Heather Cusick

KOKOMO, Ind. - After returning home to serve as an International Baccalaureate counselor for the 2013-14 school year, a dream opportunity became enhanced when 1999 Kokomo High School graduate Heather Cusick was approved as the head coach of the Lady Wildkats varsity basketball program.

“I could not be more excited to be named the next head coach of the Kokomo Lady Kats’ basketball program,” Cusick said. “This is truly an honor to be able to return home to Kokomo and have the opportunity to build upon the already storied tradition that is Kokomo Basketball. Kokomo is a special place and the Lady Kats receive incredible support from this community, staff, and administration. I am so fortunate to work, and now coach, in a place that has meant so much to me.”

Cusick is part of that storied tradition as her 1999 Lady Kats team, then coached by Charlie Hall, made a run to the IHSAA Class 4A Final Four. She was later named an Indiana All-Star. She is third on the all-time Lady Wildkats scoring list with 1,391 career points and second for career assists (375) and career steals (349). She was also the Kats co-Most Valuable Player in 1998 and 1999.

Athletic Director Jason Snyder, who stepped down as the Lady Kats coach in March, noted that he was impressed with the quality of candidates for the position.

“We had an excellent pool of candidates for the position,” Snyder explained. “But Heather’s college level experiences and her college connections across the country will be a great asset to our future Lady Kats, as well as the program.  With Heather at the helm, I feel the future is very promising for Lady Kats Basketball in Kokomo.”

Cusick praised the hard work by Snyder and his staff the past eight years.

“All the pieces are in place to continue to cultivate the work that has been completed by Coach Snyder,” Cusick said. “My hope is to not only win games and develop basketball talent, but also to lead and guide each young lady who goes through the Kokomo program from where she is to where she wants to be.”

Cusick played basketball at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Health and Sport Studies. From 1999 to 2003, she became the first and only player in Mid-American Conference women’s basketball history to reach 1,700 points, 500 assists, 400 rebounds, 300 steals and 200 3-point field goals.  Cusick served as a 3-time team captain before becoming one of only two women at Miami to have their number retired. She was inducted in the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Miami University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.

Kokomo Interim Principal Dr. Mike Sargent believes Cusick is an outstanding selection.

“Coach Cusick is an excellent addition to the KHS head coaching staff,” Sargent said. “The Lady Kats girls basketball program has a tradition of success, and we are confident that under Coach Cusick’s leadership, the program will continue this long tradition. Heather’s experience as a player and coach will be a benefit to our student-athletes.”

After being selected as a Kodak All-American honorable mention in 2003, Cusick played for the BC Shooters professional basketball team in the Netherlands during the 2003-2004 season. One of the statistics that makes Cusick the proudest is the fact that she appeared in 116 contests at Miami University – never missing a game – while making 113 consecutive starts.

Mike Wade, director of human resources and operations, served on the selection committee and is happy with the choice.

“I am excited for Jason Snyder and the KHS athletic department,” Wade said, a previous Kokomo boys basketball coach and athletic director. “This selection will help Snyder make the transition because Heather Cusick brings a great resume, including playing and coaching experience, from all levels of play.  Heather’s passion for Lady Kats basketball is contagious.”

After her one-year stint in professional basketball, Cusick served as director of basketball operations at Ball State University in 2004-2005, and then served in the same position from 2009 to 2013 at the University of Nevada, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Educational Psychology. Cusick also served as the Lady Kats’ junior varisty and assistant varsity coach this past season.

“I am optimistic about the future of the Lady Kats’ basketball program, and I cannot wait to begin working with the young ladies who are, and will be, a part of the Kokomo Lady Kats’ basketball program,” Cusick concluded.

Courtesy of the Kokomo School Corporation



NW HOF Class 2014


KOKOMO, Ind. - Northwestern High School Athletic Director Dan Armstrong took note of all the trophies and pictures lining the walls of the Tigers athletic complex and knew his program had a rich history. And instead of allowing the history to disappear, he decided to preserve it by founding the Northwestern Athletic Hall of Fame. On March 28, Armstrong’s vision became a reality when seven members were inducted into the charter class.

