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Best in Show, Part I: Best Male Athlete, Best Female Team


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DAILY REPORTER SPORTS EDITOR BRIAN HARMON & SPORTSWRITER GRANT FREKING SELECT THEIR FAVORITE PLAYERS, TEAMS & MOMENTS FROM THE 2013-14 PREP CAMPAIGN

BEST MALE ATHLETE

Brian: CHAD RED

Undefeated halfway through his high school career, New Palestine wrestler Chad Red earns his second straight Best Male Athlete honor from us. The junior-to-be claimed Hancock County’s only state title of 2013-14 when he beat Fairfield’s Forest Glogouski by a 6-2 score in February to win the 120-pound championship. Red will take a 92-0 record into his upcoming junior campaign. The polite and well-spoken young man’s next goal: Pin all four of his State Finals foes, a feat accomplished by only three wrestlers since the four-round state finals format began in 1984.  Red pinned his first three State Finals opponents this time around before the decision over Glogouski.

Grant: SPENCER GILBERT

Eastern Hancock’s senior running back was everything to the Royals’ Class A State Finals runner-up squad. Heart and Soul. Force and Footwork. Numbers and No-nonsense. Gilbert’s 308 points represent the seventh-highest scoring season in state history. He broke school records for single-game (360 yards), single-season (2,916 – the eighth-highest total in state history) and career (5,423) rushing. Gilbert, who also started on defense, willed EH back from a 36-21 third-quarter deficit in the sectional title game by steamrolling and deking his way to 320 yards and four touchdowns. Lastly, Gilbert’s emotional and mental transformation as a senior made him an indispensable team leader.

BEST WISHES

Brian: JULIE SHELTON

The Mt. Vernon girls basketball coach left the Fortville school a few months ago to take an assistant position with the Butler women, a program of which Shelton is still the all-time leading scorer. Shelton could end up as a college head coach some day, or in the WNBA, or back in high school. Regardless, I don’t give her any more than two years as an assistant. Shelton is too competitive not to have as much control as possible over a team’s performance. Wherever Shelton goes in her career, that team is lucky to have her.

Grant: KEVIN HORRIGAN

Always helpful. Always organized. Always a smile on his face. Retiring Greenfield-Central athletic director Kevin Horrigan’s impact and dedication to Cougar athletics is the stuff of legend, but his reach wasn’t limited to the blue and gold. Horrigan has been the tournament director of the boys basketball State Finals since 1993 and has been in charge of the finish line at the boys and girls track and field State Finals since 1994. Here’s to hoping Horrigan, a certified USA Track and Field official, gets the chance to referee an upcoming Olympics – an opportunity he’s declined in the past because of his commitment to Greenfield-Central athletics.

BEST BOYS COACH

Brian: KYLE RALPH

If high school athletic budgets operated under the same seemingly non-existent restraint as college payroll departments, New Palestine would go broke paying its array of impressive coaches, not the least of which is Kyle Ralph. In his rookie football season with the Dragons last fall, Ralph guided NP to a 13-1 record and its first regional title since 1990. Ralph’s disciplined, passionate approach helped turn around a team that went 3-7 the season prior to his arrival.

Grant: SHAWN LYONS

The manager of New Palestine’s baseball team guided the Dragons to their second semistate berth in three years by possessing the fortitude to thrust inexperience into his lineup – see freshman slugger Keegan Watson and clutch-hitting junior Logan Gilvin – but also had faith in the process, believing Nick Butcher – a defense-only player as a sophomore – would eventually find his way at the plate. As a senior this spring, Butcher hit .436 and was county Co-Player of the Year.

BEST FEMALE TEAM

Brian: G-C TRACK AND FIELD

These “Best of” sections we do each year generally have a theme; i.e, the same teams/kids/coaches pop up in several categories. In 2013-14, it was Greenfield-Central girls athletics enjoying a wave of multiple-sport success. Many of the same young ladies who shined for G-C girls basketball, for example, were instrumental in the Cougars’ track success. Credit goes to longtime G-C track and field coach Jan Hacker for molding a group of diverse, relatively young athletes into Hancock County and Hoosier Heritage Conference track and field team championship winners. The latter was the first-ever HHC team crown for G-C, which also qualified six girls for the State Finals.

Grant: G-C SWIMMING & DIVING

On Jan. 18, the Greenfield-Central girls swimming and diving team placed sixth at the Hoosier Heritage Conference Meet. Three weeks later, the Cougars found their form and shocked everyone at New Palestine Natatorium by claiming their first-ever sectional title – without winning a single event. It the was the ultimate team win, with 14 of G-C’s 21 team members recording at least one top-eight finish. Coach Emily Logan, who won sectional titles with the Mt. Vernon girls in 2009, 2010 and 2012, could very well make it five titles in seven years in 2015 – only two girls on G-C’s 2013-14 roster were seniors.

BEST OVERTIME

Brian: G-C/MV 30 PENALTY KICKS

In what very well might have been a state record for most penalty kicks in a shootout, Greenfield-Central outlasted Mt. Vernon 14-13 on PKs after the squads ended the regulation and overtime periods of their sectional title match tied 1-1. The teams totaled 30 PKs, with one miss by the Cougars and two misses by MV. “The PKs, I don’t even know what to say about that,” G-C coach Jared Manning commented at the time. “It was the craziest thing in soccer that I’ve been a part of. It’s a shame that somebody has to lose that, but fortunately for us we came out on top.”

BEST UPSET

Brian: KOOGS OVER MARAUDERS

Heading into a conference matchup at Greenfield on Jan. 24, the Mt. Vernon girls basketball team – a defending state champ – boasted a 31-game HHC win streak based in large part on tremendous defense. The Cougars gave MV a taste of its own medicine in a 47-38 stunner. “We worked on a plan all week ... to try to stop their best shooters and best post players, and it showed tonight,” said Greenfield frosh Maddie Wise, who outscored MV’s top trio of Sydney Shelton, Erica Moore and Olivia Coleman 10-2 in the first half.

Grant: YOUNG NP TRIUMPHS

The inexperience of the New Palestine girls soccer team – without a senior on the roster – was a gift and a curse in the sectional semifinals against Mt. Vernon. The young Dragons, 7-7-2 entering the game, were unafraid of the HHC champion Marauders and surged to a 3-0 lead. But, NP’s nerves started to show and future county player of the year Claudia Brown took advantage, spearheading an MV comeback that resulted in a 4-3 lead. But, the Dragons recovered to net a late equalizer and won 3-2 in penalty kicks.

BEST ATMOSPHERE

GRANT: ROYALS HOST FOOTBALL SEMISTATE

The night of Eastern Hancock football’s home semistate clash with No. 1 Linton-Stockon, this sportswriter struggled to find a parking spot – more than two and a half hours before the 8 p.m. kickoff. With extra bleachers brought in to accommodate a crowd of 2,500, the Royals played one of their best games of the season in a 37-16 triumph. As the clock ran out, EH coach Pat Echeverria received a subzero Gatorade shower and turned to the crowd with arms raised, soaking in a State Finals dream realized for all Royals’ fans.

PART II: WEDNESDAY, THE DAILY REPORTER SPORTS STAFF HIGHLIGHTS BEST GAME, BEST FEMALE ATHLETE, BEST MALE TEAM, BEST GIRLS COACH, BEST BACK-BREAKING MOMENT AND MORE

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