I'll have to admit, it was a tough chore finding the perfect opening lyrics to this year's Best of IHSAA Awards column. What could get you, the reader, ready for a 7,000 word year-of recap? What would get me, the writer, motivated and ready to tap out character after character into my favorite column of the year? Most importantly, what could get me in the mindset to avoid pointing out that to be a future State champion in both Class 5A and 6A football, you only have to be better than 31 other teams in Indiana?
So after YouTubing (that's actually a word these days) multiple songs and scouring through the most motivating lyrics of our time, I came across the perfect lines to get our engines rolling. And then like 2011 Columbus East Regional champion and soon to be Notre Dame Freshman Gunner Kiel, I changed my mind. Over, and over, and over again, until I came across this gem.
"I ain't gotta brag, I let the trophys do it. Around here we the best, so come and hold me too it. I specialize in everything that can't be done, ain't no more talking about it. Momement of silence for the champions."
- Ron Artest, 2010 NBA Champion and lyrical genius.
Here we are three years into my tenure at WXIN/Fox59 Sports/IndySportsNation, and at this point I can officially say I could not have been any luckier to start out my broadcasting career in the heart of the Hoosierland here in Central Indiana. Often when I tell people that the majority of my coverage is prep sports in this area, they respond with "Well I'm sure you'll work your way up one day", as if being under the Friday night lights is a bad thing. Honestly, I have to chuckle back and hold in my inner-thoughts. Do you know the chills that run up your spine when you see an athlete break a 37-year old record held by national running icon Rudy Chapa? Or how great it feels to be young again when you're amassed in a student section going crazy when their school upsets the number-three ranked team in the nation for a State title? Or if you happen to watch "Football Friday Night", I guess I could respond asking if they've ever been carried by students wearing a pig suit?
Okay, maybe that doesn't quite help my cause.
But across every sport, from the basketball courts to the wrestling mats to the green soccer fields, the high school athletes of Central Indiana bust their rear-ends year in and year out, putting together some of the more exciting athletic performances that you will find anywhere. Thankfully I can say that in 2011-2012 it was no different, and for the most part, I was there for the majority of some of the most memorable IHSAA performances in the history of the organization.
It has been fun, exciting, exhilirating, and it maybe hard to believe, but most of the moments came from kids just as old or younger than this Reggie Miller commercial. _________________________________________
For us here at WXIN Fox59 Sports, the high school season began the very first Monday that football practices were allowed across the state on August 1st. If you might happen to recall, the sun was hot enough to cook a five-egg omelette on the ground, and news sources across the state were covering the "It's way too hot to have your kid playing sports" stories left and right. Apparently, those stories aren't exactly the favorite type of news angle that any high school coach enjoys. At any school.
I found this out the hard way after asking Hamilton Southeastern Head Coach Scott May a question about the conditions outside, and his response his paraphrased, but the frustration in his remarks can still be understood word for word.
"Do you not understand how badly these kids want to work," asked a disgruntled May. "We have a weight room with a broken air-conditioner and I had over 100 kids in there all summer long lifting weights for non-mandatory sessions. We make sure to take our breaks, we make sure to give them water, we have fans on the side to cool them down, but these kids want to be out here getting better."
With those words set the tone for the entire school year. Why do athletes put themselves in position to work hard in conditions most people wouldn't walk their dogs in? Why would they push themselves in sprints until they nearly vomit, push up a dumbbell for an extra set with shaky arms that are about to crumble, or swim one more lap as their bodies are exhausted to the point their teammates pull them out of the pool?
Because they want to be the best they can be and leave their everlasting mark on their school, county, and state. When the lights are off they are practicing their craft want to become the ones with the blue ribbons around their neck, the Indiana-shaped plaque in their hands, and the ever-lasting glory that comes with being a State champion. This column/story/blog is for those who got to ride across their town on top of a firetruck, who's lasting images will be stil remembered from their town-folk fifty years past their youth, and the athletes that made an impact on the 2011-2012 season in a special way.
So with that said, ladies and gentlemen, drum-roll please: Introducing the third-annual Fox59 Sports Best of IHSAA Awards.
(The winner gets a nice pat on the back and the realization that on Twitter you are completely rocking #SWAG. In return, we hope to one day pick up a college program from an event, and in the winner's biography section it states "In 2012, Yogi Ferrell won a Best of Fox 59 Sports IHSAA award." After covering every significant Park Tudor basketball game over the past three years, it's all we can ask for Yogi. It's the small things in life.)
The Most Captivating Basketball Story In The State Of Indiana That Got More Coverage Than The Playoff-Bound Pacers Award (Best Overall Story) - Park Tudor's Yogi Ferrell and the Movement
The Michael Jordan Shot Over Craig Ehlo Award (Best Moment That Didn't Lead To A State Championship) - Hamilton Southeastern's Gary Harris Jr.
The vote for Indiana's Mr. Basketball in 2012 was the closest since 2005, with Hamilton Southeastern Senior and future Michigan State Spartan Gary Harris Jr. edging out Park Tudur's Ferrell 154 to 103. This was a surprise to many, considering the influence that choosing an in-state school like Indiana University usually does for a contender of the coveted award. But despite Ferrell's greatness, and there no doubt about it that Ferrell had a spectacular senior year, the voters felt like Harris was the top dog in the state of Indiana.
How did this happen? Primarily against Class 4A competition and perhaps one of the toughest schedules in Indiana, Harris averaged 25.4 points per game, 4.4 steals, and 3.9 assists for a Royals team that was ranked number one the majority of the season. After losing to the eventual Class 4A State champion Carmel Greyhounds in the Sectional finals, the Royals finished with an overall 22-3 record, ultimately helping Harris achieve McDonald's All-American status. Not to mention, Harris rocked perhaps the coolest basketball shoes of any player in the state, a bright blue and orange pair that looked as if they should have been on Jeremy Lin.
