Archive for March 31, 2015

PRIDE OF THE PURPLE: NORTHWESTERN ATHLETIC HALL OF FAME INDUCTS THREE NEW MEMBERS

Dyan Lodde-Brownlee and Dan Robinson were inducted into the Northwestern Athletic Hall of Fame while John Kiser was represented by son Jason and brother Robert.

Dyan Lodde-Brownlee and Dan Robinson were inducted into the Northwestern Athletic Hall of Fame while John Kiser was represented by son Jason and brother Robert.

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – One year ago, Northwestern High School Athletic Director Dan Armstrong decided the school needed to permanently preserve its rich athletic heritage. As a result, he founded the Northwestern Athletic Hall of Fame with charter member athletes Brandon Beachy, Gary Mumaw, Jenna Tarkington-Mumaw and Austin Parkinson; contributor Mike Blackburn; and coaches Merrill Hoban and Bob Rodibaugh.

On March 27, the athletic department honored its second class, which included two athletes and a coach. Inducted into the Brent Graber/Brian Hemmerly Athlete Wing were swimmer Dyan Lodde-Brownlee and basketball standout John Kiser while Dan Robinson became the third member of the Gerald Hood Coaches Wing. The trio were honored during a banquet held in the Northwestern Tiger Den in front of more than 100 friends, family and supporters.

“I would like to thank the hall of fame committee for this honor,” said Robinson, who coached the Purple Tigers football team for 21 seasons. “This is an unbelievable experience; a heartwarming experience. I thank Dan for being the driving force for this hall of fame. It is a worthwhile endeavor. It is always worthwhile to tie yourself to the past and take a moment to look back. It is worthwhile to get the newer generations to look back at the past.”

Robinson is best known for serving as the head football coach from 1982-1994 and 1999-2006. In his 21 years, the Tigers were 114-108 – a school record for victories. He took his 1992 squad all the way to the Class 3A state championship game before losing to state powerhouse Indianapolis Cathedral 33-14. His squad won two of the programs four sectional titles and he claimed the Mid-Indiana Conference title in 1982, 1983, 1990, 1992 and 1999. He was the Ball State University Coach of the Year in 1992 and coached the Indiana All-Stars twice while sending 15 players to the prestigious game. He currently is the offensive coordinator for Hamilton Heights High School and earned a second state runners-up ring in 2012.

He also served as the head softball coach for six seasons, winning the 1984 sectional title, and was assistant coach on the 1984 sectional champion baseball team. He retired from teaching after 31 years in the Northwestern Math Department.

“One thing about coaching girls is when you throw them off the field, they don’t know what to do,” said Robinson, which received a laugh from the audience. “They don’t know where to go when you say, ‘get out.’ They all go three feet outside the fence and ball around! With guys, you throw them off the field and they are gone – the cars are gone. With girls, pretty soon they are all back on the field while the guys are gone. I love coaching.”

A 1990 graduate of Northwestern, Dyan Lodde-Brownlee still stands as the best swimmer in school history after standing on the IHSAA state finals podium four times and earning 10 Mid-Indiana Conference crowns.

“I want to thank my parents who took me to practice every day,” said Lodde-Brownlee. “My parents attended every meet, home and away. But my driving force was my teammates. I feel truly blessed to be selected for this award. I love being a Tiger!”

As a freshman, she won a conference and sectional championship in the 100 and 200-yard freestyles, placing sixth in the 200 at the state finals. Her sophomore season, she earned conference titles in the 200 and 400-yard free relay while placing sixth in the state in the 200 and eighth in the 100. As a junior, Lodde-Brownlee added conference titles in the 200, 400 and 500-yard freestyles while placing eighth in the state in the 200. In her final year as a Tiger, she added three more MIC championships in the 200 free, 400 free relay and 500 free. She just missed a state medal after finishing ninth in the 400 free relay.

The star swimmer received a scholarship to swim at Butler University. She competed in four seasons at Butler in the 200 and 500 free and in the 100 and 200 butterfly, serving as a team captain her senior season.

John Kiser may be the best athlete of whom most in the area have not heard. A three-sport Northwestern athlete from 1966-1970, he dominated the football, basketball and track surfaces. On the football field he was a four-time All-MIC member and team captain. On the track, he was part of two school records – one in the mile relay and the other in the high hurdles.

But it was the basketball court where Kiser exploded, finishing his senior season with a double-double average of 29.7 points and 18.7 rebounds per game – numbers that should have earned him a spot on the Indiana All-Star team. During his junior season, he also led the team in scoring (18.8 ppg) and rebounding (15.5 rpg) as the Tigers won the MIC with a 7-1 record and finished with an 18-3 record. He had 14 double-doubles and had 19 rebounds four times that season.

In his astonishing senior season, Kiser scored 30 or more points 10 times and had 3 games over 40 points. In a game against Hamilton Heights, he scored 46 points and collected 36 rebounds. Northwestern was 14-7 as a team and repeated as conference champions. He left Northwestern as a rare member of the 1,000-1,000 Club with 1,246 points and a school-record 1,007 rebounds.

He continued his career at the University of South Florida, where he is credited with scoring the first-ever points for the new program. Kiser left USF with 920 points, 406 rebounds and 196 assists.

Kiser passed away at the age of 55 in 2007 and was represented by family members.

OBITUARY FOR GENE F. CONARD, HOWARD COUNTY SPORTS HOF CLASS OF 2007

Gene Conard

Gene F. Conard, Kokomo, died peacefully at St. Joseph Hospital, Kokomo, on March 22, 2015. Born in Elwood, IN. on Sept. 5, 1929, Gene was the son of John and Eva Conard. His parents and a brother, George, preceded him in death. Survivors include his special lady of over 50 years, Melda Prather of Kokomo.

