KOKOMO’S TIONNA BROWN IS FAST ON THE COURT AND FASTER ON THE TRACK; NAMED USATF INDIANA ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

Tionna Brown runs the point for the Lady Wildkats against Logansport. (SJ Photo/William Gibson)

Tionna Brown runs the point for the Lady Wildkats against Logansport. (SJ Photo/William Gibson)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – For the second consecutive year, Kokomo’s Tionna Brown has earned a prestigious award from the state track and field sanctioning body. After earning All-American status at the national championships, Brown was named the 2016 13-14 Year-Old Track and Field Female Athlete of the Year by USATF Indiana. She won the same award in 2015. USATF Indiana will recognize 33 athletes in various sports and division categories at the USATF Indiana Awards Celebration on Jan. 14 at the Ben Davis Ninth Grade Center in Indianapolis.

“It means a lot, especially after not making (the times that) I wanted to,” said the 15-year-old Brown. “It really boosted my confidence up a little more.”

At the 2016 USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships, held in Sacramento, California, 84 Indiana athletes competed during the seven day competition held on the campus of Sacramento State University. In temperatures that topped 100-degrees, Brown was among 7,524 athletes who competed in the 50th anniversary of the event.

According to USATF Indiana, Hoosier athletes earned 37 visits to the awards podium to receive championship medals and all-American hats for placing in the top eight in their events. Indiana athletes claimed five national titles, two silver medals and three third place finishes. Brown said the team would not have climbed the podium so many times without a strong effort in practice.

“We put in a lot of work every day,” said Brown. “We put in hours a day. Sometimes we would practice for an hour-and-a-half, and then come back and do it again. Our coaches made sure I was focused and ready for my four events.”

K.O. Jackson, her coach with the K-Town Elite Track Club, was thrilled one of his runners was honored.

“All I can say is that Tionna has earned this and she is more than deserving of the honor,” said Jackson. “But her humbleness would never let you think this or any other of her outstanding accomplishments are a big deal; this is really a big deal and we are very proud of her. There is still much more that awaits us.”

Brown, a Kokomo High School freshman, finished second in the girls 13-14 100-meter dash with a time of 12.24 seconds. Her silver medal time was slightly slower than national champion Kennedi Sanders of Mississippi who ran a 12.18. Brown’s first round qualifying time was 12.04. In 2015, she placed 21st in the event.

“It was hot,” said Brown, who said she likes the sprint races the most. “I was battling heat cramps out there. On some days, I had to do multiple events in the heat, and that was a struggle.”

The All-American from Kokomo climbed the podium again with a fourth-place finish in the 200-meter dash with a time of 24.58 seconds. She earned a third All-American designation with a sixth-place finish in the long jump at 17-feet-2.25 inches. She also finished 23rd in the 400-meter dash with a time of 58.42.

Prior to the nationals, Brown earned four gold medals at the 2016 USATF Region 7 Junior Olympics in the 13-15 year-old division: 100-meter dash (12.20), 200-meter dash (25.41), 400-meter dash (59.68) and long jump (16-feet-11.25). She had qualified for the Region 7 event after winning the same four events at the 2016 USATF Indiana championships.

Brown currently is the starting guard for the Kokomo Lady Wildkats basketball team and also participates in travel softball. As a freshman on the hardwood, she currently leads the Lady Wildkats with 82 steals (4.56 per game), 37 assists (2.06 per game) and five charges taken. She is third on the squad in rebounds (6.44 per game) and scoring (8.78 per game). The multi-sport star said she was hesitant to say which sport she liked the most.

“It is hard to tell, but I like track the best – it is what I am good at,” said Brown, who noted she is still getting quicker in the sprints. “My goal is to take Kokomo to state – I think I will be competitive in two or three events.”

The Lady Kats track and field season begins on Feb. 13, and Brown will be a key part of that program for the next four years. But she will wait to join the team until after the Lady Kats make an appearance in Hoosier Hysteria, which begins on Jan. 31.

2016 FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: CATHERINE SKAGGS, KOKOMO HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL

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BY DEAN HOCKNEY

Earning the title of Indiana All-Star does not come easy, and Howard County had two following the 2016 softball campaign – Western’s Brook Strunk and Kokomo’s Catherine Skaggs. Both had great seasons and careers, but when the numbers are crunched from the season, Skaggs earned the title of Sports Journal Female Athlete of the Year.

During her senior season playing shortstop for the Lady Wildkats, Skaggs led Howard County with a .593 batting average (top 15 in state), 36 runs batted in, nine home runs and an on-base percentage of .646. She also scored 36 runs and tallied 48 hits while ripping nine doubles and swiping 15 stolen bases.

For Skaggs, the nine home runs tied the Kokomo High School single-season record. Ironically, she tied the record held by her sister, Christine. During her final three years of varsity, she maintained a whopping .472 batting average while driving in 65 runs. In 285 plate appearances, she only had 23 strikeouts – including just four her senior year.

“Talk about a kid who is going to be sorely missed, Cathy is like having a professional athlete on your team,” said Kokomo head coach Mike Susong. “She is a consummate pro; she organized our off-season workouts and is probably the hardest working kid I have ever coached in any sport. All of the accolades she has earned this year are well-deserved.”

Following the season, she was named first team All-North Central Conference while also earning a first team All-State nod. She helped the Lady Wildkats win 74 games in four seasons while tallying one sectional crown and two NCC titles.

She will play NCAA Division II softball at the University of Indianapolis in the spring. For her efforts, Christine Skaggs earned the title of Sports Journal Female Athlete of the Year.

2016 MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: JOSIAH PRICE, MICHIGAN STATE FOOTBALL

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BY DEAN HOCKNEY

Choosing a Male Athlete of the Year is always tough in the star-studded field of Howard County athletics. Should one of our professional baseball players earn the honor? Or how about an all-star performer? In the end, it was an outstanding career with a record-setting senior season that propelled Eastern High School graduate and Michigan State University senior football standout Josiah Price to the top.

Price, who was graduated earlier this month with a degree in hospitality business, played tight end for the Spartans in what might be the best NCAA Division I career for any Howard County native. He departs MSU as the program’s all-time leader among tight ends (and fourth for any position) with 21 touchdown receptions. In 51 career games, he caught 104 passes for 1,238 yards.

During his senior season, he was second on the Spartans with 38 catches and third with 387 receiving yards. His five touchdown receptions were the most for any Big Ten Conference tight end. Price was named to the Mackey Award watch list twice and was a two-time All-Big Ten third team selection.

But just as sensational as he was on the field, some consider his off-the-field persona even bigger. He was a 2016 semifinalist for both the National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete and the Wuerffel Trophy for Outstanding Community Service and is one of 25 players in Spartan history to be named Academic All-Big Ten four times. Price is also a two-time recipient of the MSU Football Players Association Community Service Award. He also earned the Gwendolyn Norrell Community Service & Leadership Award.

For his efforts on the field, in the classroom and in the community, Josiah Price has earned the title of Sports Journal Male Athlete of the Year. And who knows, this might not be the last we hear from Price – could the NFL be next?