Saturday was a homecoming for Greg Bell on many fronts.
Bell captured the cherished moments of local athletics for 27 years as the voice of Howard County sports on WIOU radio before moving to Kentucky in recent years.
A lesser know fact about Bell is that with Dean Hockney, he helped spearhead a movement to create a Howard County Sports Hall of Fame 10 years ago, serving as a member on the original board of directors, a group which inducted the inaugural class of legends Jimmy Rayl, Jim Ligon, Tom Underwood, Pat Underwood, Rut Walter and Don Johnson in 2003.
His ongoing battle with cancer was a factor in him missing last year’s induction ceremony, the first hall of fame banquet he was unable to attend.
Saturday night inside the Kokomo Civic Center’s Automotive Museum, Bell’s career came full circle as he was honored as the hall’s 2012 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, standing alongside the six members of the 10th hall of fame class.
“I just have so much respect for this organization and job that the board of directors do, because they spend a lot of time and take their job seriously about coming up with a great class each and every year,” Bell said. “Each year you think ‘Gosh, you can’t come up with a better class than last year’s class.’ And, every year, here they come and it’s an even better class. This means so much to me. It really does.
“After I left [Kokomo] I realized how much I missed it. I cover high school sports in Kentucky now and it’s not the same. It really isn’t. People love their sports here. The atmosphere at games [here] is just incredible. It’s just not the same in Kentucky. I really do miss covering Howard County sports.”
Bell and Hockney took a moment to reflect on what the Hall of Fame has grown into since 2003. Both were proud to have been a part of getting it off the ground, but more so were thankful for the community support the initiative has received.
“To do it this long is just phenomenal,” Hockney said. “You’d think at some point you’d have everyone inducted that you think should be inducted. But, when you look at some of these names [in the 2012 class], they’ve all done remarkable things in Howard County athletics. We’ve inducted 60 people now, and it just seems to get better and better.”
The 2012 class features a diverse group of athletes and coaches who, like those before them, have left an indelible mark on the Howard County athletics landscape, including Tia Davis, Crissy Klein, George Phares, Chris Boneham, Leon Troyer and Brian Hogan.
Each grabbed the attention of the audience in their own way during their induction speeches, receiving warm ovations, laughs, and the occasional tear as they recalled what the community has meant to them.
Davis starred on Kokomo’s girls basketball teams in the late 1990s, scoring 1,056 career points as he Lady Kats teams compiled an 81-19 record and grabbed three regional titles.
She went on to scored 1,099 points in her collegiate career at Toledo, earning All-Mid-American Conference First Team honors as a senior. She conveyed her feelings of gratitude for those who helped her developed into the player and person she became. At the top of that list is her mother Claudette Davis.
“My mom is my rock,” Tia said, fighting back tears. “She put her ambitions on hold to make sure I reached mine.
“This is where it all started for me,” Tia continued. “This is where I picked up a basketball for the first time. All of the coaches I had to teach me the game of basketball — this was the grassroots of it all. To all my coaches and those who [influenced] my life by teaching me this game, I just want to thank them for all the hard work and passion for the game that they taught me.”
Klein was a four-time state qualifier in golf at Northwestern High School who went on to star on the course at Notre Dame. She later played in the U.S. Open and earned the title of Class A PGA Professional.
“This is really exciting,” Klein said of her induction. “I never expected something like this to happen to me. I’ve played golf my whole life, and this is really a great honor to be part of. I have learned quite a bit from my experiences in golf. Every day on the golf course there’s something new, and always having the support of the community of Howard County has meant so much to me.”
A native of Shelbyville, Phares compiled a 537-321 record as the baseball coach at Taylor High School, where he led the Titans to the Class 2A state championship in 2000. He was also Taylor’s girls golf coach for 24 seasons, leading three teams to the state finals.
“I look back and think about all the people I’ve had the opportunity to be associated with here in Howard County, and a lot of them have meant a lot to me,” Phares said. “I’m sure many of them don’t even know how much they’ve impacted me, because I was always the type of person who would listen to what they had to say and implemented it into my program. I doubt many of them were ever aware of it.”
Boneham led Haworth High School’s 1982 boys swimming team to a state title and earned four individual state championships before moving on to Indiana University, where he was a two-time Big Ten champion in the pool.
He credited two coaches, Haworth’s Mal Cofield (a 2008 Hall of Fame inductee) and IU’s Doc Counsilman, for helping him reach his potential as an athlete and person.
“I’m only the second swimmer to be inducted, and I’m just so proud,” said Boneham, who now works in the pharmaceutical business in Raleigh, N.C. “It’s great to be back and see all of these old people and remember the good times. I draw on my experiences [in Kokomo] quite a bit. Athletics has given me a lot. Not just the success, but everything involved with it and all the people I met. The success and adversity experienced in sports is vital because it teaches you so much beyond the realm of athletics. There are so many lessons you can learn throughout your life.”
The pride of Greentown, Troyer was a cornerstone on Eastern High School’s football teams in the early 1960’s, squads which won 37 straight games beginning in 1961. He went on to play fullback at Purdue, where he played alongside legends like Bob Griese and Leroy Keyes. He was a member of the Boilermakers squad which defeated USC 14-13 in the Rose Bowl following the 1966 season.
“I didn’t realize how big of an honor this is until I got here [Saturday], to be honest,” Troyer said. “I really feel like this is an honor for Greentown because when I played football, the town was all there at each game. We were a pretty close-knit place, and they have to be part of this honor for me.”
The sharpshooter from Kokomo High School was a member of Basil Mawbey’s basketball teams of the late 1980s. Hogan helped lead the Kats to a 24-3 record and a regional title in 1988 before earning a nod to the Indiana All-Star team.
