Archive for Lady Kats

KOKOMO LEGEND HEATHER CUSICK ASSUMES HELM OF LADY KATS PROGRAM

Heather Cusick

KOKOMO, Ind. – After returning home to serve as an International Baccalaureate counselor for the 2013-14 school year, a dream opportunity became enhanced when 1999 Kokomo High School graduate Heather Cusick was approved as the head coach of the Lady Wildkats varsity basketball program.

“I could not be more excited to be named the next head coach of the Kokomo Lady Kats’ basketball program,” Cusick said. “This is truly an honor to be able to return home to Kokomo and have the opportunity to build upon the already storied tradition that is Kokomo Basketball. Kokomo is a special place and the Lady Kats receive incredible support from this community, staff, and administration. I am so fortunate to work, and now coach, in a place that has meant so much to me.”

Cusick is part of that storied tradition as her 1999 Lady Kats team, then coached by Charlie Hall, made a run to the IHSAA Class 4A Final Four. She was later named an Indiana All-Star. She is third on the all-time Lady Wildkats scoring list with 1,391 career points and second for career assists (375) and career steals (349). She was also the Kats co-Most Valuable Player in 1998 and 1999.

Athletic Director Jason Snyder, who stepped down as the Lady Kats coach in March, noted that he was impressed with the quality of candidates for the position.

“We had an excellent pool of candidates for the position,” Snyder explained. “But Heather’s college level experiences and her college connections across the country will be a great asset to our future Lady Kats, as well as the program.  With Heather at the helm, I feel the future is very promising for Lady Kats Basketball in Kokomo.”

Cusick praised the hard work by Snyder and his staff the past eight years.

“All the pieces are in place to continue to cultivate the work that has been completed by Coach Snyder,” Cusick said. “My hope is to not only win games and develop basketball talent, but also to lead and guide each young lady who goes through the Kokomo program from where she is to where she wants to be.”

Cusick played basketball at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Health and Sport Studies. From 1999 to 2003, she became the first and only player in Mid-American Conference women’s basketball history to reach 1,700 points, 500 assists, 400 rebounds, 300 steals and 200 3-point field goals.  Cusick served as a 3-time team captain before becoming one of only two women at Miami to have their number retired. She was inducted in the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Miami University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.

Kokomo Interim Principal Dr. Mike Sargent believes Cusick is an outstanding selection.

“Coach Cusick is an excellent addition to the KHS head coaching staff,” Sargent said. “The Lady Kats girls basketball program has a tradition of success, and we are confident that under Coach Cusick’s leadership, the program will continue this long tradition. Heather’s experience as a player and coach will be a benefit to our student-athletes.”

After being selected as a Kodak All-American honorable mention in 2003, Cusick played for the BC Shooters professional basketball team in the Netherlands during the 2003-2004 season. One of the statistics that makes Cusick the proudest is the fact that she appeared in 116 contests at Miami University – never missing a game – while making 113 consecutive starts.

Mike Wade, director of human resources and operations, served on the selection committee and is happy with the choice.

“I am excited for Jason Snyder and the KHS athletic department,” Wade said, a previous Kokomo boys basketball coach and athletic director. “This selection will help Snyder make the transition because Heather Cusick brings a great resume, including playing and coaching experience, from all levels of play.  Heather’s passion for Lady Kats basketball is contagious.”

After her one-year stint in professional basketball, Cusick served as director of basketball operations at Ball State University in 2004-2005, and then served in the same position from 2009 to 2013 at the University of Nevada, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Educational Psychology. Cusick also served as the Lady Kats’ junior varisty and assistant varsity coach this past season.

“I am optimistic about the future of the Lady Kats’ basketball program, and I cannot wait to begin working with the young ladies who are, and will be, a part of the Kokomo Lady Kats’ basketball program,” Cusick concluded.

Courtesy of the Kokomo School Corporation

ATHLETIC ADMINISTATORS CONTINUE TO RESCHEDULE CONTESTS DURING A SNOWY JANUARY

Jason Snyder

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – As everyone in central Indiana knows, it snowed over the last two weeks – a lot! By some counts, Kokomo and Howard County were blanketed by more than 23 inches of the white stuff in a mere 14 day span. The kids seemed to love having an extra week tacked on to their Christmas Break, but for athletic administrators and student-athletes, it was a near nightmare.

Hundreds of athletic events were postponed or cancelled around Indiana as the state dug out of its worst snow storm in decades. At least 21 varsity sporting events were affected in Howard County, sending local athletic directors scrambling via cell phone, email and text messages to communicate with other schools. At Kokomo High School alone, 11 athletic contests were affected from freshman through varsity – including the North Central Conference diving preliminaries that were scheduled for the Wildkat pool.  But unlike most area athletic directors, Kokomo’s Jason Snyder wears a dual hat as he is also the girls basketball coach.

