KOKOMO GIRLS SWIM COACH DONITA WALTERS SEVERELY INJURED DURING BICYCLE RIDE

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BY DEAN HOCKNEY

Courtesy of the Kokomo Herald

KOKOMO, Ind. – Excitement turned to tragedy last night north of Kokomo.

McKinley Alternative School teacher and Kokomo High School girls swim coach Donita Walters has been preparing for months for an epic summer bicycle ride from the West Coast to the East Coast (see the Kokomo Herald online story “Coast-to-coast on two wheels”). But last night, as Walters was partaking in her bike ride home, she was struck by a car traveling at a high rate of speed near 450 North and Davis Road.

Walters was thrown from her bicycle, and despite wearing safety gear, she sustained serious injuries, although initial reports are she was awake at the scene. Medics first took her to St. Vincent Health Kokomo before flying her to an Indianapolis-area hospital for emergency treatment.

According to the official Facebook page for The Wandering Project, Walters, “was alert though medicated, can move all limbs, no numbness, possible broken thumb, has two breaks in her pelvis and has a broken neck. It will be determined sometime today if she will need to have neck surgery or not. Thank you so much for the continued prayers and support.”

Walters and childhood friend Kristy Massey were planning the 3,744-mile voyage from San Francisco to Nags Head, North Carolina. While Massey was already driving out to California, Walters was planning to travel west after classes ended for Kokomo Schools on Thursday. Unfortunately, her journey ended before it even began.

“OMG!” Massey posted on Facebook last night. “I’m in total shock! We need your immediate prayers for my dear friend, Donita.”

The biking duo planned the 67-day ride, dubbed “The Wandering Project: Two Girls, Two Bikes, One Cause,” to support Homes for our Troops, a group dedicated to building specially adapted homes for service members nation-wide who returned home with life-altering injuries.

“Our goal is to raise one dollar per mile, so that is about $3,800,” Walters said last month. “We hope we can raise more than that; to adapt one room is an average of $5,000. It would be cool to say we helped build a room for a wounded veteran.”

Follow The Wandering Project Facebook page for additional updates on Walters recovery.

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE OVERCOMES NEAR-DEATH TO CLAIM INDY 500 POLE ONE YEAR LATER

James Hinchcliffe wins the pole for the Indianapolis 500. (Photo by William Gibson)

James Hinchcliffe wins the pole for the Indianapolis 500. (Photo by William Gibson)

INDIANAPOLIS – James Hinchcliffe, the Canadian who missed the 99th Indianapolis 500 after a practice crash, will start the 100th Indy 500 on the pole after a four-lap average of 230.760 mph on Armed Forces Pole Day. Taking the last qualifying attempt of Sunday’s Fast Nine Shootout, the driver of the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda edged Josef Newgarden’s No. 21 Preferred Freezer Chevrolet by less than four hundredths of a second over the 10 miles of qualifying, 2 minutes, 36.0063 seconds to 2:36.0407.

“I came into this month hoping we’d have a new story to talk about after what happened last year, and I think we did it,” said Hinchcliffe after winning the Verizon P1 Award and $100,000, not to mention the first pole of his Verizon IndyCar Series career, in his 79th start.

“The Arrow Electronics car was an absolute smoke show out there. It was right on the edge. (Lead engineer) Allen McDonald and all my engineers did such a great job, everybody at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson put me in the car and gave me the car to do it.”

Hinchcliffe won the pole for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil five years to the day after Schmidt Peterson Motorsports won the pole for the 2011 ‘500’ with driver Alex Tagliani. That was the last Indy pole for Honda; this one marks the first at the “500” since Honda and Chevrolet engines began competing in 2012.

Newgarden will make his first front row start and the third in four years for Ed Carpenter Racing, though he could only stand and watch as his blazing 230.700 mph four-lap average was nipped for the pole at 5:44 p.m. by Hinchcliffe.

“It was a tough pill to swallow,” said the native of Hendersonville, Tennessee. “I try to remind myself it’s not just about today’s battle, it’s about the war, and we’ve got to try and get that done next week in the ‘500.’ But it was still a lot of fun just to be up there and have this opportunity to compete.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indianapolis 500 champion, rounds out the front row in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport. Row 2 consists of Andretti Autosport’s Townsend Bell and Carlos Munoz in the fourth and fifth spots, with Team Penske’s Will Power on the outside in sixth.

All three Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Hondas will start the race in the top 10, as Mikhail Aleshin qualified seventh and Oriol Servia 10th as the rest of the grid was set earlier on Sunday.

Scott Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 champion, qualified a remarkable 13th after a late engine swap in his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Ganassi crewmen made the swap in 64 minutes and made it to technical inspection by three minutes.

Defending Indy 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya will start 17th in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

The final extended practice for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 will be Monday. Gates open at noon and the Indy 500 field will practice from 12:30-4 p.m. After that, the cars will not be on track again until the traditional hour of practice on Miller Lite Carb Day on Friday, May 27.

The 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil will be Sunday, May 29. With a crowd traveling to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that has not been seen in recent years, longtime fans are encouraged to begin their Race Day routines at least two hours earlier than previous years.

Courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

PEANUTS BANNED AT KOKOMO MUNICIPAL STADIUM, BUT FOR A GOOD REASON

IMG_20160130_151410161 Kokomo Municipal Stadium Final Logo

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – MKE Sports and Entertainment, the ownership group of the Kokomo Jackrabbits and Kokomo Mantis FC, have banned peanuts at Municipal Stadium and the other facilities it operates. Many fans visiting the award-winning stadium have questioned the reasoning behind the ban, with many assuming it was because of the mess left behind by peanut shells.

But that is not the case – team representatives said the ban is in place because the son of MKE Sports CEO Mike Zimmerman suffers from a dangerous peanut allergy. Zimmerman’s wife, Bridget, explained how dangerous a peanut allergy can be.

“The reason we decided to make Kokomo Municipal Stadium peanut free is because our son, Andrew, has a severe peanut allergy,” she said. “He went to one Major League Baseball game and had to be carried out because the dust from the peanut shells caused hives and his eyes to swell shut.”

She said because of that, her son has to be careful where he travels – which means he can no longer attend MLB games.

“After that, we didn’t feel comfortable taking him to any other games,” said Zimmerman. “With the increase of food allergies and peanut allergies being the most common and most severe, we wanted to provide a place for kids like Andrew to feel safe while watching baseball.”

Kokomo High School catcher Cory Shrock also has a severe peanut allergy (see Sports Journal online story).

While peanuts may be a staple of baseball, Zimmerman hopes fans understand why they will not be served at Kokomo Municipal Stadium.