each year is compiled in January.

The Coach of the Year award program was established in 2018 to recognize the ongoing success of Illinois coaches. The award has its roots in a gift from the estate of David Riley, a coach whose own efforts to grow his team and to advise and steward coaches across the state and country were limitless. The IHSSBCA has elected to honor three coaches with our annual Coach of the Year awards, and to name these awards for three coaches who best exemplify these qualities. The Coaches of the Year are honored each year at the IHSSBCA Awards Banquet. Download the Coach of the Year policies page for award guidelines.

Karen Niemeier Award (Class A): One coach from a Class A school will be honored with the Karen Niemeier Coach of the Year Award. In her nearly three decades of coaching at Winnebago, Coach Niemeier built a premier program, hosting several tournaments annually and setting the standard for quizbowl in Northern Illinois.

Tom Durbin Award (Class AA): One coach from a Class AA school will be honored with the Tom Durbin Coach of the Year Award. Tom was the founder of Scholastic Bowl at Decatur MacArthur during the 1980s and the program became one of the most successful teams and helpful programs in Central Illinois in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Beth Young Award (At-Large): One coach from any school will be honored with the Beth Young Coach of the Year Award. Coach Young’s tenure at Quincy High School included over two decades of stellar performances and tireless mentoring of new coaches across the state.

These three Hall of Fame coaches combined for 28 appearances, 14 trophies, and 5 state championships at IHSA State, but their legacies go far beyond their records. So much of what we enjoy in Illinois Scholastic Bowl today is, either directly or indirectly, the work of these three coaches. They built alumni lists, moderator networks, and coaching trees that continue to grow and sustain the game today.

The IHSSBCA Coach of the Year awards honor their legacies by recognizing excellence in coaching in all its many forms. In-game success is important, but building a program, taking teams to many tournaments, hosting tournaments, being involved in both the broad quizbowl community and their local community, and upholding the high standards of sportsmanship and camaraderie that make Scholastic Bowl special are the things that make a coach truly excellent, and these are the primary qualities that the award committee considers in selecting the Coaches of the Year.

While the award is given annually, the award committee considers work done in previous years, especially as it relates to the long-term efforts of building a program and working in the community.

Coaches who win a Coach of the Year award are ineligible to win an award again for a period of at least five years.

2024 Coaches of the Year

Kristin Strey, Winnebago High School
Karen Niemeier Class A Award Winner

Jenny Norman, East Peoria High School
Tom Durbin Class AA Award Winner

Trevor Stanley, Johnston City High School
Beth Young At-Large Award Winner

2023 Coaches of the Year

Shanna Covarubbias, Metro-East Lutheran High School (Edwardsville)
Karen Niemeier Class A Award Winner

Shanna was recognized not only for the meteoric success she has brought to her team, but for the friendliness and inclusiveness that she fosters in her players. Former IHSSBCA Chair Matt Hasquin praised her coaching style, saying that competing against her team is a challenge but isn’t rivalrous, since all of the players know they can be friendly with each other and with their opponents. In her acceptance speech, she thanked the coaches of nearby teams who have created a community that is “focused on [all aspects of] growth” in their players.

Nevagay Abel, Auburn High School (Rockford)
Tom Durbin Class AA Award Winner

Nevagay began coaching when her son, Justin, was a member of the team, but said that seeing her players learn and grow made it an easy decision to stay on as coach after his graduation. Although her hard work has kept alive one of Illinois’ great scholastic bowl programs, she directed credit to her players. “The real work is done by [the students],” she said, adding “you have a year, a tournament, or even a match where all that hard work pays off, and it makes it all worthwhile.”

Mark Taylor, Walter Payton College Prep High School (Chicago)
Beth Young At-Large Award Winner

“Mark represents what we have hoped to see in Illinois: a dedicated former player who comes back and shares his expertise and love for the activity with a new generation of students,” said Mike Laudermith in his introductory remarks. Mark is a 2010 graduate of Saint Charles East and advised current students to reflect on what Scholastic Bowl has brought them and to consider giving back to the activity and community by moderating and coaching. As a first-year coach for a young team, Mark expressed gratitude for the network of support from veteran Illinois coaches, and for the efforts of his players in founding the team two years ago, saying, “if it weren’t for them and their ambition to play, Walter Payton Scholastic Bowl wouldn’t exist, and I wouldn’t have found Payton.”