“It was a crazy week,” said Snyder on the days following the Jan. 5 winter storm that left 17 paralyzing inches of snow around Howard County. “But the first thing you consider is the safety of our student-athletes – whether you are a coach or athletic director or any type of educator. Everyone, including coaches, said our first objective was safety. Everyone understood. But once the streets were cleared, the bus stops just had so much snow piled on them we still couldn’t go and it wasn’t safe. By Wednesday, a lot of the students wanted to get out and wanted to get in (to the gym).”

Snyder said that while some schools have a “no school, no play” rule, Kokomo Schools do not – although the Kats still cancelled all events on the Monday and Tuesday after the snow storm. While still thinking of safety, by Wednesday teams were allowing for optional practices.

“If they couldn’t make it, or if the parents didn’t feel it was safe, then that was fine – it was just optional time in the gym,” said Snyder. “Swimming had conference meets coming up and wrestlers who are out for four or five days have weight issues (wrestlers weigh-in before each meet to qualify for weight classes), so it was nice to get (optional practices) in. It was much like after the tornadoes – safety first.”

Snyder said one of the biggest issues was making contact with other schools that had contests scheduled against the Wildkats in the days after the snow. He said his athletic staff came in to help, but with other schools also being out, it was tough to track down needed personnel.

“We came into the office basically all week to try and get games rescheduled,” said Snyder, noting that one of the big contests was the North Central Conference swim meet scheduled for Ball State University. “They did a great job getting things reorganized. We couldn’t go back to Ball State due to scheduling, so the conference could get everything moved to Purdue on another date. We worked with great people who do what is best for student-athletes no matter how many hours they put in.”

As for his Lady Wildkats, he said he was fortunate not to have a long layoff. While the boys team had nearly two weeks off between games due to cancellations, the Lady Kats played on Jan. 3, 11 and 14.

“Our team comes down to leadership and who is on the floor,” said Snyder. “Our team did a nice job of adjusting (due to the weather). It was nice having that Friday game instead of having two-and-a-half weeks off. The boys will have about two weeks off and they are adjusting in practice to stay sharp.”

And after a three-game losing streak to Class 3A No. 9 Western, Carmel and Marion, his squad seems to have turned a corner and stands 8-5.

“We wanted to come out of Christmas Break a better team and continue to improve,” he said. “I thought we have done a better job of feeling where we belong on offense. Now, we need to continue to clean up some things. We are playing much better, but our girls know we can get much better. These girls have a goal, a common theme, and they are fun to be around.”

But just as Snyder and the area took a deep breath from the snow, another four-plus inches fell on Jan. 18, causing a delay of the Howard County Boys Basketball Tournament finals. It also directly affected the Lady Kats – and they were not even playing a game. Saturday afternoon, Kokomo was en route to Illinois for a Monday morning game against Chicago Marist (54-49 victory) when they were diverted due to a serious accident on I-65 that shut down the interstate for more than 12 hours. Driving in a heavy snow, the Lady Kats took a detour and arrived in Chicago seven hours after leaving the City of Firsts.

“So ready to get to this hotel already,” said Lady Kat senior Alanis Jones via Twitter. She later added, “We are in Chicago! We are just going to go get pizza before we head to the hotel.”

Following a quick return from Chicago, the Kats play at McCutcheon on Thursday before hosting Huntington North on Friday. Snyder said, “That will be a true sectional type week where we play three great teams.”

Ask any coach and they will tell you that they want their teams prepared to be playing their best during the tournament. For the Kokomo Lady Wildkats and its AD/head coach, that is exactly where they are – despite joining the rest of central Indiana and taking a few snow days – and a long detour – away from the court.

MYLES GEARY STEPS DOWN AS RECORD-SETTING LADY KATS SOCCER COACH

Myles Geary steps down from Lady Kats soccer program after record 183 wins and eight sectional titles.

Myles Geary steps down from Lady Kats soccer program after record 183 wins and eight sectional titles.

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – It is rare when coaches go out on top of their game. But Kokomo High School girls soccer coach Myles Geary has 15 consecutive non-losing seasons; so, he had no choice but to go out on top once he made one of the toughest decisions of his life – leaving the program that he took from infancy to an NCC respected power.

“This was a very tough decision – one of my toughest ever. But the time commitment is simply too much,” said Geary, who recently accepted the sports sales manager position with the Greater Kokomo Visitors Bureau. “To be successful it needs to be an eight or nine month commitment, and that is really hard to do right now. My family has been great in dealing with soccer, but it is time for me to put back into them. As a father I have to reassess what is important to me. And the new job will keep me busy but will also keep me in the sports world.”