Yet with that impressive body of work that a high school basketball player could only dream of, Harris' Mr. Basketball championship boils down to one faithful night at Noblesville High School. Down 83-81 to North Central, Harris went to the free-throw line with ten seconds left in the game and tied it up. On the following in-bounds, Harris and his teammates trapped the ball, forcing a jump-ball when Harris wrapped his hands around the ball. The Royals received the possession with 4.6 seconds left in the game, leading to the number-one play one on SportsCenter's Top-Ten.
Harris received an in-bounds pass, managed to drive pass one defender, drove towards a second defender, and then managed to swat him off with one arm as he spun around with the ball towards his inside with the other. In one full swoop Harris managed to pivot towards the hoop at the gigantic "N" on the Noblesville court, jumped straight into mid-air over two Panthers defenders, and then let off a half-court shot that banked in for the 86-83 winner. Full pandemonium exploded on the Millers court, unleashing perhaps the coolest cell-phone video you'll ever see from a high school basketball cheering section.
Obviously, nobody listened to Noblesville's request to "Please stay off the floor". Harris may not have won the ultimate prize of an IHSAA State championship, but this shot forever penciled his name into Indiana high school basketball lore.
The 1972 Miami Dolphins Award (Most Impressive Undefeated Run) - South Putnam Softball
Bottom of the seventh, runners on first and second, two outs, a 3-1 lead, and two strikes on the batter. Yet despite the ramifications of the next pitch, South Putnam Senior Brooke Boetjer was the most calm athlete at Ben Davis High School in the Class 2A State championship game against Adams Central.
"Me and Jenny (Thompson) always joke about how we would always end the final game on a strikeout," said Boetjer with a smile. "So we were going for that."
Boetjer threw a curve to the outside and before you could even say State champions she was mobbed by her teammates on the diamond, having clinched South Putnam's second straight Class 2A title, ending this season with an undefeated 31-0 record.
"To do it without losing a single game and going perfect throughout the entire regular season or post-season, is just an amazing accomplishment for these girls," said South Putnam Head Coach Chris Jones. "I am so proud of what they did. You have to focus so hard and to be so in tune, just to pull each other together and be a family. They have done it all year long, and they deserve everything in which they have done today."
South Putnam's perfect record is just the fourth in IHSAA softball history, helping Eagles increase their win streak to 56 games dating back to 2011. Perhaps even more impressive, the graduating seniors for the Eagles finished with an overall 102-4 record over their four-year careers.
Much of the success can be attributed to the arm of Boetjer, the Miss Softball award-winner that knocked in the first run of the game and struck out nine batters on the mound, finishing the season with 22 overall wins on the season. But it was Junior Kelsey Whitaker in the third-inning that hit a line-drive into left, putting the Eagles on top 2-1 and ultimately on top for the eventual win.
The Muhammad Ali Greatest Of All-Time Award (Best Non-Traditional Male Athlete) - North Central's Futsum Zeinasellassie
The Lebron James Man Among Boys, But This Is A Woman Among Girls Type Performance Award (Best Non-Traditional Female Athlete) - Northview's Skylar Carpenter
The Heidi Game Award, Or Better Known As The Best Game You Weren't Able To See Award (Best Contest Of The Year) - North Central's Class 4A State Championship
The Serena Williams Run That Left The Competion Looking Helpless Award (Best Tennis Story) - Evansville Memorial's Undefeated Run
The Alabama Crimson Tide and Kentucky Wildcats Award (Best National Champion) - Carmel Greyhounds Girls' Soccer
The celebrations were galore. There was a choreographed dance to the song "What it Takes" from Camp Rock. A modified version of the 1985-86 Chicago Bears "Super Bowl Shuffle", now known as the "Carmel Greyhounds Shuffle". And even two Greyhounds finding their inner-Brandi Chastain, ripping off their jerseys and running around Kuntz Memorial field.
Yes, it was safe to say the Carmel Greyhounds may have put some thought into what they would do if they were to win the first ever Girls IHSAA Class 2A State Soccer championship over the Hamilton Southeastern Royals. But just imagine what they would have done if they knew a week or two later that ESPN would announce them as the National Champion.
"This is amazing," said Carmel Senior Backes, one of the girls who ran jersey-less before the awards ceremony. "This is the best feeling in the world, I will never forget it."
The #1 Greyhounds (22-0-1) capped off an unprecedented run to capture the State title, knocking off #2 Hamilton Southeastern (20-0-2) by the tally of 1-0. The Royals were the seventh ranked team in which the Greyhounds had defeated throughout the tournament, locking up Carmel's ninth State championship.
The Closest Impersonation Of Little Mac From Mike Tyson's Punch-Out Award (Best Football Story) - Gino Gillum of the Cathedral Fighting Irish
The Knocking Tiger Woods Off The Pedestal Award (Best Boys Golf Story) - Evansville Harrison defeats Brebeuf Jesuit
The Closest Resemblence to the 2005 Chicago White Sox Version Of Ozzieball Award (Best How The Heck Did This Team Win Story) - Plainfield State championship
The Win One For The Gipper State Championship (Best Win For A Coach) - Class 3A Baseball State Title
The Annika Sorenstam So Good That It Seems Like They Win Every Year Award (Best Girls Golf Story) - Hamilton Southeastern Golf
The John Wayne Last Of Their Kind Award (Best Team Wrestling Story) - Perry Meridian Wrestling
The Floyd Mayweather Award (Best Undefeated Athlete) - Tsristis Crown Point send-off
The School That Should Change Their Fight Song To "We Are The Champions Award" (Best Overall School) - Carmel GreyhoundsCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times