Archive for Kokomo

KOKOMO WILDKAT ICON TERRY DOWNHAM NAMED HELPING HAND AWARD WINNER BY STATE SPORTS JOURNALISTS

Terry Downham 1

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – Every Kokomo basketball fan knows his voice, but few know who is behind the public address microphone inside Memorial Gymnasium. Terry Downham has served as the statistician – and now announcer – for Haworth and Kokomo basketball for decades. But while his booming and distinctive voice is easily recognized, it is his work behind the scenes of Kokomo athletics that has garnered the attention of sports journalists around the state.

On Jan. 17, the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association announced its 2017 Hall of Fame class and annual award winners. This year, a familiar name will take the stage as a winner of one of the individual awards as Downham was named the Bob Williams Helping Hand Awards recipient.

“This is totally unexpected,” said Downham prior to a road trip to Huntington North to keep the scorebook for the Kats boys basketball team. “When (ISSA board member) Greg Rakestraw emailed me and asked me for a bio – it totally shocked me.”

The retired Haworth and Kokomo math teacher has been assisting those covering high school sports in Kokomo for more than 40 years and is widely regarded as the best high school sports information director in the Hoosier state.

“Terry is a God-send from a media perspective,” said Chris Lowry, radio voice of the Wildkats on WIOU. “Every week, he sends us information via email and I joke with him that he actually makes my job tougher – he sends me so much info that I have no excuse to not be prepared for a game.”

Downham first served as the statistician for Haworth in 1973 as a student teacher, but really got involved when he was hired as a full-time math teacher in the fall of 1974. He quickly became the official scorer for the Husky boys squad and was the scorer and PA announcer for the girls.

In 1984, when Kokomo and Haworth consolidated, then Athletic Director Ron Barsh bestowed the title of sports information director on the new Wildkat. Since then, he has served as the official statistician for the football and basketball programs while also providing information for other athletic programs in the school. He is the voice of the Lady Wildkats softball team and is a statistician for the Kokomo Relays and IHSAA track meets at Walter Cross Field.

Downham, who previously served as the longtime secretary of the North Central Conference and currently serves in that position with the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame, has gained fame around the state for the information he provides prior to games – especially when the Kats are in the state tournament. He regularly produces a “Media Minutes” that can be 20 to 30 pages of current stats and data along with a history of the two teams. His Media Minutes rivals some NCAA Division I programs when it comes to game-day information. In addition, he assists the KHS athletic department with its daily Kat Chatter.

“People in the North Central Conference probably know me and most of the media in the area know me, but in Southern Indiana they probably had no clue,” he said. “That is why I was surprised to get this award from a statewide organization. It is humbling.”

When asked what his favorite sport was, his coy response was, “It depends on what season it is.” But he did have some favorite memories of covering the Kats.

“That would have to be the state championships,” said Downham. “Starting with Mike Smith and the 1985 state champion baseball team; I worked closely with Mike for years. And the basketball teams that have made it to the state finals are always fun.”

Wildkat Athletic Director Jason Snyder was thrilled with Downham being selected for the award.

“This is a perfect fit for an award for Terry Downham,” said Snyder, who has worked with Downham as a player, coach and AD. Terry not only assists with getting and collecting sports information, but the research he does for us and the conference is second-to-none. Anyone who has played a game at Memorial Gym or played in a tournament game against Kokomo can attest to the unbelievable information and media packet Terry puts together.”

While a fixture at KHS, Downham is also known for working other big events around the state. He is the public address announcer for the Indiana All-Stars at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (along with other duties), is an original member of the Indianapolis Colts game-day crew in the press box, is the co-official scorer for the Kokomo Jackrabbits and has served his alma mater Purdue University on the football stat team for decades. He also assisted the namesake of his award, Bob Williams, with game-day operations at the IHSAA basketball state finals when it was played in the RCA Dome. In 2011, Downham was recognized by the Sports Journal as the first recipient of the Publishers Award for Excellence in Sports.

“With his experience working with Purdue football and the Colts, he has seen top-level, professional work, and he strives to bring that to everything we do at Kokomo,” said Snyder. “I am so blessed to have him be a part of our athletic department. Not only does he bring that information that you can rarely find, but he wants to make sure what we put out is correct and meaningful. He has a professional setup and it is done in a professional manner.”

“He has a passion for researching sports and numbers, and that stems from his tenure as a math teacher,” added Lowry. “And I love talking to him because he is just a great person; a great guy. He is one of those guys that if you need something, he would do everything in his power to make it happen. I don’t know how he has time for everything – he is retired from teaching but puts in more hours than most people with full-time jobs.”

Downham will be honored as part of the 22nd Annual ISSA Awards Banquet on April 9 at the Valle Vista Golf Club in Greenwood. Other award winners being recognized are Chuck Freeby of WHME in South Bend (Marv Bates Sportscaster of the Year), James Peters of the Times of Northwest Indiana (Corky Lamm Sportswriters of the Year) and Rex Kirts of the Bloomington Herald-Times (Ron Lemasters Lifetime Achievement Award).

The highlight of the banquet will be the induction of the ISSA Hall of Fame class of 2017, which includes: Bill Benner, former reporter/columnist for the Indianapolis Star and News; Reggie Hayes of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel; Jim Brunner of WBAT/WMRI in Marion; Dan Egierski of WEOA in Evansville; Arv Koontz of the Seymour Tribune; and the late Bob Simmers of WITZ in Jasper. The Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association was founded in 1946. The ISSA created its Hall of Fame 50 years later and currently has 105 inductees.

