REST IN PEACE: INDYCAR DRIVER JUSTIN WILSON KILLED AT POCONO RACEWAY

Justin Wilson

INDIANAPOLIS – INDYCAR announced that driver Justin Wilson, who enjoyed success in multiple motorsports series during a two-decade professional career, died on Aug. 24 from a head injury sustained in the Verizon IndyCar Series race Aug. 23 at Pocono Raceway. He was 37.

“This is a monumentally sad day for INDYCAR and the motorsports community as a whole,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Justin’s elite ability to drive a race car was matched by his unwavering kindness, character and humility – which is what made him one of the most respected members of the paddock. As we know, the racing industry is one big family, and our efforts moving forward will be focused on rallying around Justin’s family to ensure they get the support they need during this unbelievably difficult time.”

Wilson was struck by debris from a single-car crash on Lap 180 of the 200-lap race on the 2.5-mile triangular oval. Wilson was attended to by the Holmatro Safety Team and airlifted to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

A native of Sheffield, England, Wilson recorded seven career Indy car victories – the most recent in 2012 at Texas Motor Speedway – and eight pole starts in 174 races. He totaled 711 career laps led, including two in the Aug. 23 race. He competed in Formula One in 2003 with Minardi and Jaguar, and his initial F1 points were scored that year in the U.S. Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. He co-drove a Michael Shank Racing sports car entry to the overall victory in the 50th anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2012.

Wilson, a road cycling and mountain biking enthusiast, also was an ambassador for dyslexia, a learning disorder characterized by difficulty reading that challenged him as a youth. He often would speak to groups at the racetrack and visit schools near INDYCAR race venues.

Wilson is survived by his wife, Julia, and two daughters. His younger brother Stefan is an accomplished race car driver who has competed in the Verizon IndyCar Series and Indy Lights. Funeral arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers, a fund has been set up for Wilson children. Donations may be sent to: Wilson Children’s Fund, c/o INDYCAR, 4551 W. 16th St., Indianapolis, IN 46222.

Courtesy of Verizon IndyCar Series

EYE OF THE COUGAR: IU KOKOMO SETS SIGHTS ON BERTH IN NAIA NATIONAL TOURNAMENT

IU Kokomo women's volleyball team (courtesy of IU Kokomo)

IU Kokomo women’s volleyball team (courtesy of IU Kokomo)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – In the fall of 2011, the IU Kokomo women’s volleyball team played its first game in front of an excited crowd at Northwestern High School. Expectations for the squad were low as the team played its first competitive season. Fast forward to 2015, and the competition pendulum has swung. Not only are expectations high for the Cougars, anything less than a trip to the NAIA national tournament may be a letdown for the players on the squad.

“We are really excited for this season; we have a lot to look forward to,” said Cougar senior Rachel Allen. “Last year we went far and this year I think we will go even farther. It will be a good year.”

Allen, along with fellow senior Cortney Hanson, joined the team at the start of the 2012 campaign – the first NAIA season for the program. They remember the struggles of that year, winning only nine matches. But now, they are thrilled they stuck it out after head coach Heather Hayes joined the squad in year three.

“It is crazy that we had nine wins in my freshman year and to see where we are today,” said Allen, an outside hitter. “It is amazing how far we have come in a short amount of time.”

From nine wins in 2012 to the Final Four of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference last year, the Cougars have quickly become the elite program on campus. But to earn a berth in the NAIA national championships will mean IUK will need to win the KIAC post-season tournament. At least two conference coaches think that could happen – the Cougars received a pair of first place votes and are ranked No. 3 in the KIAC pre-season coach’s poll.

Hanson, the all-time leading setter for the Cougars with 2,219 assists, is equally excited about her final season. And much like Allen, Hanson thinks the sky is the limit for the squad.

“It is really nice to see the program grow like it has,” said Hanson, who also has 612 digs in three seasons. “Coach Hayes has done a great job with this team. I have been playing volleyball since I was six or seven, and in high school I wanted to win sectional so bad; but I have never wanted anything as much as I want to win conference this year in my final year. And our team chemistry is so good this year.”

Hayes, who led the team to a 25-8 record last year (7-3 in KIAC play), agreed that the team chemistry is different this year. She is also looking to her two seniors to lead the way.

“I think we have some good possibilities this year and next year,” said Hayes of her relatively young team. “We certainly hope it is this year, especially for our seniors. I commend them for wanting to be here as the program grew. They are helpful and hard workers – and they want to do well.”

After losing Lael Burrus to graduation – she was the team’s first four-year performer and all-time leader in digs from the libero position – Hayes said she was worried about consistency on defense.

“I have been very pleased with how hard the girls have worked in the off-season,” she said. “And I feel really comfortable with our passing. Right now, junior Kaleigh Ensley (368 digs and 48 service aces a year ago) is the front-runner for the libero position. And sophomore Maddie Taylor has worked really hard – they have been playing beach volleyball together over the summer and that has helped their game. And Brook Karle is a freshman and has come in better than I thought she would – she has competed very well.”

Hayes said she is looking forward to having a strong net game between a combination of veterans and rookies. She said the Cougars will be noticeably taller than in the past.

