BY DEAN HOCKNEY
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.