KOKOMO, Ind. – Fans of Kokomo athletics were shocked Monday night when the Kokomo School Corporation Board of Trustees named Athletic Director Jason Snyder as the new principal of Wallace Elementary School of Integrated Arts. But they may have felt some relief when the board voted to hire current Eastern AD Nick Sale, a Kokomo graduate, as Snyder’s replacement.

After serving the past seven years as athletic director, Snyder requested new and different leadership opportunities within the Kokomo School Corporation and will replace retiring Principal Charley Hinkle at the Wallace School of Integrated Arts.

“I am very excited to be able to make a difference in students’ lives,” Snyder stated. “With both my parents being teachers, I have always been extremely passionate about education.”

The former Boulevard Elementary student and 1995 KHS graduate is looking forward to becoming a member of the Wallace School community.

“The younger students bring such energy and enthusiasm to school each day,” said Snyder. “I already have great relationships with many of the Wallace staff members, and Mr. (Charley) Hinkle has done a wonderful job making integrated arts a showcase for Kokomo Schools. I am looking forward to spending time with Mr. Hinkle and continuing the great work being done at Wallace.”

Kokomo Superintendent Dr. Jeff Hauswald understands Snyder’s desire to return to the classrooms of a school as a building principal.

“He is a great team player,” said Hauswald. “Jason has been talking to us for some time about additional leadership responsibilities and his desire to grow in the profession. I am thrilled with this opportunity for Jason.”

Board member Crystal Sanburn was equally excited about Snyder’s move.

“The shoes you are filling at Wallace are very large,” she told Snyder at the board meeting. “I can’t believe how awesome this is for us that you are taking this position. It almost makes me cry – we couldn’t be more blessed to have you in this position.”

The transfer of Snyder created a vacancy for the Kokomo High School athletic director, which is being filled by Nicholas Sale, a 2007 Kokomo High School graduate. Sale views the move to Kokomo as a homecoming, and noted that his wife Brooke (Cantrell) also is a KHS grad (class of 2008).

“My Mom (Rita) has worked for Kokomo Schools for more than 40 years, and her love for Kokomo Schools continues to have a great influence on my life, as well as this decision,” Sale explained. “My experiences at Eastern prepared me well to serve as Kokomo’s new athletic director.”

Kokomo is classified as a 4A school by the IHSAA and Eastern is a 2A school. While at Eastern the past seven years, Sale served four years as a 10th-grade language arts teacher, one year as the middle school Dean of students, and the past two years as athletic director. During those seven school years, Sale served as the varsity head coach of the baseball team, a position he still holds, and the boys tennis squad.

Sale noted that he was thankful to the Eastern School Corporation, especially to former Eastern AD Brad Wilson, “who allowed me to grow professionally.”

Having a pair of athletic director mentors on the Kokomo Schools staff in Mike Wade and Snyder helped Sale make his decision to accept the Kokomo position.

“Mr. Wade and Mr. Snyder are outstanding men, as well as being very good athletic directors, and I am thankful to have their expertise available,” said Sale, who was a member of the 2007 KHS baseball team that earned state runner-up honors. “Having played at Kokomo, I understand the tradition-rich North Central Conference, and I hope I can continue the Kokomo legacy in athletics.”

Snyder feels Sale is a great fit for the athletic director position.

“I believe Kokomo is very fortunate to have Nick Sale as our new athletic director,” Snyder said. “Nick has been great to work with the past two years, and he is very experienced in hosting IHSAA tournaments and project development. Nick’s passion for Kokomo High School is simply a plus. I look forward to a smooth transition this summer.”

The board also voted to hire Jason Spear as a Kokomo High School vice principal, replacing Richard Benberry who is returning to the classroom. Benberry was recently named the KHS varsity football coach and Spear will join the Kats coaching staff, a position he previously held. Spear considers returning to the Kokomo School Corporation after an eight-year absence as a homecoming.

“I will be coming back to the place I love – Kokomo,” Spear explained. “I left Kokomo for family reasons and I am returning for family reasons. My sister (Jennifer Simmons) still lives in Kokomo and she was very influential in our decision to return. Being near family is a big deal for me.”

After 17 years in special education classrooms (nine years at Central Middle School in Kokomo), Spear feels he is ready for the new responsibilities of being a high school vice principal.

“I love working with people,” said Spear, who recently was selected as the 2017-18 Teacher of the Year at Lawrence Central. “I am passionate about helping students become better people, and I am looking forward to working closely with teachers to help our students become the best they can be.”

Spear also is looking forward to serving as an assistant football coach.

“My coaching experiences at Kokomo were outstanding,” Spear said. “(Former KHS head coach Brett) Colby was one of the most influential people in my professional life. I have continued coaching football and earned a state championship ring in 2011 with Carmel.”

