Archive for December 15, 2015

CALL HER AN OLYMPIAN: KOKOMO’S LEXI LAIRD TO SWIM IN RIO FOR THE REPUBLIC OF SEYCHELLES

Kokomo graduate Lexi Laird shows off a gold medal from the Indian Ocean Island Games. (Photo/Patrick Joubert, Seychelles News Agency)

Kokomo graduate Lexi Laird shows off a gold medal from the Indian Ocean Island Games. (Photo/Patrick Joubert, Seychelles News Agency)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – The City of Firsts is known for many things, but the Olympics is not one of them – until now. Lexi Laird, a 2011 Kokomo High School graduate and former record-breaking swimmer at IUPUI, announced she will be headed to Rio de Janeiro to take part in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil. And in a slight twist – she will not be representing the United States of America.

“I will be attending the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio representing the Seychelles,” said Laird. “I am honored to represent the Seychelles and thankful for the opportunity they have given me to further my swimming career. This is just the beginning.”

Laird, 22, is able to swim for the Seychelles National Team because of her family ancestry. Her mother, Angela Beier, was born and lived in the Seychelles for most of her life. After her mother moved to Germany and married a U.S. Air Force airman, Angela passed away when Lexi was 4 years-old, but that tie and her dual-citizenry allows her to swim for the island nation. With a population of 90,024, the Republic of Seychelles is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean and consists of 115 islands approximately 932 miles east of mainland East Africa.

The 2015 IUPUI graduate participated in the Indian Ocean Island Games in August, held on Reunion Island, and swam away with a trio of gold medals. The former Wildkat took home top honors in the 50-meter, 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke events. Her 50 time of :29.48 was a new Indian Ocean Island Games and Seychelles national record. She also grabbed a silver medal in the 50 free and a pair of bronze medals in the 100 and 200 free relays.

At the 2015 African Games in the Republic of the Congo last September, she took a bronze medal in the 50 back.

In early December, at the USA Swimming Winter National Championships at Federal Way, Washington, she reset her Seychelles national record with a time of 1:02.33 in the 100-yard backstroke.

Earlier this year, Laird also competed in the FINA World Swimming Championship in Doha, Qatar. Swimming with some of the world’s best swimmers, she placed in the top 40 in the 200-meter backstroke while setting Seychelles national records in four events and three relays.

“I have big dreams out of the pool as well. I put my heart into my Kelley studies and look forward to sitting for the CPA exam,” Laird told the Kelley Biz Blog

After being named a 2014 IUPUI Top 100 Outstanding Student, Laird is swimming for the prestigious Carmel Swim Club as she studies to take her Certified Public Accountant exam.

“I am so glad to have Carmel behind me and be a part of an amazing group of people,” said Laird. “I owe it to my teammates and the great coaches at Carmel pushing me daily.”

In the IUPUI pool, she was a multiple All-Summit League performer and holds three Jaguars individual records and four relay records: 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke, 200-yard backstroke, 200-yard medley relay, 400-yard medley relay, 200-yard freestyle relay, 400-yard freestyle relay. She is also second in the 100-yard freestyle. Laird was also the first IUPUI swimmer to earn a B-cut to qualify for an NCAA championship event.

Now graduated, she is preparing not only for her professional work career as a CPA, but also her opportunity to shine on the international swim stage.

“Thank you to my friends and family; you are all so supportive through this unique journey of mine,” said Laird, a 2015 CSCAA Scholar All-American honorable mention. “Like I said, though, this is just the beginning.”

While the Seychelles may be the smallest populated nation of any independent African state, it has a swimmer with high expectations. When August 2016 arrives, Kokomo eyes will be watching for Lexi Laird, one of its own participating in the Summer Olympics.

LAFAYETTE BASEBALL CHOOSES AVIATORS AS NICKNAME FOR NEW PROSPECT LEAGUE TEAM

Lafayette Aviators Three Logos

LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The fans of the new Lafayette Prospect League baseball team now have a name to cheer for next summer. The name the fans will be cheering for and the name on the front of the jerseys will read – Aviators. The Aviators moniker was chose after a lengthy and thorough vetting process which included over 650 suggestions from local fans and a vote from the Mayor’s Youth Council.

“After naming the five finalists last month, a special emphasis was put on making sure the name represented the community in its best light and tied into the things that make Lafayette special,” said Mike Zimmerman, CEO and owner of the Lafayette Aviators. Zimmerman is also the owner of MKE Sports and Entertainment, , the operating entity of the Aviators, which also owns the Kokomo Jackrabbits. “That, combined with the colors and actual branding, make the Aviators a perfect fit for the Lafayette Prospect League franchise.”

Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski is happy with the new moniker.

“Having the community, along with the Mayor’s Youth Council, participate in the naming of our new Prospect League baseball team has made the announcement even more special,” he said. “We are so happy with the name that was chosen. ‘Aviators’ is the perfect brand to represent Lafayette’s past, present and future. From the historic reference to Purdue grad Amelia Earhart, to the existing Purdue flight school and ALCOA airplane parts manufacturing, along with the exciting addition of the GE Aviation Facility to the Greater Lafayette landscape, Aviators is a unique, meaningful name we can all rally around and identify with.”

