Archive for June 24, 2014

WESTERN BOYS, NORTHWESTERN GIRLS CLAIM MID-INDIANA CONFERENCE ALL-SPORTS TITLES

 

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – Western and Northwestern were crowned the king and queen of the Mid-Indiana Conference following a competitive 2013-2014 school year – the next to last for the conference. In the MIC Boys All-Sports championship race, the Panthers cruised to the title with 71.5 points. Hamilton Heights was second with 58.5, followed by Northwestern (45.5), Lewis Cass and Maconaquah (42), Peru (38.5), Eastern (35.5) and Taylor (21.5).

Of the 10 MIC boys sports, Western claimed championship titles in half: cross country, swimming, track and field, baseball and football. They also earned second place finishes in soccer, wrestling and golf and took a third place in basketball.

“You have to give credit to our student-athletes and the coaches and their hard work,” said Western Athletic Director Josh Larsh. “They have a passion for what they do. Obviously, talent is part of that equation, but it is not the whole thing. If you look across the board, we were first or second in most of the 10 sports. The football team winning in the fall carried us all the way to the baseball and track team winning in the spring.”

Larsh said winning the all-sports conference crown shows how strong the Western program is from the top to the bottom. He noted the girls program was six points from the title.

“It shows the depth of Western athletics,” said Larsh. “But in that depth, we have great student-athletes. We also had a phenomenal senior class. And now we are getting more consistent on the girls side. I believe success-breeds-success, and we are starting to see that. We are proud of it and we strive to win it every year.”

Western has had a strong three-year run in athletics, beginning with a baseball state championship in 2012. He attributes part of that to a generation that only knows to compete in class sports.

“I think it starts with tradition,” said Larsh. “We have a great athletic tradition here. I think those who are in high school now, all they know is class sports. All they do is dream of state championships and the baseball team was the first to break through. We won in baseball, and we had a couple of kids wrestle in the state finals (Hinkle brothers), and then the Brown family in the state swim finals. And then a girls basketball group that has been together their whole lives – their dream was to win a state championship, which they did. The tradition is growing.”

In the race for the MIC Girls All-Sports championship, Northwestern edged Western 56-50 in a season that saw the top four schools separated by a mere nine points. Hamilton Heights finished third (49) and Eastern fourth (48) in the nine-sport title race. Maconaquah finished fifth (35), followed by Lewis Cass (33), Peru (27) and Taylor (18). The Lady Tigers claimed titles in golf and track and field, finished second in swimming and earned a third place finish in volleyball, basketball and softball.

“It is an honor,” Northwestern Athletic Director Dan Armstrong said of the girls title. “It was fun. I didn’t even know going into our meeting that we had won it because it was so close. Our goal every year is to be solid, and we are good in a lot of sports. Eastern had quite a run for the last three years, so it was good to get it back in our hands.”

Armstrong said that winning an all-sports title is about every athlete doing the job they are supposed to do.

“You don’t have to win every sport, you just have to be at the top,” he said. “We had some good teams this year – from the fall to the spring. It is a credit to how hard our girls work – it takes a lot of athletes to win an all-sports title.

Armstrong said this year’s all-sports title has extra meaning with the conference dropping a sport the Lady Tigers had always excelled in – gymnastics.

“We lost gymnastics as a sport in the conference a few years ago, and we always did well in that,” he said. “So we had to get better in some sports, such as track and softball, to win it. Our softball team has made great strides and were right there with Eastern and Western. Those spring sports just took us over the top.”

The upcoming 2014-2015 school year will be the final sports season of existence for the Mid-Indiana Conference as all eight schools have announced plans to leave: Peru and Maconaquah will move to the Three Rivers Conference while Eastern and Taylor will play in the Hoosier Heartland Conference. The remaining four schools – Northwestern, Western, Hamilton Heights and Lewis Cass – recently announced they will join the Hoosier Conference. That will set up an interesting sports season as every team will be vying for the last MIC title in history.

“Just because we lost a very good senior class doesn’t mean we won’t be trying to win it one last time in the MIC,” said Larsh. “I think it is going to fire a lot of people up and it will be an interesting year in the conference.”

Armstrong agrees, while also noting he is sad the conference is disbanding.

“I am a tradition guy, and I wished it would have stayed the same,” he said. “There will be a little bit on the line this year. You want to be the champion of the last one. There will be some pushing to make sure they are at the top. Our kids will know it is the last year and they will want to be the last champion.”

The final year of the Mid-Indiana Conference begins in August, and it should prove to be an amazing – and interesting – 19-sport campaign.

WESTERN GRADUATE MATT REIDA HAS CONTRACT PURCHASED BY TAMPA BAY RAYS ORGANIZATION

Western graduate Matt Reida playing for the River City Rascals in the Frontier League. (Courtesy of Frontier League/Ricky Rick Photography)

Western graduate Matt Reida playing for the River City Rascals in the Frontier League. (Courtesy of Frontier League/Ricky Rick Photography)

O’FALLON, Mo. – River City rookie infielder Matt Reida has officially had his contract purchased by the Tampa Bay Rays organization. After spending two games in the Frontier League, the infielder will move into affiliated ball. Reida is a 2010 graduate of Western High School and will join the organization in the Gulf Coast League in a rookie league.

Reida finished his collegiate career at the University of Kentucky following a second place regional finish to Louisville. Previously a 47th round selection of the Chicago White Sox, he started most of the Wildcats’ games during his four years at UK. In his senior season at Kentucky, he batted .246 with 10 doubles, four homers and 36 RBI.

“We are very excited for Matt in his future career with the Rays organization,” said Rascals manager Steve Brook. “We only had him for a few games, but we were able to quickly see his ability at the professional. The Rascals wish him the best.”

