Gorches: State titles galore for NWI in 2013
By Steve T. Gorches 314-3797 or email@example.com Twitter: @SteveTGorches December 31, 2013 8:56PM
The Chesterton High School swim team celebrates their State Championship. Swimmers from around the state competed Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, in the 2013 IHSAA Boys' Swimming/Diving Championship at the IUPUI Natatorium in Indianapolis. | Doug McSchooler~for the Post-Tribune
Updated: February 3, 2014 3:50PM
All good things must come to an end, though it’s a matter of opinion whether or not 2013 was a good year.
But from a Northwest Indiana high school sports standpoint, it was a great year — maybe the best ever based on success on the field, on the court, on the course, on the lanes or in the pool.
Trophies were being hoisted from January, when global warming was still prevalent, to December, when a new ice age arrived in the region.
And they came from all ends of the area and all sizes — from two small Porter County schools to the largest Porter County institution (twice) to the largest Lake County school to a charter school to the region’s largest Catholic high school, as well as both the Lake and Porter county “hubs” celebrating titles.
They say winning isn’t everything, but it sure was fun to watch across the region.
In recent years I look back at the NWI state champions and rank them — just because I love lists and rankings. I always make sure not to miss David Letterman’s Top 10 list on late night TV, but even that’s not enough when it comes to NWI high school champs in 2013. There were 10 team state champions, plus a significant individual state champ.
Rankings are based on multiple factors, but my main criteria is how impressive the title itself is, meaning that swimming or gymnastics may rank ahead of basketball. Let’s start with honorable mentions, and then work our way up from No. 11 …
Honorable mention — When we have this many team state champs (twice as many in 2013 as 2011 and 2012 combined), here is the spot where I give kudos to multiple individual champs who deserve recognition. Let’s begin with Merrillville grad Carly Larson, who earned NWI’s first singles state title in bowling. Her one-pin victory over Homestead’s Sydney Brummet (235-234) set the stage for a historic day in Lafayette at the state finals. Props also go to boys track state champ Marsalis Gibson of Bowman Academy. He won the 110-meter hurdles title with a time of 14.19. And in wrestling, three region athletes brought home gold — Lake Central’s Gelen Robinson at 220 pounds, Hanover Central’s Stevan Micic at 113 pounds and Merrillville’s Bobby Steveson at 170 pounds.
11. Valparaiso hockey
Sorry, but despite the rising popularity of the sport, with the Blackhawks winning two Stanley Cup titles in four years, this can’t rank any higher since Indiana high school hockey is still only played by a handful of schools. But that doesn’t take away from Valparaiso’s Class 1A state final victory over Riley Hockey Club, 6-2, last March.
The Hawks simply dominated the spring season of boys volleyball, sweeping Roncalli in three games for the title. The sport only has a handful of NWI teams participating in either the fall or spring. Too bad it hasn’t caught on like in other states, such as Illinois.
9. Lake Central
Speaking of sports that don’t get enough respect, there are more NWI schools with bowling teams than there are with gymnastics, golf, tennis or swimming, but just because it’s not IHSAA sanctioned (by choice so kids don’t lose scholarship money due to IHSAA rules), the kids don’t get as much recognition as they deserve. That’s especially true at the region’s biggest school on U.S. 41. The LC boys had the most talent last season, but needed some close calls during the postseason to pull off its first title, edging Franklin Central 422-420 in the final.
8. Harley Dubsky,
She earned the area’s third straight girls golf individual state title with her good friend, Kelly Grassel of Chesterton winning the previous two years. Dubsky had a bogey and double bogey on the last two holes at the state finals, but she won by one stroke when Hamilton Southeastern’s Mary Ellen Romero lipped out a par putt on No. 18.
7. Boone Grove
How significant was the Wolves beating Lake Central, a school at least four times the size of Boone, in the girls bowling state final? Boone Grove athletic director Kerrie Schludecker went out of her way to attend the event in Lafayette even though the girls basketball team was at the Class 2A Rensselaer Regional (she traveled back and forth between the sites). But Schludecker and Boone don’t look at sports that kids participate in behind sanction-colored glasses like some region schools.
Why so low? Well, because most basketball fans knew the Eagles were a prohibitive favorite to win, and they didn’t disappoint, beating Linton-Stockton 86-73 in the Class 2A final after winning the 1A title a couple years earlier. The result of Bowman reaching the state championship in back-to-back years means it’s a victim of the new success factor, moving the Eagles up to 3A. So if they win in a higher class, I’ll definitely rank them higher next year.
5. Portage gymnastics
It was the first of the Indians’ two state titles last year (in the span of 10 weeks). Portage became the fifth NWI state gymnastics champ in six years, but the other four came from Valparaiso consecutively. The Vikings finished runner-up to Portage, which won its first gymnastics title since 1975.
4. Portage softball
This was the school’s second state title, coming in early June after the gymnastics title was achieved in late March. The Indians defeated Franklin Central 2-0 on the strength of Lauren Murray’s two-run single in the fourth inning. Catcher Haley Hodges earned the Mental Attitude Award. It was Portage’s first softball title since 2000.
3. Crown Point
The Bulldogs won their second state title in three years, holding off Avon 3-1 with two goals in overtime in the Class 2A final. CP finished undefeated (21-0-1) in a high school sport that doesn’t lend itself to unbeaten champs (the other three soccer state champs combined for 12 losses).
2. Andrean football
I know someone will ask, “It’s football … shouldn’t that always be No. 1?” Considering the region doesn’t celebrate gridiron state titles very often (the last was Lowell in 2005), you might be right, but I’m thinking outside the box. Indiana football is dominated by private schools and Andrean’s 15-0 campaign after beating Brebeuf 35-27 in the Class 3A final fits into that distinction. In the previous three years, four of the five classes were won by private schools. Changing to six classes in 2013 evened things out a little more with three of the six class champs going to public schools. But Andrean earned its title right down to the last play.
Remember a few years ago when Indiana swimming was dominated by downstate teams? Before the 2007-08 season, it had been 21 years since the last NWI swimming state champ (Lake Central boys in 1987), and since that year, Carmel has won 14 boys state titles and 27 straight girls state titles. But Chesterton has changed the landscape of state swimming, at least on the boys side, with its third title in six years, and that’s why this is the top NWI state title of 2013. The Trojans won four individual events and two relays on their way to a 35-point victory over North Central, and look to be a favorite to win again next month.
It’s nice to have a dynasty up north when downstate teams have dominated over the years.
Here’s hoping for just as many NWI state titles in 2014.