With a record of 183-103-6 (.627 winning percentage), Geary leaves the Lady Wildkats as the most successful coach in the program’s history. But in 1996, the program was young, unsuccessful and Geary was completing his third season at Western high school as an assistant boys soccer coach. But then KHS Athletic Director Jim Callane decided to take a chance on the 1989 Kokomo graduate. And what a choice that turned out to be. After a 5-11-2 record in his inaugural campaign of 1997, the program never again dipped below .500 under his watch. By his third season, Geary had the Lady Kats hoisting an IHSAA sectional championship trophy as the team tallied a 15-4 record.

“His knowledge of soccer, his ability to relate to kids and his enjoyment and being with student-athletes led to me hiring him,” said Callane while noting that Geary did not play high school soccer because it was only a club sport in 1988. “His enthusiasm and knowledge really closed the deal. Early on, we were just starting out and soccer was catching on, but high school coaches were hard to find because of the infancy of the program – so you really had to look for former players. Myles learned to play soccer in (Dallas) and when he was in the military. He just knew the game.”

According to Callane, the Wildkats started a soccer program in the late 1980’s as a recreational co-ed club sport. The IHSAA did not sanction soccer until 1994 and the North Central Conference followed suit in 1998. Geary took over a girls team that finished 1-15 and was outscored 120-11.

“When we went to boys and girls sports, Myles came in early and did a great job for us at Kokomo High School,” said Callane. “He brought our program to a level that was competitive in our conference and the IHSAA tournament. He made it fun for the kids. He was smart enough to recognize kids who were good athletes and got them involved. He was good at spotting those kids and recruiting them to the soccer program.”

During Geary’s 16 seasons of patrolling the Red and Blue sideline, the Lady Kats won eight sectional championships and one regional title in 2002. They also won five North Central Conference crowns and a prestigious Hoosier Cup division championship last season. The eight sectional and five NCC championships are both conference records. His eight sectional trophies account for nearly 12-percent of all Wildkat girls sectional championships in all sports.

In addition, Geary has coached an Indiana All-State First Team performer (Hillary Beck) and three All-State Second Team players (Whitney Beck, Samantha Bledsoe and Betsy Bixler). In addition, Sarah Schwartz, Jessica Carney, Casey Connor, Anne Thatcher, Whitney Farris, Becca Wade, Bre Kinder, Kristen Clason and Mary Lang were All-State Honorable Mention performers and more than 50 student-athletes were named to the all-North Central Conference teams.

“I really wanted to see what I could do at Kokomo,” said Geary of his 16 years at his alma mater. He is currently the second longest tenured coach at KHS behind distance running coach Ricke Stucker. “But I thought I might want to try my hand at the next level, and I had some really good offers from some big schools in Indianapolis. But when the thought of leaving the program, I just couldn’t do it. My goal was to stay five years and move up – but I bleed red and blue; it runs through my veins.”

Geary said he thanks the Kokomo administration – from Callane to Mike Wade to current Athletic Director Jason Snyder – for the support and what they have done for the Lady Kat soccer program. He said there are not many high schools that have tournament ready facilities like Kokomo’s two lighted playing fields and two practice fields. He said the Wildkat soccer complex is an envy of the Hoosier state.

“We went from practicing in basically a corn field and playing at the old downtown Kautz football field – which wasn’t wide enough or long enough (for a regulation high school soccer field) – to Jim Callane’s initiative of building a soccer complex,” said Geary. “It is a premier high school complex in the state. And I constantly told that to the girls – we were spoiled.”

The soccer buff said he enjoyed his 16 years of coaching the Lady Kats, and was thrilled to be on the early side of the program’s growth into a perennial conference and sectional contender.

“I got to see a lot of growth in the program and I was proud to have been a small part of it,” he said. “We had a soft schedule when we started, and so we weren’t prepared when we got to sectionals. So we took off some guaranteed victories and put in some almost guaranteed losses against state powers. One year, we had seven top 25 teams on our schedule, but we sure were ready when conference and sectionals came up. We became competitors.”

Snyder said replacing Geary will be difficult, not only because of his longevity in the program, but his knowledge of the game itself.

“You know, one thing we will miss is his working with the younger kids and being able to get them involved,” said Snyder, noting that the middle schools now have a soccer team due in part to Geary’s insistence. “The girls soccer team always got off the fall sports season to a good start. They were always competitive under Myles. For years, he has put a ton of time in and sacrificed a lot for these student-athletes. He demands a lot but truly cares for them – you can tell because they keep coming back and wanting to be involved in the program.”

To say Geary will be missed at Kokomo High School is a vast understatement. Sure, he can be replaced, but losing a coach with his winning credentials will be hard shoes to fill. Myles Geary may have arrived as an unheralded coach, but he leaves as the best soccer coach the school has ever seen.