The Lafayette Aviators will debut on June 1, 2016, when the team makes its home debut at Loeb Stadium. The name adds to the great tradition of eclectic names already found throughout the Prospect League including the Jackrabbits, Terre Haute Rex, Danville Dans, Hannibal Cavemen, Chillicothe Paints and Springfield Sliders.

The Aviators will now be turning over the team’s logo choice to the fans. Over the following days, the fans will be allowed to influence the logo choice over social media. Fans should stay tuned to the Aviators social media channels on Facebook and Twitter to comment on their favorite logo choices and aspects of each design. The final logo will be announced prior to Christmas and the name the team contest winner will be announced and awarded his or her prizes in conjunction with the final logo unveiling.

The Aviators also named Brent McNeil as its first field manager. McNeil is a 2007 graduate of Lafayette Jefferson High School and served as the pitching coach for the Danville Dans in 2014.  He is currently the director of baseball operations for Indiana State University.

It was previously announced that the Jackrabbits and Aviators will compete for the Battle of 26 trophy when the two teams battle next summer.

Courtesy MKE Sports and Entertainment

JOSIAH PRICE AND MICHIGAN STATE WIN BIG TEN CONFERENCE TITLE, HEAD TO COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS

Josiah Price 2

L.J. Scott’s late lunge did more than put the ball across the goal line – it put No. 5 Michigan State in the College Football Playoff. Scott kept powering forward and stretched the ball into the end zone for a touchdown with 27 seconds that sent the Spartans past No. 4 Iowa 16-13 Saturday night in the Big Ten championship game.

Following its Big Ten title win, the Spartans (12-1, 7-1 Big Ten) were named the third seed in the four-team playoff and will play second-seeded and SEC champion Alabama (12-1, 7-1 SEC) in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on Thursday, Dec. 31 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (time 8 p.m.; TV: ESPN). No. 1 seed Clemson (13-0) will face No. 4 Oklahoma (11-1) in the Capital One Orange Bowl, also on Dec. 31. Iowa (12-1) will play in the Rose Bowl.

Quarterback Connor Cook led the Spartans on a 22-play drive that set up Scott’s 1-yard run on third down. A half-dozen Iowa defenders tried to stop Scott, but he wouldn’t be denied.

”Let’s get on and party,” Spartans coach Mark Dantonio shouted to the crowd.

After settling for three field goals in the first 59 1/2 minutes, Cook moved the Spartans 82 yards and kept their national title hopes intact. Greentown native and Eastern graduate Josiah Price, a redshirt junior tight end, was instrumental in the final drive. He not only had several key blocks, including one praised by the Fox television crew, he had a key reception on third down to keep the championship-winning drive alive.

Cook, the game’s MVP, methodically moved the Spartans in a drive that consumed nearly the final 9 1/2 minutes. He finished 16 of 32 for 191 yards with one interception and no touchdowns.

But with the season on the line, Cook and the offense made play after play against an Iowa defense that hadn’t given up a touchdown all night – until Scott got free just long enough. Michigan State, which earned its second conference title in three years, will chase its first national championship since splitting the title with Notre Dame in 1966. The Spartans need two more wins to earn the school’s first uncontested national title since 1952.

For all of the talk about the league’s two best quarterbacks going head-to-head and the proficient offenses, this game had a decidedly old-school flavor.

Scott ran 22 times for 73 yards against a stingy defense that stopped Michigan State on four consecutive snaps inside the Iowa five in the final two minutes.

It looked like the Hawkeyes had him stopped again, but Scott refused to go down.

”We live for moments like this,” he said

Beathard finished 18 of 26 with 216 yards, one interception and an 85-yard TD pass to Tevaun Smith on the first play of the fourth quarter to give Iowa a 13-9 lead.

That’s how it stayed until Scott’s score.

Michigan State recovered a fumble on the game’s third play and converted it into a 23-yard field goal.

Iowa tied it with a 24-yard field goal that was set up by Josey Jewell’s interception, putting the ball at the Spartans 20.

The Hawkeyes made it 6-3 on Marshall Koehn’s 43-yard field goal early in the second quarter and had a chance to extend the lead after driving to the Michigan State 5-yard line. But George Kittle couldn’t catch Beathard’s third down pass in the end zone, the loose ball landed on Riley Bullough’s back and cornerback Demetrious Cox scooped it up for the interception.

Michigan State had two chances to tie the score, but Michael Geiger missed one 52-yarder to the left and his second 52-yard attempt when it hit the front of the crossbar and bounced harmlessly into the end zone as the half ended.

It was the fewest points scored in a first half all season for each team – and it marked the first time in the five-year title game that neither team scored a touchdown in the first half.

Michigan State finally tied it on Geiger’s 29-yard field goal late in the third quarter and then regained the lead on a 47-yard field goal in the final minute of the third quarter.

Two plays later, Beathard gave Iowa the lead.

But the Hawkeyes couldn’t hang on.

Courtesy of Michigan State University Athletics