Courtesy of the Kokomo School Corporation and Sports Journal

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Kokomo’s Tionna Brown blitzed the field to win the Kokomo Relays 100-meter dash in record time. (SJ photo/Dean Hockney)


KOKOMO, Ind. – For two consecutive years, Mother Nature was the big winner at the Kokomo Relays, washing out the event with heavy rains. But when the 94th annual edition kicked off in 2018, the sun was shining and records were falling on the new Walter Cross Field track surface. One of the records that fell was the girls team score as Noblesville cruised to its fourth Kokomo Relays title with 173 points, easily outscoring runners-up Northwestern’s 114. Crown Point captured its fifth consecutive boys title with 137.33 points.

Kokomo sophomore Tionna Brown showed how fast the new Beynon track is when she posted a 12.15 in the 100-meter dash preliminaries. She then set a new Kokomo Relays record with an 11.87 run in the finals. The previous record was set by Howard County Hall of Fame member and former Lady Kat Lashonda Davis in 2003 (12.24). Joan Easter of Northwestern placed second with a time of 12.93.

Western’s Tyler Gilbert also blistered a Kokomo Relays record. Throwing on the newly relocated discus arena, the defending IHSAA state champion launched a toss of 183-01, which was the longest of his career. He reset the discus 30-year old record previously held by Fort Wayne Snider’s Tony Luenberger (180-07). The record-breaking toss also garnered Gilbert the Sports Journal/Coca-Cola of Kokomo Player of the Meet and the prestigious Walter Cross Award, presented by the Kokomo Tribune to the most outstanding performer at the Kokomo Relays.

Shelby Tyler of Noblesville set the final Kokomo Relays record with a jump of 5-8 in the high jump. She also won the pole vault (9-6) and was a member of two winning relay teams. She earned the Walter Cross Award for the most outstanding female.

Northwestern took the top two spots in the girls long jump as Easter had a winning leap of 16-2.75 and Hope Braun followed at 16.1.5. Lady Tiger Jaimy Lalonde also captured a Kokomo Relays championship medal with a throw of 34-1.75 in the shot put.

Boys team standings: Crown Point, Noblesville (97), Chesterton (88), Mount Vernon (69), Kokomo (64), Ben Davis (37), Western (32) and Northwestern (19.67). Girls team standings: Noblesville, Northwestern, Warsaw (86), Mount Vernon (58), Kokomo (39), Chesterton (38) and Western (13).

The Kokomo Relays are one of the most prestigious track and field events in the state and are billed as “The oldest continuous high school track meet in the United States.” Chet Hill started the Kokomo Relays on May 2, 1925.

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KOKOMO, Ind. – There have been many firsts since Kokomo Municipal Stadium opened its gates four year ago, but until April 30, it had not included high school softball. That changed when Kokomo and Western brought its annual Cancer Awareness Game to the downtown venue, and in front of nearly 1,000 fans, the two squads put on an instant classic.

The night opened with a ceremonial first pitch, thrown out by four women affected by cancer – survivors Juanita Tebbe, Sherri Parish and Janis Cooper along with Kokomo educator Megan McConnell, who is currently battling the disease. Once players and fans cleared away tears from the emotional ceremony, the game was on and Western struck first courtesy of a Chase Epp solo home run.

Down 1-0, Kokomo took a 4-1 lead in the top of the third. Olivia Branch singled, Baleigh Keesling-Mayer walked, Ellie Trine ripped an RBI single and Lauryn Hicks knocked home two with a double. Savanah Emmons closed the scoring with an RBI single. Western earned a run back in the bottom of the fourth on a Kinsey Smith solo home run, only to see the Lady Kats tack one on in the top of the fifth – Hicks singled and scored on an error.

Down 5-2, Western stormed back in the bottom of the fifth as Karlyne Shepherd and Tori Turner had back-to-back singles to start the inning. Chase Epp was hit with a pitch to load the bases and clean-up hitter Emma Key showed why she was in the power batting position by launching a grand slam to give the Panthers a 6-5 lead.

That lead held until the top of the seventh, but Kokomo was not done. Keelsing-Mayer walked and pinch-runner Tionna Brown stole second base. Hicks was then intentionally walked with two outs. Number three hitter Taylor Simmons sent a pitch to the base of the temporary outfield fence for a two-run double and Savannah Emmons followed with an RBI single to give the Lady Kats an 8-6 lead.

With starting pitcher Hicks still on the mound for Kokomo in the bottom of the seventh, Key led off with a single and the game appeared to be tied when Smith sent a ball to dead center field only to be caught by Branch near the fence. After a Sadie Harding single to put the tying run on base, Hicks retired the final two hitters to preserve the win.

Hicks pitched all seven innings to earn the nine-hit, eight-strikeout victory. She was also 2-for-3 at the plate with a single and double, two RBIs and three runs scored. Western reliever Brooklyn Shelton absorbed the loss.

The event raised more than $600 for the American Cancer Society. 

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