BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – In front of hundreds of attendees last Saturday evening at the Creative Financial Centre auditorium in Kokomo, seven legends from various sports were inducted into the 16th class of the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame. With smiles, tears and stories, the inductees thanked those gathered while an adoring audience listened to Jacqueline Bagwell, Mark Gabriel, Gary Mumaw, Mick Owens, Willard Rice, Cari Stover-Richards and Ricke Stucker talk about their lives.
While six of the seven still live in Indiana, one made a long journey from the East Coast, returning to the City of Firsts for the first time in years.
“It is great to be back and see everybody.,” said Bagwell, who now lives in Massachusetts. “It has been awhile since I have been back. Kokomo and Howard County was such a great place to grow up.”
Bagwell played sports at Haworth High School, graduating in 1980, just as the IHSAA was beginning to recognize girls athletics. Thus, she grew up playing a lot of sports with her male counterparts.
“We didn’t have a lot of organized sports for girls,” recalled Bagwell. “But the guys let me play football and baseball and basketball – which was my love. I was also very involved in the high jump – I was the three-time middle school champion. I played volleyball and basketball in high school – and then I changed to tennis instead of the high jump.”
Making the change to tennis turned out to be a great choice. With the help of 2004 Howard County Sports Hall of Fame inductee Charlie Hall, she earned a scholarship to continue her tennis career at Columbus State University before finishing at the University of Texas-Permian Basis. After graduating from Indiana University, she began coaching tennis – first on a one-on-one basis before moving to Hamilton College in New York. The next year, Amherst University hired her – and that is where she has been for 28 years.
“I have been at Amherst so long because I have never, ever coached a team I didn’t like,” she said. “The kids on my teams are so worth it, I would do anything for them.”
It didn’t take long for Bagwell to leave her mark on the program as she led the team to NCAA Division III Final Four appearances in 1997 and 1998. In 1999, her eighth season, Bagwell led Amherst to the school’s first-ever national championship in any sport.
In a thrilling 5-2 contest, Amherst defeated Williams College to complete a perfect 19-0 season and win the NCAA Division III national title. Since then, Bagwell has led the Mammoths to five NCAA Division III national runners-up finishes in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2014.
In 28 seasons, she has amassed a record of 442-118, with 21 appearances in the NCAA Division III national tournament. She has produced a pair of singles and six doubles national champions while also garnering nine New England Small College Athletic Conference titles. In 2000, at the Third Annual Boston Sports Awards Gala, she was named the Boston Area Coach of the Year – beating out Boston Red Sox manager Jimmy Williams and Bruins head coach Pat Burns.
KING OF THE DIAMOND
Mick Owens earned a berth in the Hall of Fame as both a baseball coach and longtime contributor to local sporting groups. Prior to founding Creative Financial Designs and arriving in Kokomo, Owens was a standout baseball player, where he played at Indiana State University and eventually the Kokomo Highlanders semi-professional team. When an injury ended his career, he started his coaching career as an assistant at Haworth High School. He eventually coached his son in Little League before founding the cfd Saints semi-pro squad, which played in Highland Park Stadium.
While at the helm of the Saints for 14 years, he led the squad to more than 400 victories, two berths in the National Baseball Congress World Series and one appearance in the United States Baseball Congress World Series. The Saints also won a pair of Indiana semi-pro state championships and three tri-state titles. His efforts landed the baseball legend into both the Indiana Semi-Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006 and the National Semi-Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013.
As the owner of the Creative Financial Designs company, he has helped countless young boys and girls as a supporter.
BEAST OF THE BUCKETS AND BOARDS
Mark Gabriel enters the Hall of Fame after one of the most dominant prep and college basketball careers of anyone to live in Howard County. A standout basketball player for the Kokomo Wildkats, in 1966, Gabriel averaged 20 points and 16.5 rebounds per game to earn All-North Central Conference honors while also being named to the all-sectional, all-regional and all-semi-state squads.
