Monday, January 20, 2014

Flyin' To The Hoop...

We had the best seats in the house for the best game of the night

The last time I visited Kettering Fairmont's Trent Arena for a high school boys basketball game was last year's D-IV regional final between Troy Christian and Delphos St. Johns. The place was packed and the game went down to the buzzer. Fast forward to this past Saturday. I returned to Trent Arena for the annual Flyin' To The Hoop high school boys basketball showcase. More specifically, I was there for the sold-out marquee match-up between HCYA (TX) vs Franklin (OH). It was a showdown between University of North Carolina signee Justin Jackson for HCYA and the guy every college in the country would like to have, Franklin junior Luke Kennard. Once again, the place was packed and the game went down to the buzzer.

Thanks to some basketball buddies, my son Ross and I had seats in the front row behind the scorers table directly at half court. The only other person with an equally better seat was the guy the building was named after, Mr. James Trent, who sat front row half court directly across from us. Oh yea, Kentucky coach John Calipari didn't have a bad seat either. He was front row too, about even with the foul line and in a good spot to watch Kennard, who Calipari has already offered a scholarship to. Kennard and Jackson didn't disappoint. Luke finished with 38 points and Justin 35. For highlight from both, see below.

The only disappointment came with 8 second left and Franklin down by three points. HCYA inbounded the ball and Kennard found himself as the lone Franklin player guarding the ball. Already with four fouls, Kennard looked around for a teammate to commit the foul and stop the clock. When nobody was able to step up, Kennard fouled out with four seconds left and sent HCYA to the line. HCYA missed the front end of the 1-and-1. Franklin brought the ball down court and got off a nice 3-point attempt that just missed as the buzzer sounded. Fans were left to wonder what might have happened if Kennard would have taken the shot.

The game lived up to the hype and Ross and I sure got our money's worth. Heck, our tickets were only $12 a piece, which included a few more games we watched as well. Perhaps I'll get to watch Kennard and Jackson square off again in the future, and it wouldn't surprise me if it was an NCAA tournament game. I'm just guessing I wouldn't get half court seats for $12 again.

After Coach Calipari watched Kennard's game, he gave a hug to 
the father of Kentucky commit Tyler Ulis who played in the next game

Friday, December 27, 2013

Going for #400...

Russia High School varsity boys basketball coach Paul Bremigan has accumulated 399 wins so far over 30 seasons with the Raiders. Below is a tally of his wins and the following is a link of career wins by OHSAA coaches before the start of the 2013-14 season - Click Here

Monday, November 25, 2013

Watching an All-American...

Katie Borchers battled course conditions and the best runners 
in the country at the NCAA National Championship

"Muddy. Wet. Cold. Awesome." That was the text message I sent to my friend, Ken, on Saturday from the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana. Those were the course conditions of the day and they shouldn't have bothered anyone that was a die hard cross country fan. They certainly didn't bother anyone that was there to watch 2011 Russia High School graduate and Ohio State junior Katie Borchers.

I'd never been to the NCAA Cross Country Championships before. Come to think of it, I'd never been to any national championship before. The Lavern Gibson Course just east of Terre Haute is referred to as Cross Country Town, USA and now I understand why. It's quite simply everything a cross country course should be, beautifully designed and spectator friendly in so many ways. A $5.00 entry fee per person for a national championship event wasn't bad either. The 38 degree temperature made it cold, constant wind made it even colder, and standing water hidden beneath the grass everywhere made my 13-year old daughter, Anna, tell me she couldn't feel her toes. However, we quickly learned to appreciate our extra layers of clothing after seeing many of the collegiate runners dressed in not much more than swimsuits. The men's race kicked things off at noon and a freshman from Oregon thrilled the fans with a come from behind victory, but the real reason Anna and I came was the women's race at 1:15pm.

The Ohio State University had just one runner in Tette Haute representing the Buckeyes from their men and women's teams. Katie Borchers wore the scarlet and grey for a student body of over 50,000 back in Columbus. The previous week the OSU men and women's teams competed in the Great Lakes Regional Championships in Madison, Wisconsin and both teams missed out on qualifying for nationals. Katie, however, ran a great race and earned one of four individual qualifying spots. I thought to myself before Saturday's race, even if she finishes dead last it's quite an accomplishment for a girl from small town Russia. Fortunately, Katie doesn't think the same way I do.  