Reida joins Dane Stone, signed by the White Sox last week, as 2014 Rascals to be signed by Major League organizations.

The future big leaguer took to Twitter, saying, “Finally landed in Florida! Big thanks to the Tampa Bay Rays organization for this great opportunity. Cannot wait to get to work.”

Reida is the fifth current Howard County native on a professional baseball roster. He joins Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Joe Thatcher (Kokomo), injured Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Brandon Beachy (Northwestern), Stockton Ports (Oakland A’s Single A affiliate) relief pitcher Nolan Sanburn (Kokomo) and recent San Diego Padres draft pick T.J. Weir (Kokomo) on pro rosters.

Reida, Sanburn and Weir are all members of an outstanding Howard County graduating class of 2010, with all three playing NCAA Division I baseball. Sanburn was a two-year closer for Arkansas and appeared in the 2012 College World Series before being drafted by Oakland and Weir just finished a standout career at Ball State.

Frontier League and Sports Journal staff contributed to this story

KOKOMO HIRES MATT MOORE AS 24TH WILDKAT BOYS BASKETBALL COACH

New Kokomo High School boys basketball coach Matt Moore with Athletic Director Jason Snyder. (photo by Dean Hockney)

New Kokomo High School boys basketball coach Matt Moore with Athletic Director Jason Snyder. (photo by Dean Hockney)

KOKOMO, Ind. – On his application for the boys basketball coaching position at Kokomo High School, Matt Moore noted as his “reason for leaving” as the head men’s basketball coach at Mt. Vernon Nazarene University, the following statement: “Interested in coaching high school basketball in Indiana at a high school that is committed to winning and values basketball.”

On June 17, the Kokomo School Corporation Board of Trustees gave Moore the opportunity to serve as the 24th boys basketball coach in the 111-year history of Wildkat hoops.

“In Indiana, two different types of basketball situations exist: teams and programs,” Moore explained. “I look forward to building off the great tradition known as the Kokomo Wildkat basketball program. The past Kokomo coaches have built a great foundation while fueling the successes of the program. I want to help Kokomo High School continue being one of the state’s top basketball programs.”

That rich Kokomo boys basketball tradition began in 1903, and Kokomo owns the state record with 74 sectional boys basketball titles. Moore replaces Brian McCauley, who left his alma mater after eight season to coach the Noblesville boys program.

Since 2009, Moore has served as head coach of the Ohio based school, where in his first two years as head coach he recorded the most victories than anyone else in 42 years of the program. Through his four seasons at MVNU, Moore ranked third in wins in program history.

“I revamped the MVNU program from the inside-out by recruiting high quality individuals who had a desire to pursue excellence,” Moore explained. “I am proud of the fact that my teams also have shown excellence in the classroom as our team GPA was 3.08, 3.25, 3.33, and 3.18 during my four years at MVNU.”

Athletic Director Jason Snyder is excited to have Moore join the KHS basketball family.

“Coach Moore has an extensive resume and comes highly qualified,” Snyder said. “Matt has shown a commitment to developing relationships with the players and the community at each stop. Coach Moore is going to be a great addition to our community and the athletic department as the leader of our boys basketball program.”

Moore is no stranger to the North Central Conference after serving as junior varsity head coach at Logansport High School for three seasons and as a varsity assistant to Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame Coach Al Rhodes. In between Logansport and MVNU, Moore returned to his alma mater and served as head assistant men’s basketball coach and director of sports information at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.

“I have had outstanding mentors throughout my coaching career, from my high school (Columbia City) coach Chris Benedict to my college (Grace College) coach Jim Kessler, and my time at Logansport with Coach Rhodes,” Moore explained. “Some of my greatest experiences as a player and as a coach are rooted in being part of this great game in Indiana. Kokomo struck me as one of those jobs that reminded me of growing up knowing what Indiana high school basketball means. Kokomo is one of those few places left that embodies what I believe this basketball experience can be, and should be, for high school athletes.”

Outgoing KHS Principal Dr. Mike Sargent feels Moore is a perfect fit.

“Mr. Moore’s teaching and coaching ability will benefit both students and athletes at Kokomo High School,” Sargent said. “His vision for the basketball program and his leadership qualities will continue the historic success of the KHS basketball program.”

Coach Moore will teach physical education at KHS after serving as a professor of health and physical education at Mt. Vernon for the past four years.

Former KHS boys basketball coach Mike Wade, who now serves as Director of Operations and Human Relations, was pleased with the quality of candidates.

“Coach Moore comes to us highly recommended,” Wade noted. “Coach Moore’s uplifting spirit is very refreshing. Matt is a self-proclaimed basketball junkie who loves to teach basketball and build relationships.”

Moore explained that his passion for the game of basketball gained momentum as a four-year starter and two-year team captain at Columbian City High School, where, during his senior season in 1998, the team finished 18-6 and won its first sectional title in 20 years. At Grace College, Moore was a four-year starter and team captain for three seasons. During his collegiate career, Moore led the Grace team in assists, steals, and minutes played all four seasons.

“I am a very passionate and driven person, so I hope I can instill some of my basketball experiences – both at the high school and college level – with the Kokomo players,” Moore added. “This transition for me professionally will be a difficult one because of the time and energy I have spent building the program at MVNU and the relationships formed with my players. I am so excited to begin the process of building onto Kokomo’s basketball tradition. The drive for number 75 starts now.”

Moore noted that his family – wife Anna, 4 year-old Makenna, 3 year-old Mya and a new baby girl due in early July – are excited about returning to Indiana and watching the Wildkats play in Memorial Gymnasium.

Courtesy of Kokomo School Corporation