“We have a goal to run more out of the middle,” said Hayes. “Junior Keanna Walton (5-9 middle hitter from Maconaquah) has developed significantly. Our setters have more confidence in getting the ball to Keanna. Freshman Nicole Sandmann (6-0) can touch nearly 10-feet and has a lot of power. Elyse Younger (6-0 sophomore) has a shoulder injury at the moment, but she led us in hitting last season. And another freshman, Corinn Dennis (6-0), can go left, middle or right – that will make her a good utility player.”

The coach also likes the lineup on the right side.

“Sophomore Lexi Brickner (5-8) has improved tremendously and has become a much more consistent player,” said Hayes. “She is also our strongest hitter right now. I hope she is an impact player for us this season. Casie Divine is a sophomore transfer and can hit with her left or right hand, so she can also play on the left or right.”

Hayes said the squad is the thinnest on the outside hitter position – although one of the best players in the league will call the outside home once again.

“Last year’s KIAC Newcomer of the Year Lindi Thomas (359 kills and 277 digs as a freshman) will be back on the outside,” said Hayes. “She was also first-team all-conference and is a good rotation player. Rachel Allen (617 career kills and 474 digs) has moved from the right side and is a great ball control player. If we want to run out of the middle, we have to pass well – and Rachel is one of our best passers.”

While the outside is thin, the Cougars return experience at the setter position, led by Hanson.

“We also have sophomore Casey Colgate (386 assists and 131 digs last year) and a 5-10 freshman in Elizabeth Schapker,” said Hayes of the setter corps. “(Schapker) has great hands, but we have to get her used to the speed of the college game.”

The Cougars start the 2015 season on the road at Goshen College on Aug. 19, then play in the Grace College Classic on Aug. 21-22. The Cougar Gym portion of the schedule will begin with a match against Marian University on Aug. 26 at 7 p.m.

HOWARD COUNTY SPORTS HALL OF FAME ANNOUNCES 13TH INDUCTION CLASS

Howard County Sports Hall of Fame - Color

KOKOMO, Ind. – The Howard County Sports Hall of Fame announced its 2015 class of inductees, which includes seven athletes and contributors who will be enshrined on October 31.

“Any of this year’s seven inductees have strong enough resumes to have gone in previously, but that just shows how deep Howard County athletic history is,” said Hall of Fame President Dean Hockney. “I am excited to hear them speak at our induction banquet in October – all seven have committed to attend, so it will be a great evening.”

Theodore “Ted” Brown: Two-time IHSAA state champion at Western (class of 2003); won the 200-yard individual medley (1:51.92) and the 500-yard freestyle (4:35.97) as a senior; six-time medalist and IHSAA Mental Attitude Award winner. At Notre Dame, captured 63 career wins and was a four-time Big East All-Academic selection; Irish team captain and MVP his senior season.

James “Al” Fager: Two-time IHSAA state champion at Haworth (class of 1978); won the 200-yard freestyle (state record 1:41.52) and the 500-yard freestyle (4:38.07); state runner-up his junior year in 100 free and 500 free. Also won Indiana AAU titles. Set four Purdue freshman records in 1978-1979 season.

David Granson: Helped organize the first official Haynes Apperson Sports Festival in 1984 (unofficial sporting events occurred in 1983) and served as its director for 25 years through 2008. During its first year, nearly 2,000 participants competed in 19 events. At retirement, the event had grown to 26 events and up to 3,200 competitors.

DeUnna Hendrix: Led Kokomo (class of 2003) to a 26-0 IHSAA state championship season in 2003; scored 1,210 career points and hit double-figures 73 times in 94 career games; Indiana All-Star. A four-year performer for the University of Richmond. Currently the High Point University (NCAA Division I) head women’s coach where she was the 2014 Big South Conference Coach of the Year.

John Kiser: Three-sport star at Northwestern (class of 1970) where he was all-conference in football, track and basketball. On the court, he averaged 29.7 points and 18.7 rebounds per game his senior year; scored 46 points and had 36 rebounds against Maconaquah. Finished with 1,246 points and 1.007 rebounds. Scored first-ever points for South Florida University and finished with 920 career points.

Richard “Dick” Mugg: Led Eastern (class of 1956) to its only IHSAA boys basketball sectional championship in 1956 at Memorial Gym; first member of Howard County 1,000 Point Club with 1,070. Played baseball and basketball at Memphis State University where he had a 2.02 ERA his senior season. Also the 1978 American Bass Fisherman of Indiana champion.

Geoff Shuck: Scored 1,055 points and grabbed 763 rebounds in his career at Haworth (class of 1971); averaged 18 points and 17 rebounds his senior season. Led Haworth to semi-state in junior campaign. In baseball, led Huskies to the Final Four his junior year. Transferred to Indiana State University and was basketball MVP his junior year with 14.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

“We are thrilled with this class,” said Hockney. “Since founding the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame in 2003, our board of directors is in continual awe of the accomplishments of each succeeding class of inductees. This year we have state champs, scoring leaders, a current NCAA Division I basketball coach and a community activist. Howard County has been blessed with outstanding sports personalities, and we are proud to tell their story.”

This will be the 13th class inducted into the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame. The 13th Annual Induction Banquet is scheduled for October 31, 2015, at the Ivy Tech Kokomo Event & Conference Center. Tickets for the Induction Banquet are available for $25 by calling Vice President Ron Barsh at (765) 453-4739.