Despite his success at Kokomo, Gabriel’s impact was felt most at the collegiate level when he starred for Hanover College, where he still holds 14 school records. The dual-threat star with a soft shot scored 2,368 points and grabbed 1,463 rebounds – both are still school records. As a sophomore, he set the school’s single-season scoring mark with 824 points one year after breaking the freshman scoring record with 565 points. He also holds the season rebound record with 419 and he grabbed an incredible 25 rebounds in a game against St. Leo. His efforts have landed Gabriel into both the Hanover College Athletic Hall of Fame and the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Some will say Gary Mumaw put a then relatively unknown Northwestern High School on the athletic map in Indiana. Running cross country at Northwestern from 1968-1972, Mumaw helped lead the Tigers to the 1970 and 1971 IHSAA state runners-up finish in cross county – finishing second to big school Southport (99-133 and 56-129) both years at the South Grove Golf Course in Indianapolis.
Mumaw placed 18th in the IHSAA cross country state finals as a junior before finishing on the podium in eighth-place his senior season. In track and field for Northwestern, Mumaw was a two-time conference champion and won his second IHSAA state finals medal after finishing in third-place in the two-mile run.
After high school, Mumaw ran two seasons at Indiana State University before transferring to the University of Illinois. While an Illini, he was the number two cross country runner for a squad that placed 10th at the NCAA national finals his junior season and fifth during his senior year. In track, Mumaw helped lead Illinois to the 1975 Big Ten Conference team championship and he placed seventh in the 10,000-meter run at the Big Ten Conference championships in 1976.
TOP QUARTERBACK TURNED COACH
Willard Rice may be known as a football coach to many, but he got his start throwing the pigskin for the Kokomo Wildkats (1964-1966) and Ball State Cardinals (1968-1970).
While playing at Kautz Field in downtown Kokomo, Rice threw for 2,400 yards, which is still fifth-best in Wildkat history. He threw for more than 1,000 yards as a junior and recorded Kokomo’s first-ever 300-yard, five-touchdown passing game during his senior season. Rice helped lead the Kats to a perfect 10-0 season in 1964 and was the first Wildkat football player to earn Indiana All-Star honors his senior season.
At Ball State, Rice accounted for 4,403 total yards of offense in three seasons, which is still ninth-best in school history. In his record-setting career, he had 25 touchdown passes and 3,710 passing yards.
After graduation, Rice spent 17 seasons coaching Eastern High School to a record of 88-82 from 1972-1988. He returned to his alma mater and led the Wildkats from 1991-2003, retiring with a 68-62 record and three North Central Conference championships over a 13-season career.
INDIANA ALL-STAR HOOPSTER
Cari Stover-Richards played basketball for the Kokomo Wildkats in one of the most dominant runs the IHSAA has ever seen. A four-year starter for the Lady Kats, she helped lead the squad to a 94-7 record with four 20-win seasons, three North Central Conference titles and back-to-back state championships in 1992 and 1993.
Playing with fellow Indiana All-Stars Tiffany Longworth and Mistina Oliver, Stover finished her career with an impressive 923 points, 515 rebounds, 142 assists and 130 steals. In 91 games, she finished with a 48.9-percent field goal percentage and set a then-school record 43.8 three-point shooting percentage.
She continued her career at the University of Toledo before transferring to Valparaiso University. She was named to the Mid-Continent Conference All-Academic Team after the 1996-97 season.
MASTER OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUN
Many know Ricke Stucker as the longtime coach of the Kokomo Wildkats long distance program. But before he picked up a whistle, he was a standout runner for both the Wildkats (1963-1965) and Indiana University.
But it was while coaching where he left his mark. Following college, Stucker returned to Kokomo and became one of the most respected long-distance coaches in the state. He started his coaching career at Kokomo in 1969 and is currently celebrating his 50th season as the head coach of the boys cross country team. He also coached state finalists in girls cross country and boys and girls track. His teams won 20 cross country sectional titles and have qualified for 39 semi-state competitions. A 10-time Indiana All-Star cross country coach, he has been named the North Central Conference Boys Cross Country Coach of the Year four times and the Girls Coach of the Year twice.
Away from KHS, Stucker has run the Boston Marathon 10 times, has been president of Club Kokomo Roadrunners 11 times and he founded the Haynes-Apperson Festival distance race in 1977. His efforts have garnered him a place in the Kokomo High School Cross Country, Club Kokomo Roadrunners and the Indiana Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches Halls of Fame.
The Howard County Sports HOF contributed to this story