My daughter and I ran from place to place on the course after the starting gun fired. "There's Katie!" and "what place is she in?" where about all Anna and I said to one another as we jumped over water and tip-toed through mud. My texting friend, Ken, was back home watching the race being broadcast on the internet. "Katie in 43" he texted after the halfway point. I learned from Katie's mom earlier in the day that the top forty finishers earned All-American honors. Not only was Katie running well, she was competing for All-American! Anna and I ran to the finish to watch the women come in. Somewhere between 20 and 30 I lost count. Here came another runner, and another, and another. Eventually there was Katie looking strong and passing one runner shortly before the finish line. Great finish regardless of whatever place she was in I told Anna. Then I received another text message from Ken..."40. Awesome". She did it! All-American!

Before Saturday's race the best finish ever for an Ohio State woman at the NCAA Championship was 73rd. Katie put her name in the record book and made a whole bunch of people back in Columbus and Russia awfully proud. She also set the bar really high for the next Lady Buckeye runner who comes along. On second thought, Katie's just a junior. Sounds like we'll be heading back to Terre Haute in 2014. Next time I'll pack warmer shoes for Anna.

Anna and I got this picture with The Ohio State University's
first ever women's cross country All-American

Monday, November 4, 2013

One year later and even greater...

The crowd roared as the individual state champions of the past two 
seasons came by the grandstands in an early battle on Saturday

It was exactly one year ago that I last spoke with members of the Liberty Center cross country team. I blogged about the Tigers here after they had just won their second consecutive Ohio High School D-III state championship. This past weekend at the 2013 state meet in Hebron the results were once again the same as Liberty Center had just captured another state title. For an added bonus, their #1 runner, junior Brittany Atkinson, returned to the top of the podium as the individual champion, a title she also won her freshman year.

I was anxious to talk to the team on Saturday because I knew their story. Six years ago the school almost didn't have cross country. The team consisted of just one girl that year. The next season current head coach Tim Atkinson took over and the sport is now flourishing. I chatted with two Liberty Center fans outside of National Trail Raceway on Saturday and asked how their program could go from rags to riches in such a short period of time? One gentleman said matter-of-factly, "It's because of Coach Atkinson. Don't let him fool you." He went on to explain that it's a common sight in Liberty Center to see the girls team out running at 6:00am on Friday mornings when most kids aren't even up for school yet. Cross country fever in the small town has even trickled down to 60 elementary kids who gather behind the school and run just for fun. Much like the fan said too, Coach Atkinson might fool you. When I met up with the coach after Saturday's race he deflected all the praise to his girls. I asked if he had anticipated his daughter Brittany's win that day, especially since she had finished 3rd at the regional meet the week before behind Coldwater's top two runners. The coach looked me right in the eye and said seriously, "Craig, she's such a gamer." I took that to mean Brittany runs her best when it matters most. She was certainly a gamer on Saturday. I also asked Coach what his thoughts were on the last race for his only senior, Paige Chamberlain, his second best runner that day and for most of the season. He beamed and described how much she's meant to their program. Coach Atkinson doesn't come across as the drill sergeant type you might expect from a three-time state champion, but perhaps that's what makes him so successful.

I was also glad to get a few words with Paige, the Tiger's lone senior, and I asked about the magic carpet ride she's been on for the last three years. Her smile explained most of what I wanted to know and although she'll miss her team and one of her best friends in Brittany, she couldn't think of a better way to end it. Finally, I caught up with Brittany, who has certainly secured her place in OHSAA state championship history as one of the best ever. With three team titles, two individual titles, and one individual runner-up, it's hard to find many others who have done as much. Did I mention she's still a junior? I asked Brittany about the individual battle early in the race with last year's state champ, Sarah Kanney of Coldwater. Brittany first acknowledged how good Sarah and her team were, then explained her strategy, talking about how she wanted get out faster than she did at the regional meet and how she threw a surge in at the mile mark to increase her lead even more. I also brought up the interesting fact that in the previous two seasons Coldwater had always beaten Liberty Center at the regional meet only to have Liberty Center beat Coldwater the following week at state. This year however, Liberty Center finally beat Coldwater at the regional and I wanted to know if that gave the Tigers confidence heading into state? Brittany said, if anything, it probably put a little more pressure on her team to win again. A quick check of history shows that Liberty Center does just fine being the underdog. In each of the past three seasons they've yet to be ranked #1 in the final state cross country coaches poll. Apparently the only coaches that matter to the Liberty Center runners are their own. Coach Atkinson will probably be just fine too if the Tiger's aren't ranked #1 again next year. He just needs a daughter who's a gamer!