2022 Coaches of the Year

Jorge Sanchez, Elgin Academy
Karen Niemeier Class A Award Winner

Jorge was nominated by Elgin Academy administrator Bonita Goist, who cited the growth that Elgin Academy’s team has experienced since Jorge founded it in 2017. Bonita described 2022 as a year that is “the fruit of [Jorge’s] efforts to build a team that has a culture of mutual support, teamwork, and a winning attitude.” Jorge himself humbly eschewed Bonita’s glowing opinion of him and insisted that he merely drives the bus, a sentiment that all too many excellent coaches have expressed. “If the students didn’t study in and out of class, and if the parents didn’t support us,” he said, “I wouldn’t even get to drive the bus.”

Jaime Pamatot, Granite City High School
Tom Durbin Class AA Award Winner

Outgoing IHSSBCA Chair Matt Hasquin introduced Jaime by celebrating the high level of activity in both hosting and tournament attendance that she has fostered at Granite City. Jaime thanked the stalwarts of the central and southern Illinois circuits, including Sharon Lorinskas, Matt Hasquin, and Marshall Mullins, as well as fellow Granite City teacher and former coach Brian Delp. She also thanked her supportive family and her students, saying that “the players really are the ones who do scholar bowl […] It’s their self-motivation that gets the team where it is.”

Jeffrey Price, Barrington High School and Barrington Station Middle School
Beth Young At-Large Award Winner

In 2021, Jeff coached Barrington High School to a championship at NAQT’s High School National Championship Tournament (HSNCT), marking the first time in the modern era that a non-all-star team from Illinois has won a national tournament. The victory also brought Jeff the unique distinction of being the only Illinois coach with both a high school and a middle school national title, having claimed the championship at NAQT’s MSNCT in 2013 with Barrington Station. Jeff reflected on discovering scholastic bowl through the IESA website while teaching in Cahokia Wirth Middle School, and on coaching in his first quadrangular against Beth Young, the namesake of his award. He described scholastic bowl as “perhaps the most worthwhile activity” available to students, and stressed the importance of “demonstrating to the students by your actions that scholastic bowl is worth their efforts.”

2021 Coaches of the Year

In recognition of the uneven opportunities afforded to coaches and teams due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Coaches of the Year were not awarded in 2021.

2020 Coaches of the Year

Kristin Burns, Keith Country Day School
Karen Niemeier Class A Award Winner

Kristin Burns received the Karen Niemeier Award in 2020 for taking over and reviving a high school program that had lost its previous coaches. Kristin has been the middle school coach at Keith Country Day for years, but when Keith’s high school team was unable to replace its high school coach, she couldn’t bear the thought that the middle schoolers she was coaching couldn’t play in high school, and she took on the high school team as well. Kristin was nominated by retired fellow teacher and former Keith coach Brad Fischer, who said, “Even before [Kristin] was the high school coach, she was the heart and soul of Keith’s program.”

D. Matthew Jordan, Lincoln-Way East High School
Tom Durbin Class AA Award Winner

Matthew received the award for hosting tournaments and for cultivating a large and active team at LWE. After appearing in no publicly available tournament statistics between 2007 and 2016, Lincoln-Way East has flourished under Matthew’s guidance, regularly fielding five or six teams at a tournament for the last several years. He has joined longtime successful coach Mike Sacks (Homewood-Flossmoor) and 2018 Tom Durbin Award winner Mike Wooley as the driving forces behind the Southwest Suburban Conference, which Lincoln-Way East won in 2020.

Josh Bartels, Lincoln High School
Beth Young At-Large Award Winner

The 2020 Beth Young Award winner was Coach Josh Bartels of Lincoln Community High School. Josh was nominated for the award by New Berlin coach Erin Limestall, who lauded his willingness to promote the midstate circuits by hosting events and traveling long distances to get his team to tournaments. Since taking over as head coach in 2016-17, Josh has hosted IHSSBCA Novice, Kickoff, and Turnabout tournaments; Masonic Sectionals; and (coming in September 2022) the SchoBowlFest coaching conference at Lincoln. Erin described Josh as “a calm presence at events,” a sentiment that is certainly shared by everyone who has had the pleasure of meeting or coaching against him.