Hogan went on to play collegiately at Florida, where he graduated as the program’s all-time leader in made 3-pointers with 120.
Like Boneham, Hogan was grateful for his experiences as a youth in the City of Firsts.
“I’m proud to come back and bring my family and show them a little bit of the history of athletics in Kokomo,” said Hogan, who is now an attorney in Orlando, Fla. “These are some great people to be inducted with. It’s a positive experience to have a background in athletics when adversity comes. You think about those tough moments on the court – whether it be at the Wigwam or at home in Memorial Gym – it’s helped me deal with both the adversity and good times in life.”
Davis, Klein, Phares, Boneham, Troyer, Hogan and Bell honored at ceremony Saturday.
Saturday was a homecoming for Greg Bell on many fronts.
Barnes sets Taylor's career hits record
Taylor baseball standout Logan Barnes made his final game at George Phares Field one to remember.
Barnes pitched four solid innings to lead Taylor past Monroe Central 9-3 Tuesday. In addition, he went 2 for 3 at the plate, pushing his career hits total to a school-record 142.
Kats drop heartbreaker
When the postseason arrives, emotions surge like a roller-coaster. One minute, it’s a long uphill, then a wild series of events offer a barrage of frights and thrills. And then, for one team, the ride ends and there aren’t any more tickets for another go around.
After two days of chills and thrills, Kokomo’s softball team ran out of tickets Tuesday night in the Class 4A Harrison Sectional. The Kats dropped a 4-3 decision to Harrison in eight innings, giving up a run in the top of the extra frame, and having a runner tagged out at home in the bottom of the frame.
“It was a great game,” Harrison coach Dick Mitchell said. “It’s always nerve-wracking to coach in one of them, but both teams played their hearts out. Nobody deserved to lose that game, but unfortunately somebody does.”
Comets turn heads at track regional
Heading into Tuesday’s IHSAA girls track and field regional at Fort Wayne Northrop High School’s Spuller Stadium, event workers alike weren’t sure of Eastern High School’s location.
After the dust settled, they may feel compelled to get a map out and find out where Greentown is located.
Led by seniors Sarah Wagner, Brittany Neeley and Bethany Neeley, the Comets qualified for the state finals in six separate events to finish fourth as a team with 55.5 points, behind host and champion Northrop (78), Bellmont (68) and Carroll (Allen) 66.
GASKINS: Hibbert’s block was thing of beauty
For the better part of the NBA season, ESPN devoted all kinds of time on SportsCenter episodes to replays of two dunks. Anyone who watches any ESPN at all surely knows the two to which I’m referring: 6-foot-11 DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers posterizing 6-3 Brandon Knight of the Detroit Pistons, and 6-8 LeBron James of the Miami Heat hammering home a dunk over 6-2 Jason Terry of the Boston Celtics.
Day after day, ESPN commentators lavished endless praise, which quickly grew tiresome. The dunks were strong, but Jordan and James were much taller and heavier than Knight and Terry and the dunkers also caught perfect alley-oop passes with the defenders in poor positions to defend. Still, ESPN commentators loved these plays.
I kept wondering if a great defensive play would receive the same kind of love.
Coons, Walker, Glassburn reach Victory Lane
When the dust settled Sunday evening at the Kokomo Speedway, a pair of drivers who have visited Victory Lane in the past at the local oval found themselves there once again while a talented up-and-comer hit the hallowed ground for the first time.
Jerry Coons Jr. had his way in the sprint car feature and Craig Walker seemed to get faster as the laps wound down to win the Street Stock main event, however Kokomo High School sophomore Kory Glassburn had to scratch and fight before scoring the first feature win of his career in the Thunder Car A-main.
Field is set for Indianapolis 500
After being bumped from the starting field while sitting on the qualifying line on pole day, Josef Newgarden turned the fastest time on bump day, assuring himself a spot in the Indianapolis 500.
The field of 33 cars will have one final opportunity to practice on Friday before next Sunday’s 97th running of the 500.
One year ago the Sarah Fisher Racing Team withdrew Newgarden’s entry on the first day of qualifying and had to qualify on bump day. This year the team decided not to make another qualifying run and got bumped.
Athlete of the week
Cole led the small-school Comets to the Kokomo Sectional title, their first title since 1998.
Kats regain tennis throne
At 10:51 a.m. Saturday morning, the bulk of Kokomo’s girls tennis team sprinted from the viewing hill to the east entrance of the tennis courts to mob No. 1 singles player Morgan Mohr as she came off the court following her 1-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Eastern’s Courtney Clark.
The No. 3 singles match was still raging, but the team match was already won. The Wildkats had reconquered the throne from two-time defending champion Eastern and were once again champions of the Kokomo Sectional.
Eastern boys track claims first sectional title since 1998
The boys track and field coach at Eastern High School from 1987 until last season, Paul Nicholson’s parting message to his team was simple: “Don’t deny the gift.”
That motto left such a lasting impression on the Comets’ returning athletes that they had it screen printed on their 2013 season T-shirts.
With Nicholson in attendance to celebrate with them, new coach Austin Roark and the Comets outlasted host Kokomo to win their first sectional title since 1998 Thursday night, topping the Wildkats by 3.5 points, 124.5-121.
Eastern, Kokomo favored in boys track sectional
Some of the names and faces have changed, but the plot remains much the same.
The Kokomo boys track and field sectional, much like last year, will likely be a two-horse race between the host and three-time defending champion Wildkats and Eastern, a team looking to break through and win its first sectional title since 1998.
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- Barnes sets Taylor's career hits record