“We want to recognize those who made a difference and made an impact and paved the way for others to follow,” said Armstrong. “Many individuals have been influential in the ‘Tiger Tradition’ of excellence and have had exemplary accomplishments on the athletic fields and in support of Northwestern athletic programs. The Northwestern Athletic Hall of Fame honors the contributions and accomplishments of these individuals who are worthy of recognition as examples for others to emulate.”

Entering the hallowed halls as charter inductees are: (Brent Graber/Brian Hemmerly Athlete Wing) Brandon Beachy, Gary Mumaw, Jenna Tarkington-Mumaw and Austin Parkinson; (Gerald Sullivan Contributor Wing) Dr. Michael Blackburn; (Gerald Hood Coaches Wing) Merrill Hoban and Bob Rodibaugh.

Parkinson, a 2000 Indiana All-Star, was on hand to accept his award and said he was thrilled to be honored by his alma mater.

“”I am truly humbled and honored to be part of this inaugural Hall of Fame class,” said Parkinson. “Northwestern is an incredibly special place that provided me the foundation to succeed both athletically and academically.”

Parkinson just completed his fourth season as the leader of the IUPUI women’s basketball program – a program that he has quickly transformed from a three-win team prior to his arrival into a team that has posted back-to-back 20-win seasons and consecutive WNIT appearances. The Kokomo-native was named Summit League Coach of the Year in 2013 after directing the Jags to a 20-win season, including a 12-4 league record and a runner up finish, before leading IUPUI to a D-I era school-record 23 wins in 2013-14.

At Northwestern, Parkinson holds school records for points (1,667 – second most in Howard County history), assists (673) and steals (378). At four-year player at Purdue, he is 10th in career assists.

While Parkinson and Beachy – a starting pitcher for the Atlanta Braves who could not attend the banquet – are the most well-known athletes to come out of Northwestern, Armstrong said it is Tarkington-Mumaw who is the best ever.

“Jenna is the most decorated athlete in Northwestern history,” he said. “She was a 17-time all Mid-Indiana Conference champion in the sport of gymnastics and was the 2002 state champion in the floor exercise.”

Tarkington-Mumaw not only won an IHSAA state championship as a junior, but as a senior she had state runner-up finishes in all-around and the beam, a fourth place on the floor, a sixth place on the vault and a seventh place on the bars – all of which earned her state finals medals and a place on the podium. She attended Ball State University where she still shared the all-time best mark off 9.9 on the beam. Her 9.825 vault as a senior earned her a Mid-American Conference championship – her second as a Cardinal.

After her title run, Tarkington-Mumaw joined Marcia Shearer (1976, 100 yard freestyle swimming) as the only individual state champions in Northwestern history.

“This award is so special to me,” she said. “Northwestern has been so supportive and I am truly honored to be a part of this charter class. I tell my story from high school and I hope to inspire kids that if they have a goal and a dream, they should put their mind to it and make it possible.”

Often overlooked by Purple Tiger faithful is a pair of IHSAA state runners-up finishes by the cross country team in 1970 and 1971. Leading that program was long-distance runner Gary Mumaw – who happens to be the father-in-law of Jenna Tarkington-Mumaw. As a sectional and regional champion in 1972, Gary Mumaw still holds the Kokomo Sectional record with a time of 9:16.4. He also won two Mid-Indiana Conference titles and finished eighth at the state cross country championships as a junior.

Mumaw’s coach was fellow inductee Bob Rodibaugh, who served 29 years as a teacher and coach at Northwestern. From 1963-1974, his Tiger long-distance runners earned nine Mid-Indiana Conference titles as well as the two state runners-up trophies. His teams won six Howard County championships in a row from 1968-1973. As the boys track and field coach, he won four MIC titles and nine Howard County championships during his 10 year run. He also founded the Northwestern Relays in 1966, the Northwestern (Cross Country) Combination in 1967 and the Northwestern Junior Olympics in 1963 – all of which are a staple of competition to this day.