Brittany was on top of the podium again while Paige sat below
enjoying the All-Ohio recognition and one last state championship

Monday, October 21, 2013

It's kind of a big deal...

The slogan of this year's Columbus Marathon & Half Marathon, was "It's Kind Of A Big Deal!". I couldn't agree more. Certainly the accomplishments of all the runners on Sunday was a big deal, but more notable for me was huge success this event has been. I first ran the Columbus Marathon in 2006 and followed it up with marathons in Akron, Chicago and New York. In 2010 I decided to run Columbus a final time and hang up my marathon shoes. This past spring, however, I got the itch again and knew there was only one race I wanted to do. The memories of racing 26.2 miles through the streets of Columbus in the fall is about as neat as it gets for an Ohio runner.

Fortunately, three of my running buddies; Amber, Kristin and Tommy, decided to join me, which made this year's Columbus experience my most memorable of the three. Although we trained together almost every Saturday this summer, oddly enough, because of the over 15,000 other runners crammed into the start corrals on Sunday morning at 7:30am, none of us ran together. It wasn't until the race was over that we were reunited and able to celebrate.

After running together on Saturday mornings for the entire summer,
my running buddies and I were all on our own for our final 26.2

Columbus certainly does it right. The morning began with music from The Danger Brothers blasting at the start line and fireworks streamed from the top of a building to signal the start of each wave of runners. The course routed us through a number of beautiful neighborhoods, my favorites being Bexley, German Village and Victorian Village. I was also thrilled by a short trip through the south endzone of Ohio Stadium and I couldn't help but raise my arms and act like I just scored a touchdown in front of those 106,000 empty seats. I even got a few claps from a some race spectators who realized what I was thinking. There were musical groups, solo singers and high school bands sprinkled around the course and the fans, oh the fans... they were everywhere. I've often wondered what makes race fans cheer for complete strangers and Columbus is no exception. Maybe they just like a good party, whatever their reason, the thousands upon thousands of fans that lined the streets seemed to be having as much fun as the participants. The biggest mob of fans was at the finish in front of Nationwide Arena, where the noise is like adrenaline shooting through your veins. Any pain you were feeling the last six miles completely disappeared when you heard those folks yelling. It's a big ending for a bid day.

I'm glad I decided to run Columbus a final time and I'm hanging up marathon shoes, again. If my running buddies try to talk me into another one I'll simply tell them no thanks. Unless it's Columbus, then maybe I'll think about  it. After all, it's kind of a big deal!

It's kind of a big medal!  Measuring 4 inches square
and heavy, this years medal was the biggest I've ever seen

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A historic day for all of Ohio...

Any long-time Fish Report reader realizes there has always been one constant on the website and that is sports. Although I almost always focus on high school sports, I'm also a fan of professional and college athletics as well. Whenever possible, I try to watch my two favorite football teams, the Cleveland Browns and the Ohio State Buckeyes. If I do miss a game it's usually because something more important came up. For example, the biggest game I ever missed happened 18 years ago on September 30th, 1995...

You see, when you're planning a wedding, there's a lot of things to think about. Calling the priest. Reserving the hall. Booking the band. Agreeing on a honeymoon destination. One of the last things I thought about in 1994 when deciding my wedding date was the Ohio State football schedule. Even if the Buckeyes were playing Notre Dame for the first time in 60 years! I don't remember exactly who broke the news to me, but I remember my Ohio State friends reminding me about it more than enough times leading up to the big day.

September 30th, 1995 turned out to be a special day for me and it was a special day for the Bucks. That Notre Dame game broke an Ohio Stadium attendance record at the time and former St. Henry star Bobby Hoying had a huge day for OSU throwing four touchdown passes. Our wedding party managed to catch a few minutes of the game after mass and the gang had fun later that evening dressing up my bride and I in football gear.

