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A most memorable year in high school sports

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

To all who contributed to Grant County high school sports in the 2018-19 school year, I’d like to offer a resounding thank you.

Thank you for the memories of a school year gone in a flash yet full of moments which left me with goose bumps, a lump in my throat, tears welling up in my eyes or all of the above.

Many of the competitions I was able to document ended with my voice crackling as I fought off tears while conducting post-game interviews. Mostly from joy, but also some of relief or sorrow.

When I decided to pursue work in sports journalism, it was those types of moments I dreamed of capturing. Now, just more than three years into the business, I’ve been blessed with many opportunities.

Becoming emotional in those moments is something I’d never planned for. Even thought about. Sports reporters are expected to be objective observers and I’d never given an extra thought to being anything but objective. I also believe I do well at achieving that end.

But Grant County has almost always been home and I believe that’s why the emotion shows up. I grew up a Marion Giant but have friends all over the area and some were Indians, Panthers, Eagles and Argylls growing up. When I wasn’t competing against a county rival, I was rooting for them, especially during runs through the tourney.   

Covering sports in my homeland makes it a little difficult to remain unemotional. Also I’m old. I’ve always heard people can get more emotional as they age. I’m finding it’s true.

I’m going to stop short of calling school year 2018-19 the greatest athletic season in Grant County history, mostly because there were many years I couldn’t follow closely or at all and I can’t say with certainty. 

The argument can also be made that this past year of high school athletics in Grant County has been the best ever. It’s at least on a very short list.

What makes it even greater is all five county schools have shared in making the year one for the record books.

Time nor space permits me to recount everything that’s gone into making the past 10 months such an incredibly enjoyable experience, but I’ll touch on some to refresh your memory.

Mississinewa’s Brennan Butche capping his stellar cross country career by stalking the state champion for more than four kilometers of the 5K championship race in Terre Haute before finishing third, the highest for any runner in county history. 

Eastbrook’s girls soccer team coming excruciatingly close to winning a regional title before falling to powerhouse Lafayette Central Catholic in the waning seconds of overtime on a bizarre and opportunistic goal. 

How about Marion and Eastbrook announcing they’ll kick off the 2019 football season as week one opponents, then both the Giants and Panthers running deep into the tourney. 

Then the most memorable day of my journalism career to date, Feb. 23, 2019. Oak Hill’s Caiden Lake and the Golden Eagles girls’ basketball team win state championships just minutes apart. Lake was getting the blue medal for diving placed around his neck in the IUPUI Natatorium as the final seconds wound off the clock at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Lucky me. I got to write about and photograph both.

The Giants backed up an NCC title in football with the same in both boys’ and girls’ basketball, then both James Blackmon’s and Lawrence Jordan’s teams made it to the Class 3A final four.

I’d be remiss to not mention Oak Hill’s trio of wrestlers that earned state medals, nearly doubling the school’s count from the previous almost half century.

Spring sports saw indoor state championships for Madison-Grant’s AJ Jones and Oak Hill’s Sammy Sommers. Then both, along with seven other athletes and every school being represented, made it to the outdoor state championships. Five state medals came back to Grant County and M-G’s Payton Freel nearly made it six with a 10th place in shot put.

Oak Hill winning the first softball regional championship in school history, Eastbrook boys golf capturing the first, boys or girls, sectional championship in its history, along with Marion baseball having its best season in nearly two decades also helped make spring memorable.

So again, thank you to the athletes, coaches and teams that helped make 2018-19 a fun, special year and unforgettable year for an old journalist who has always held a passion for high school sports in Grant County.