EW PALESTINE — A large group of athletes and coaches gathered around the track inside Kelso Stadium at New Palestine High School and milled about, offering hellos and hugs as they reunited one more time to celebrate.
Recognized Friday night for their historic accomplishments, each individual was greeted by a school official, who happily handed out several state championship and state runner-up rings.
The jewelry went to the Dragons athletes and the coaches who pushed themselves to the limit and earned top honors or state runner-up awards in their respective sport during the 2016-17 school year.
The former and current Dragons athletes and coaches gathered on the track for the ceremony were showered with applause prior to the New Palestine vs. Mt. Vernon football game in front of a packed house.
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Alec White, a 126-pound state champion, with a 39-1 record last season, is a freshman wrestler at Purdue University, who was thrilled to come back to New Palestine to receive his state championship ring.
“This is awesome to be back here seeing everyone again,” White said. “This is where it all started for me.”
White credited the community, calling area residents “something special” and always rallying behind area teams to support athletes throughout the year, regardless of their record.
He’ll wrestle at 141-pounds next year for the Boilermakers while gaining strength and knowledge as a red-shirt freshman.
Brady Walden, a state track athlete, who led the 4×400 relay team for the Dragons, is a freshman at the University of Indianapolis where he’ll also run track. He, too, was glad to be back to get his state runner-up ring.
“I really enjoy being able to come back to my home town and being recognized,” Walden said. “It’s great to see all the accomplishments we did as a group our senior year. It was one of the best senior years anyone could of imagined, and I’m glad I was part of it.”
He also was pleased to be able to see his old running mates, guys he hasn’t been able to get together with since they accomplished so much during their high school careers.
It included seeing Sam Voelz, the Dragons state winner and school record-holder in the 800-meter. As a senior in 2016-27, he became the first individual boys track state champion in program history. Voelz was also recognized as state runner-up, running the anchor leg in the 4×800 and 4×400 for the Dragons. He picked up one state and two state runner-up rings.
“I’m excited to be here,” Voelz said.
His father, Jim Voelz, principal at Doe Creek Middle School, was proudly wearing his son’s state championship ring Monday at school.
At the end of the long line of state ring recognition was Ed Marcum, head softball coach, and his assistant coaches and daughters Alyssa (Marcum) Dillard and Michelle (Marcum) Hokl.
After watching all his players get their rings, the crowed was pleased to see one of Ed Marcum’s two grandsons accepting the ring for his daughter Alyssa, who stood by and smiled proudly.
The Dragons won a school-record 31 games with only two losses, broke the program’s previous mark in batting average with a .437 clip and tied the team’s single-season record with 83 doubles.
Five team state records fell during their Class 3A championship run.
Al Cooper, athletics director, passed out the rings in what was a crowning achievement for the school’s athletic program.
“It was a long line, but that is good stuff though,” he said proudly, with a smile.