Merrill Hoban was recognized for serving as basketball coach from 1951-1962, where he won 126 games and the 1955 IHSAA Kokomo Sectional championships – the first title in Northwestern history. He was also the school’s first athletic director, serving from 1956-1972.

Blackburn served as the Northwestern athletic director from 1978-2005 and head football coach from 1978-1982. According to Armstrong, Blackburn is responsible for most of the current athletic structure of the program – including hosting all 20 varsity sports sanctioned by the IHSAA. He won numerous awards throughout his career, including national and state athletic director of the year honors. He also earned the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Award of Merit, Special Commendation, Indiana State Award of Merit and Distinguished Service Award. After retiring from Northwestern, he took the position of associate executive director of the NIAAA while serving as editor of that organizations quarterly magazine.



Front Cover - Vol 4 No 13 - March 25, 2014 (Carley O'Neal and Kacie Juday)


KOKOMO, Ind. - The Kiwanis Club of Kokomo hosted its 31st Annual Girls Basketball Banquet at Kokomo High School. And to no surprise, the highlight of the evening was the display of the IHSAA Class 3A state championship trophy, courtesy of the Western Lady Panthers.

“By gosh, I am glad (you displayed that) after we lugged that heavy thing in here,” joked Western head coach Chris Keisling when Kiwanis President Tom Birch presented it to the crowd.

Billed as the largest high school girls basketball banquet in the Hoosier state, the Kiwanis Club of Kokomo established the banquet in 1984 to formally recognize the athletic and academic accomplishments of local area girls’ basketball teams. Since its origins of honoring Howard County squads, the banquet now honors the exploits of 10 area teams: Kokomo, Western, Northwestern, Taylor, Eastern, Tri-Central, Lewis Cass, Maconaquah, Carroll and Tipton. The Kiwanis clubs of Kokomo Golden K, Kokomo Metro, Burlington and Tipton also serve as host organizations.

“I really want to thank the Kiwanis,” said Tipton head coach Nick Comer, whose team played in the Class 2A Final Four this season. “It really is a neat thing and I hope everyone understands what a big deal it is to be honored this way. Not everyone gets this kind of reception.”

While Eastern stole the show last year, this year it was Tipton and Western who garnered the most honors – including Lady Blue Devil Kacie Juday who earned five individual honors.

“It is nice to see any of our kids do as well as they did,” said Taylor head coach Dennis Bentzler, the dean of local coaches. “I still say that in this area, we play as good of basketball as anybody, anywhere in the state. I have said it for years. I have said it on the radio. We had three or four in this area that should have been in the running for Miss Basketball (and the Indiana All-Star team).”

Juday took home trophies and plaques for being named the top assist leader (4.7 assists per game), steals leader (6.4 steals per game) and scoring leader (22.5 points per game). She was also the area’s only player to join the 1,000 Point Club, and the Kiwanis organization presented her a plaque for that accomplishment. She left the program as the all-time leading scorer in Lady Blue Devils history.

Juday’s teammate Macie Lively earned the best free throw percentage trophy for hitting 78 percent of her freebies this year. Northwestern’s Brooke Treadway was named the area’s top rebounder at 12.0 rebounds per game.

When it came time to name an area most valuable player, the honor was shared by Western’s Carley O’Neal and Juday. Both helped lead their team to outstanding seasons which resulted in Final Four berths. Juday joins her sister Brooklyn (co-MVP in 2012 with Western’s Nicole Rogers) as the only Tipton winners of the award, while O’Neal is the seventh from Western. The Lady Panthers seven MVP awards are third only to Kokomo (17) and Northwestern (eight).

The Kiwanis Club also recognizes academic success, and the Western Lady Panthers earned the award for highest team grade point average, posting an impressive 3.72 GPA. They upended the two-time defending Team GPA champion’s from Tipton.

The top award of the evening was a scholarship from the Kiwanis Club of Kokomo Foundation to the senior player with the highest grade point average. This year’s scholarship was awarded to Raven Black from Western. Black’s grade point average of 4.47 was the highest in the history of the Kiwanis banquet.

For more information on the Kiwanis Club of Kokomo, visit www.kokomnoonkiwanis.com.