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Few achieve the last rung of the championship ladder

Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2012, at 2:25 PM

With spring sports into its zenith, I thought it might a good idea to see just how many teams or individuals in the history of the area have won a state championship.

Before I begin passing along my research, let me preface it by saying these are the ones that I've been able to find.

It may or may not be a complete list but it's at the very least the list I was able to tabulate. So before you post nasty things on the website about my lack of ability to look for the obvious, please keep that in mind.

Further, if for some reason or by some chance I did omit anyone, I fully and wholeheartedly apologize in advance.

When you trace the number of state championships earned by area schools -- or for that matter runner-up finishes -- you find a surprisingly low number in the overall scheme.

Only three teams have reached the top step of the ladder in any sport -- and only one of those squads have made repeat appearances in the title tilt in their respective sport.

Shakamak baseball, Bloomfield girls basketball and Linton-Stockton track teams have earned a state title.

The first were the Miners tracksters of 1909-10.

In the state meet, which was contested at Ingall's Field in Crawfordsville, Linton-Stockton edged out a 14.5 to 14 win over Kokomo.

Surprisingly, there were only two individual champs on the squad.

Elmer Oliphant took the championship in the mile run -- the predecessor to the 1,600 meter run -- with a time of 4 minutes, 56 and 2/5 seconds.

The other individual champion that year was Frank Brantley who took first in two events.

He topped the field by himself in the shot put with a throw of 42 feet, 2 1/2 inches and shared the crown with two others in the pole vault.

His jump of 9-10 pulled him even with Elwood Rogers of Indianapolis Manuel and Herman Garner of Brownsburg.

Staying with the chronological order, area schools were shutout from winning or finishing second as a team in state finals competition until the Lady Cardinals of Bloomfield reached the finals in the first state girls basketball tournament in 1976.

After running through the regular season unbeaten, the Lady Cardinals had amassed a 20-0 record heading into the championship game at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Unfortunately for them the only other team remaining unbeaten on that night was a Janice Soyez-coached Warsaw team that had won 22 straight.

When the game ended Bloomfield fell 57-52.

No other team would visit the state finals again until both the Bloomfield boys and girls basketball teams did it in the same year.

At the end of the 1997-98 season (the first year of class basketball) coach Paula Fettig led the Lady Cardinals through a 26-6 season on their way to a 90-58 win over Morgan Township in the Class A finale.

Coach Ron McBride's Cardinals nearly matched the Lady Cardinals when they fell to Lafayette Central Catholic 56-48.

Whether it was by coincidence or not, LCC also ended another area school's dreams of a state championship a few years later at the end of the 1999-2000 season.

That was when the Union Bulldogs under the tutelage of Joe Hart and the floor leadership of Brody Boyd took home the runner-up trophy by nearly the same tally, 55-43.

The third and final team to win a state crown for the area came in baseball when the Shakamak Lakers broke a four-game skid in the sport's crowning meeting.

They had dropped their first three four games -- in 2002 in the state semifinals to Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian at Decatur Central, twice to Lafayette Central Catholic (12-1 in 2007 and 11-3 in 2004) and another time to Blackhawk Christian (7-4 in eight innings in 2006) -- before finally shedding the bridesmaid gown with a 6-2 win over Cowan in 2008.

They still remain atop the record books for the most runner-up finishes at the state baseball finals. A dubious distinction they share with Evansville Memorial and Marion, currently with three.

As a sidenote, the Laker baseball team also has the most state finals appearances by any team in any sport in the area.

Now they will try to become the first team in the area to win multiple championships when they take on LCC again on Saturday at Victory Field.

Bloomfield has left their mark in the volleyball books as well. The Lady Cardinals of Carlisle native Bruce Wible were the first area team to reach the benchmark game in the area.

It happened in 1998 when the Lady Cardinals took on Clinton Prairie at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis.

Despite carrying a 31-5 record into the last game, they fell 15-1, 15-8.

Susie Schulte coached the BHS volleyball team to the state final four in 2000, where they lost to Michigan City Marquette 15-13, 15-10.

The last four teams to make unsuccessful trips to the state finals are the White River Valley Lady Wolverines basketball team of coach Joe Pigg in 2001, the Union Lady Bulldogs softball squad in 2004, the Linton-Stockton Lady Miners softball squads of Jill Flater in 2009 and 2010 and the 2011 Eastern Greene Lady Thunderbird volleyball team coached by Gina Ingram.

Pigg's Lady Wolverines fell to Triton 55-38 in the finals, finishing the season with a 22-6 mark.

The Lady Bulldogs finished their run to the finals with a 19-5 mark. The John Scott-led Lady Bulldogs fell to perennial softball powerhouse Indianapolis Lutheran 2-1 in 15 innings.

The Lady Miners dropped their first visit to Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis 1-0 to Madison Grant before returning the next year and falling to Wheeler 8-7.

For the Lady Thunderbirds the trip to Worthen Arena in Muncie was anything but satisfying.

After running roughshod through the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference and both the regional and semistates, EGHS ran into a Wapahani squad that would ultimately send them home without the school's first title in any sport.

Ingram's team dropped a 25-16, 28-26, 25-14 Class 2A final to finish with a 35-5 record.

Individually is where the area seems to have thrived, especially in track where (including the aforementioned Miner tracksters in 1910) seven different athletes have come home wearing the champions medal.

There are no champs in either tennis, cross country or golf as of this writing.

After the 1910 state track meet the next to claim a crown in track was Emery Parks of Linton-Stockton.

Parks did it in successive years winning the now-defunct 220 yard low hurdles races in 1926 and 27.

In the 1926 event he paced the field with a time of 26.1 then followed the next year with a 25.6 showing.

The 1931 indoor running high jump (another long-since gone event) title went to Linton-Stockton's Paul Maxwell. He cleared 5-11 to earn the championship.

The first -- and as far as I can tell -- only girl to ever win a state title in track from the area is Melissa Dyal.

Her leap of 5-6 in the high jump came in 1996.

The youngest of the area schools isn't without it's own champions as well.

White River Valley has produced a pair of champions on the cinders.

The first was three-time pole vault state champion Matt Campbell. He did it in three successive years.

In his sophomore year of 1999 Campbell cleared 15-3. That came ahead of two more titles with improving distances in each.

In his junior year (2000) the Wolverine bested the field with a vault of 16-3 before closing out his senior season in 2001 with a mark of 16-9.

Sprinter -- and current WRV track coach -- Doug Dayhoff was the champion in the 400 meter dash in 2003.

His time of 48.1 gave him the top spot that year. It was one of four total state finals medals Dayhoff took home during his high school track career.

So there you have it, a list of the state champions and some that almost were in the area.

I hope it gives you some food for solid thought.

Rick Curl is a sports writer for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at (812) 847-4487, ext. 20. He can also be reached by via email at rcurl@gcdailyworld.com.



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