KOKOMO’S TIONNA BROWN IS FAST ON THE COURT AND FASTER ON THE TRACK; NAMED USATF INDIANA ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

Tionna Brown runs the point for the Lady Wildkats against Logansport. (SJ Photo/William Gibson)

Tionna Brown runs the point for the Lady Wildkats against Logansport. (SJ Photo/William Gibson)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – For the second consecutive year, Kokomo’s Tionna Brown has earned a prestigious award from the state track and field sanctioning body. After earning All-American status at the national championships, Brown was named the 2016 13-14 Year-Old Track and Field Female Athlete of the Year by USATF Indiana. She won the same award in 2015. USATF Indiana will recognize 33 athletes in various sports and division categories at the USATF Indiana Awards Celebration on Jan. 14 at the Ben Davis Ninth Grade Center in Indianapolis.

“It means a lot, especially after not making (the times that) I wanted to,” said the 15-year-old Brown. “It really boosted my confidence up a little more.”

At the 2016 USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships, held in Sacramento, California, 84 Indiana athletes competed during the seven day competition held on the campus of Sacramento State University. In temperatures that topped 100-degrees, Brown was among 7,524 athletes who competed in the 50th anniversary of the event.

According to USATF Indiana, Hoosier athletes earned 37 visits to the awards podium to receive championship medals and all-American hats for placing in the top eight in their events. Indiana athletes claimed five national titles, two silver medals and three third place finishes. Brown said the team would not have climbed the podium so many times without a strong effort in practice.

“We put in a lot of work every day,” said Brown. “We put in hours a day. Sometimes we would practice for an hour-and-a-half, and then come back and do it again. Our coaches made sure I was focused and ready for my four events.”

K.O. Jackson, her coach with the K-Town Elite Track Club, was thrilled one of his runners was honored.

“All I can say is that Tionna has earned this and she is more than deserving of the honor,” said Jackson. “But her humbleness would never let you think this or any other of her outstanding accomplishments are a big deal; this is really a big deal and we are very proud of her. There is still much more that awaits us.”

Brown, a Kokomo High School freshman, finished second in the girls 13-14 100-meter dash with a time of 12.24 seconds. Her silver medal time was slightly slower than national champion Kennedi Sanders of Mississippi who ran a 12.18. Brown’s first round qualifying time was 12.04. In 2015, she placed 21st in the event.

“It was hot,” said Brown, who said she likes the sprint races the most. “I was battling heat cramps out there. On some days, I had to do multiple events in the heat, and that was a struggle.”

The All-American from Kokomo climbed the podium again with a fourth-place finish in the 200-meter dash with a time of 24.58 seconds. She earned a third All-American designation with a sixth-place finish in the long jump at 17-feet-2.25 inches. She also finished 23rd in the 400-meter dash with a time of 58.42.

Prior to the nationals, Brown earned four gold medals at the 2016 USATF Region 7 Junior Olympics in the 13-15 year-old division: 100-meter dash (12.20), 200-meter dash (25.41), 400-meter dash (59.68) and long jump (16-feet-11.25). She had qualified for the Region 7 event after winning the same four events at the 2016 USATF Indiana championships.

Brown currently is the starting guard for the Kokomo Lady Wildkats basketball team and also participates in travel softball. As a freshman on the hardwood, she currently leads the Lady Wildkats with 82 steals (4.56 per game), 37 assists (2.06 per game) and five charges taken. She is third on the squad in rebounds (6.44 per game) and scoring (8.78 per game). The multi-sport star said she was hesitant to say which sport she liked the most.

“It is hard to tell, but I like track the best – it is what I am good at,” said Brown, who noted she is still getting quicker in the sprints. “My goal is to take Kokomo to state – I think I will be competitive in two or three events.”

The Lady Kats track and field season begins on Feb. 13, and Brown will be a key part of that program for the next four years. But she will wait to join the team until after the Lady Kats make an appearance in Hoosier Hysteria, which begins on Jan. 31.

2016 FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: CATHERINE SKAGGS, KOKOMO HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL

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BY DEAN HOCKNEY

Earning the title of Indiana All-Star does not come easy, and Howard County had two following the 2016 softball campaign – Western’s Brook Strunk and Kokomo’s Catherine Skaggs. Both had great seasons and careers, but when the numbers are crunched from the season, Skaggs earned the title of Sports Journal Female Athlete of the Year.

During her senior season playing shortstop for the Lady Wildkats, Skaggs led Howard County with a .593 batting average (top 15 in state), 36 runs batted in, nine home runs and an on-base percentage of .646. She also scored 36 runs and tallied 48 hits while ripping nine doubles and swiping 15 stolen bases.

For Skaggs, the nine home runs tied the Kokomo High School single-season record. Ironically, she tied the record held by her sister, Christine. During her final three years of varsity, she maintained a whopping .472 batting average while driving in 65 runs. In 285 plate appearances, she only had 23 strikeouts – including just four her senior year.

“Talk about a kid who is going to be sorely missed, Cathy is like having a professional athlete on your team,” said Kokomo head coach Mike Susong. “She is a consummate pro; she organized our off-season workouts and is probably the hardest working kid I have ever coached in any sport. All of the accolades she has earned this year are well-deserved.”

Following the season, she was named first team All-North Central Conference while also earning a first team All-State nod. She helped the Lady Wildkats win 74 games in four seasons while tallying one sectional crown and two NCC titles.

She will play NCAA Division II softball at the University of Indianapolis in the spring. For her efforts, Christine Skaggs earned the title of Sports Journal Female Athlete of the Year.