Every anniversary several people will wish me happy anniversary and then ask what year I got married. I almost always reply "September 30th, 1995. The same day Ohio State played Notre Dame for the first time in 60 years." In hindsight, it's a day most people in Ohio will never forget!

I don't remember why I'm wearing the Notre Dame hat,
but I do remember the Buckeyes beat the Irish 45-26

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Golfing & gigs with Minster's Xavier Francis...

Xavier was a 1st-team All-MAC golfer 
last year for the Minster Wildcats

Fish Report recently caught up with Minster junior Xavier Francis! Xavier's been one of the top golfers this season for the Wildcats who head into the big Versailles Invitational this Saturday at Stillwater Valley Golf Club. It's going to be a busy Saturday for Xavier because later that evening his band will be playing at the Russia Homecoming Festival. We asked Xavier a few questions about golfing & gigs and check out what he had to say...

F.R. Thanks for chatting with us Xavier! It sounds like Minster is having another fine year on the golf course. How would you grade the Wildcats right now? 
X.F. I think we have an amazing golf team this year! Not just because we have some low scorers, but because it's an absolutely amazing group of guys. Not only are they all my teammates, but they are also my really good friends. I think it really makes us play better when everyone is having a good time, pushing each other to get better, and even trying to beat each other. I couldn't be happier with our team this year.

F.R. We've seen your name in the paper as medalist a couple of times. Which matches have you won so far and what part of your game are you working on the most right now?
X.F. To be honest, I haven't been playing very well at all this year. My team has still done very well even without me playing well in the first couple invites. The last couple matches I think I have pulled it around though and got it more figured out. I shot a 74 at the Auglaize County Invite to take medalist. I shot 35 in our match against Fort Recovery and 36 in our match against Delphos St. Johns. We've won all of our matches so far. The part of my game that I have been working on most this year is definitely my mental game. I've been trying to improve my focus and decision making on the course. One of my favorite quotes is: "Golf is 90% mental. The other 10% is mental." ~ Jim Flick

F.R. Is there any particular pro golfer you look up to or maybe try to pattern yourself after on the course?
X.F. Jack Nicklaus has always been a role model to me. I might be a little young for his time, but from the books I've read about him and his mind set, I would really like to be more like him. I hate reading with all my heart, but if its golf know. One of Nicklaus's quotes that really sticks out to me the most is: "I am my own opponent." He has taught me to play against myself and to try to become the best I can possibly be, instead of just becoming better than everyone around.

F.R. Alright, lets change subjects. You're also playing in a band called "The Experience". Who are the guys you play with and how did this all come about?
X.F. Well, I became friends with Freddie Purdy when I moved to Minster, who was in a band called "Crackerjax". I was always really jealous of what he got to do. One random day in the beginning of the summer, Freddie called me up and said, "So you want to play some guitar?". We got a new drummer and renamed the band to "The Experience" and the rest is history. Band members include: Freddie Purdy from Minster, Jarod Schmitmeyer from Minster, Cameron Bergman from New Bremen, Kevin Bruns from Marion Local, and me.

F.R. This Saturday you have a gig at the Russia Homecoming Festival. What kind of performance can we expect to see?
X.F.  "The Experience" has played about five gigs this year. Our cover band is going to try to appeal more towards a younger audience. Maybe try to get a little dancing going! But we have a pretty wide variety of music. We play anything from country to rock to even some pop. I think it will be a little bit of everything, and hopefully something for everyone. I can't really say how good we are, so why don't you just come to the festival and find out yourself!

F.R. Last question Xavier and we've decided to grant you one wish. Do you wish to someday be a golfer on the PGA Tour or a rock-n-roll star?
X.F. Well, I mean, either one wouldn't be too bad! I think there is no better career than doing what you love and making a living off of it. I would do anything to be able to golf and make money doing it. Any career that involves golfing sounds good to me! But a rock-n-roll star works too. 

Great stuff Xavier. Good luck this golf season and we'll be listening for you this Saturday in Russia! 

Xavier (left) and "The Experience" will be rocking 
the Russia Homecoming Festival on Saturday night