2019 Coaches of the Year

Brant Trimpe, Williamsville
Karen Niemeier Class A Award Winner

Brant Trimpe has made Williamsville into a dominant force in the Class A circuit in his five years as coach. After a second place finish in 2017, Williamsville won its first IHSA state championship in 2018 with a starting five of all seniors. Even so, instead of having a traditional rebuilding year in 2019, Williamsville placed fourth in Class 2A at Masonics and made it back to the IHSA state championship match. Coach Trimpe’s motivation and positivity infects his students; his players love the game, and his alumni continue to mentor their former teammates. They’ve created the successful environment we all hope to achieve at our own schools.

Mike Sorice, Centennial (Champaign)
Tom Durbin Class AA Award Winner

Mike Sorice’s program at Centennial annually produces one of the most active and strong teams in the state, and this year’s team was no exception, winning the IHSSBCA Kickoff at Mattoon and the team’s third IHSA Regional in four years. Coach Sorice’s mentorship extends well beyond his own team. He helps organize numerous tournaments, including NAQT State, provides advice and feedback for coaches and players across the state, and never declines to moderate at tournaments Centennial attends. Most impressive, though, is Coach Sorice’s work over the last three years coaching Team Illinois; his analytical approach to team selection and his positive motivating approach to in-game coaching helped Illinois become three-time defending national champions during his years coaching the team.

Erin Limestall, New Berlin
Beth Young At-Large Award Winner

Erin Limestall’s New Berlin team enjoyed a resurgent year in 2018-19, reaching the top ten of the IHSSBCA Members Poll for the first time since 2012. Led by First Team All-State captain Jess Markley, they earned their second straight IHSA Regional title, took home three individual trophies at the South Central Solo tournament, won the school’s first State Championship at the Masonic Academic Bowl in March, and competed at NAQT Nationals in May. Coach Limestall’s work growing Scholastic Bowl in central Illinois has been outstanding; she’s hosted numerous competitions at her school and worked on the IHSSBCA Steering Committee to help plan our new Midseason Coaches’ Conference. Her enthusiasm is a boon to every coach she knows and every player she works with.

2018 Coaches of the Year

Matt Hasquin, Southwestern High School (Piasa)
Karen Niemeier Class A Award Winner

Matt Hasquin’s teams at Southwestern have proven that Class A teams can build the depth that the top Class AA teams have, and that it’s not always about finding the talented “wonderkid;” it’s about building team balance and sharing the work it takes to become a top-tier team. Under Matt Hasquin’s leadership, Southwestern has become a perennial challenger at state tournaments and at NAQT’s Small School National Championship Tournament. Outside of his work for his own team, Haquin hosts frequent tournaments, is active in the IHSSBCA, freely advises other coaches, and works to build his local circuit.

Mike Woolley, Carl Sandburg High School (Orland Park)
Tom Durbin Class AA Award Winner

Mike Woolley became the head coach of Carl Sandburg High School in 2013-14, and immediately developed a drive to discover how his team could be better. In pursuit of this goal, he established an executive board of players who have helped create a mentorship program that extends to Sandburg’s grade school feeders, and who participate in the team’s decisions about attending more tournaments and working together to improve as players.

Mike Laudermith, Fenton High School
Beth Young At-Large Award Winner

Mike Laudermith built the Fenton program from scratch into one of the most respected teams in the state. Fenton has made the top half of the PACE NSC field and the playoffs at HSNCT, and has produced multiple IHSSBCA All-State players. One of the hallmarks of a good coach is having players who, regardless of in-game skill, understand what’s going on at a tournament, what they want to accomplish at that tournament, and what they need to do to make that happen. Mike’s teams are always well prepared in this regard. He has been a frequent mentor to other coaches, both personally and as a presenter at SchoBowlFest, national seminars, and podcasts for players and coaches.