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Ken Wilcoxen has officiated countless baseball, football and basketball games during his 39-year career as a sports official — which dates back to calling summer league baseball and softball games in his native Walnut at age 16.
All that experience has paid off for Wilcoxen, who now lives in Princeton, as he was recently named the 2013 Illinois High School Association Official of the Year for Boys Basketball at an awards ceremony in Peoria.
“It’s very nice after putting your years of service to get nominated and then picked for the entire state,” Wilcoxen said.
Wilcoxen, who has officiated three state finals for girls basketball and two for boys basketball, won the award this year for his work on the hardwood.
But, the teacher and track and field coach at Bureau Valley North, said his favorite sport to officiate “is whatever is in season.”
“In the fall I love football, and in the winter-time it’s basketball. In spring I coach track, and summer I do all my umpiring in baseball and softball. So basically it’s whatever is in season that’s my favorite sport to do at the time,” said Wilcoxen, who coached BV North to a state track and field team title in 2010. “Right now, we just got done with baseball and softball, so I’m kind of looking forward to football coming around the corner.”
Being a sports official is a family tradition for Wilcoxen. His father Larry just hung up his whistle this spring at age 77 after a decorated career, and Ken now works summer baseball and softball games with his son Kris — who just officiated his first IHSA Super-Sectional softball game this spring in the Putnam County vs. Milledgeville matchup in DeKalb.
“When I was growing up I used to go with (my dad) all the time and watch the games. My son did the same thing with me. We both kind of stepped into it and decided to officiate also,” Wilcoxen said.
Wilcoxen credits his fellow officials with helping him improve his calls over the years.
“I think the biggest thing is the partners I’ve worked games with. That’s made a big difference. I’ve had a lot of good partners and the camaraderie there — going out three, four nights a week working basketball and the football crews we have together,” Wilcoxen said. “Now I work all my baseball and softball with my son here over the summer.
“It’s a lot of fun, a lot of enjoyment working together and a lot of teamwork. That’s what it’s all about. We’ve got to stick together because usually there’s somebody not happy in the stands or something. So officials are always sticking together.”
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.
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