Gene grew up in Elwood and graduated from Elwood High School before joining the U.S. Air Force. He served four years, much of his time being spent in England.

Upon his return to the states, he began his journalism career in 1958 at the Elwood Call-Leader before moving on to the sports department of the Kokomo Tribune. He later wrote sports for newspapers in Hamilton, Ohio, Frankfort, Crawfordsville and Noblesville before returning to Kokomo to work for The Sports Page, a weekly newspaper. He later wrote sports for the Tipton Tribune and Kokomo Tribune. While at the Kokomo Tribune in the 1960s, Conard covered a wide variety of major sporting events including the 1967 MLB World Series, the Indiana Pacers run of ABA championships and the career of local professional bowler Don Johnson.

While Gene had no children of his own, he spent nearly 60 years happily writing of kids’ sports exploits. Armed with a writing style lovingly embraced by his readers, Indiana’s best-dressed sportswriter covered a variety of youth sports. Among his favorite beats were the Kids Fishing Clinic and the Haynes-Apperson Kids Track Meet in Kokomo and most recently, Tri-Central High School sporting events. He especially enjoyed reporting the Lady Trojans three consecutive IHSAA Class A state basketball championships and the magical birth of the school’s football program that included a state title in 2013. Gene considered himself fortunate to be able to follow his passion for writing sports his entire adult life.

Despite being a long-suffering fan of the Chicago Cubs, Gene nonetheless maintained an immense love of baseball at all levels. He managed the Kokomo Highlanders semi-pro team from 1965-87, never suffering a losing season while winning seven state championships. Over the years, Gene remained close to his former players.

He has frequently been honored for his writing and/or coaching, most recently in 2007 with induction into the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame. He’s also had inductions from the Kokomo Bowling Association, Indiana Wrestling Coaches Association and Indiana Semi-Pro Baseball organization.

Given the opportunity today, Gene would thank his friends as well as staff members of Great Lakes Caring who spent considerable time assisting him in his final months.

A celebration of life funeral service will be at 1:00PM, Saturday, March 28, 2015, at Dunnichay Funeral Home in Elwood.  Visitation will be Saturday from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM at the funeral home.  Interment will follow at the Elwood Cemetery with full Military honors conducted by the US Air Force Honor Guard.  In lieu of flowers, donations in Gene’s name may be made to the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame, P.O. Box 749, Kokomo, IN., 46903-0749.

WE LOST A GREAT ONE SUNDAY: REMEMBERING GENE CONARD

Gene Conard

THE DEAN’S LIST BY DEAN HOCKNEY

A few tears came to my eyes as I watched the last of the NCAA basketball games Sunday night. No, not because my Hoosiers lost or Butler fell. It was because the sports scene in Central Indiana lost a good friend. I got a few tears as I read an email saying legendary sports writer, coach and friend Gene Conard had passed away.

For anyone who ever read a Gene Conard bylined story, you knew you were getting more than a game story. You were getting a novella – a piece of art in the form of words. He told more than the game story – his words took you to the venue. He had a way to tell the story without an overabundance of stats.

An Elwood native, Gino earned his first byline in the Call-Leader in 1958. Sports and the athletes it produced became more than a job, it was his life. And he touched thousands of them – including mine. I first met Gino while he was publishing The Sports Page in the 1980s. He hired me for the summer, and I still have that first story I wrote for him – a preview of the American Legion Post 6 baseball team. Through the years, we sat through dozens of games together – and I loved every minute of it.

When I first served as manager of the Greentown Post 317 Legion squad, one of the first calls I received was from the manager of the Kokomo Highlanders semi-pro team – a guy by the name of Gene Conard. If you were his friend, you were a friend for life and he would always offer assistance. When our Greentown team nearly knocked off Post 6 in a sectional game in Lafayette (we lost in extra innings), Gene happened to be covering the game for the Kokomo Tribune. After the game, he sat and talked to me about the growth of our program – encouraging me to keep at it.

I am sure a lot will be said of Gene over the course of the next week. Here is how his induction plaque reads at the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame (class of 2007):

A contributor to the Howard County sports community for 40-plus years, Gene Conard is known as a successful baseball coach and award-winning journalist.

Conard managed the Kokomo Highlanders semi-pro baseball team from 1965-87 — never suffering a losing season while winning seven state championships. In 2007, he was inducted into the Indiana Semi-Pro Baseball Hall of Fame.

Conard has been a sportswriter for nearly 50 years, working for daily newspapers in Elwood, Kokomo, Frankfort, Crawfordsville, Noblesville and Tipton and for two weekly publications in Kokomo. While at the Kokomo Tribune, he covered a variety of major sporting events, including the 1967 World Series, the Pro Bowling Tour and the Indiana Pacers’ run of ABA titles. His versatility showed when his piece on the death of Bobby Kennedy was judged Column of the Year.

The Elwood native has also been inducted into the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame and the Kokomo Bowling Association Hall of Fame.

My friend and fellow journalist Josh Sigler posted on Facebook, “Gene Conard had more talent in his left pinkie that I have in my entire being.” Ol’ Gino would argue that, but Josh is not far off – Gene Conard could flat out write. I know I am not the only one who will say Gino was a mentor and friend. Not by a long shot. But I sure am glad I can say it. He will be missed.

Until next time, remember to keep the man and ship in sports – and I’ll see you at the game.

Dean Hockney is the publisher of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana and sports editor of the Kokomo Herald. You can follow him on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) for the latest in local sports news and game reports.