special to the Pantagraph
For Illinois State football coach Denver Johnson, it's kind of like putting the band back together.
Last season, Johnson added former college teammate Mike Menefee to the coaching staff and on Thursday, Johnson hired David Ross, who was a fellow graduate assistant with Johnson at Oklahoma State.
Ross will work with the Redbird cornerbacks, while Menefee will oversee the ISU safeties.
"David Ross and I began our coaching careers together and since that time he has had great success," Johnson said. "David has gone on to start and build programs. He is a program builder. He not only started a program at a new high school, he started and built a program at a small college as the athletic director.
"He brings a tremendous amount of knowledge, expertise, administrative skills, leadership ability, maturity and time on the job that will be valuable to our staff. We are incredibly fortunate to add a coach like David Ross to our staff."
Ross is eager about his new opportunity at Illinois State.
"I'm extremely excited about the opportunity to come to Illinois State and join Coach Johnson's staff," Ross said. "It is a tremendous opportunity for me, one that I've wanted and been looking for, for quite some time. Having been a head coach at various levels over the last 18 years, there is probably only one guy that I could go to work for and that's Denver Johnson.
"Illinois State is a special place, and although I have only been here for a short time, the facilities are tremendous; the staff support and the overall campus community have been wonderful. I'm kind of on cloud nine right now."
Baseball trip canceled
The Illinois State baseball team was scheduled to play in the Texas-Arlington Invitational in Arlington, Texas, over the weekend, but the weather had other ideas.
Because of inclement forecasts in Arlington, the tourney's schedule already had been revised on Wednesday, with the bulk of the games scheduled for Friday and none on Sunday.
The team and coaches were on their way to O'Hare Airport in Chicago Thursday when they found out their 8:20 p.m. flight was canceled because of weather delays.
When it was learned that no other flights were available until late Friday night, meaning ISU would play just one game on Saturday, the trip was canceled.
"Unfortunately, we cannot control the airlines or Mother Nature," Redbird coach Jim Brownlee said. "We were all excited to get on the dirt and play this weekend instead of scrimmaging and practicing inside, but things just worked out that way and we will have to wait until next weekend for play our first game."
ISU will take part to play in the Austin Peay Tournament in Clarksville, Tenn., beginning Feb. 24.
Swimmers 2nd after 1st day
The ISU women's swim team is tied for second with SouthernIllinois with 246 points after the first day of the Missouri Valley Conference Championships at Carbondale.
Missouri State leads with 265.
"We are in a position that is competitive," said ISU coachSteve Paska. "Today wasn't too far off of what we had planned for. We are pretty close to where we want to be. We could have probably been a little closer in points to first, but we have nothing to be ashamed of after day one."
TheRedbirds' 200-yard freestyle relay placed second in 1 minute, 34.95 seconds thanks to Kyle Pullman, Valerie Zaleski, Brittany Armstrong and Monique Witkowski. Pullman also took third in the 50 freestyle (24.25).
ISU's 400 medley relay placed third (3:53.87).
In 1-meter diving, the Redbirds' top placers were Emily Hirt (third) and Katie Janonis (fifth).
The meet resumes at 10 a.m. today.
Men's golfers open season
For the third consecutive season, the ISU men's golf team begins the spring with match play against in-state rival Illinois in the Tinervin Cup at Coral Creek Golf Country Club in Placida, Fla., on Saturday.
Last year the ISU lost 8-1 to the Illini, with the lone win coming from junior Ryan Brown in singles match play. This year's format will include singles matches of 18 holes and two-player best-ball of nine holes starting at 7:30 a.m. that will determine the tournament's winner.
"The team is excited to be opening the season in Florida," ISU coach Ray Kralis said. "It's a highlight of our schedule because of the accommodations, the golf course and the opportunity to play. Everyone is looking forward to the event and would like to get some revenge for last year."
Heading to Florida are Matt Miller, who was a two-time Missouri Valley Conference Golfer of the Week last year; Kris Wildenradt, last year's Valley medalist; and Matt Maskel, a member of the Valley's all-conference team a year ago.
Rounding out the lineup are Chris Eddy, Jason Kemp and Ben Murphy.
Women's golf gets started
Eager to compete again after a four-month break, the Illinois State women's golf team will travel to Parrish, Fla., for the invitation-only Central District Invitational hosted by Michigan State at the par-72 River Wilderness Country Club Course.
The course is rated as one of Florida's Top 50 courses by Florida Golfer Magazine.
The tourney will begin with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. on Monday.
"We are jumping right into the heat of our spring season," said ISU coach Ray Kralis. "Even though it will be our first event, we're going to pick up right where we left off in terms of our caliber events."
Pacing the Redbirds in the 14-team field will be seniors Ashlie Rose and Samantha Richdale, juniors Hilary Anderson and Chelsea Bach, and freshman Kaitlin Troop.
Men's tennis needs a win
ISU men's tennis coach Greg Kennett and the Illinois State men's tennis team (2-5) are in search of a win this weekend. The Redbirds will host Chicago State (4-1) at Evergreen Racquet Club at 7 p.m. Saturday and finish the weekend in Kalamazoo, Mich.. at 3 p.m. Sunday against Western Michigan (8-1).