Monday, December 31, 2012

Fish Report's year in review...

While some people like to recall world events and national news as what they remember most about 2012, I choose to focus on the local events and small town news that defined my year.  Here's a toast to those listed below on an awesome and amusing year in my eyes.

St. Henry won the title of best tap water in the U.S. back in February. It was just another honor for the village that's home to numerous state championships, professional athletes and even a Miss Ohio. Minster repeated as D-IV state baseball champs in June even after losing OSU bound pitcher Adam Niemeyer earlier in the season. While I doubted the Wildcats could pull it off, seniors Doug Huber and Austin Knapke teamed up on the mound and all they did was win. Russia runners Lauren Francis, Emily Borchers and Lauren Heaton dominated the girls cross country scene for most of the season. They were one of the best running triple-threats this area has ever seen and I'm glad I got to witness it.  In November Marion Local volleyball captured their fourth state title in six years under coach Amy Steininger and seemed to be absolutely unbeatable after Josie Winner returned from injury. The Flyers proved it by winning the last 15 sets in a row close out their season.

These three Running Raiders stuck together and were hard to beat in 2012

The pitching gem from Russia and Ft. Loramie to decide the SCL championship back in May. I typically enjoy baseball offense more than defense, but the 12-inning 1-0 Russia win started by Treg Francis for the Raiders and Jared Albers for the Redskins was a masterpiece. Girls softball pitchers Katelyn Herron from Russia and Paige Ordean from Ft. Loramie also battled to a 1-0 Redskins victory in May. These two aces own too many school records to count and seeing them work was a pleasure. Watching Tammy Berger of Versailles win the 800 meter run at the Troy regionals the end of May.  It was a great race that came down to the end and the last individual victory for the OSU bound star. Country Concert in Ft. Loramie back in July was another amazing spectacle with some of the best country music talent in the world. I've been attending Country Concert for many years and I always go home thinking that was a great time. Sidney's Konner Harris scoring 49 points against Russia back in November. I never witnessed a high school girl or boy score that many points in a game, and although she did it against my team, it was remarkable to watch someone that was truly "in the zone".

We brought along our own talented group to Country Concert this past summer

Attending the Russia ceremony honoring State Track Meet champions Luke Pohlman & Katie Borchers back in early January. Realizing they were the first state champs in the lifetime of the current Russia students was pretty cool.  Russia coach Rick Gold's baseball camp in February was a star studded event.  As I watched professional baseball players Craig Stammen of Versailles and Jared Hoying of Ft. Loramie giving instructions to the boys, I got the impression the pros were the ones enjoying it most. Interviewing Jackson Center boys basketball coach Scott Elchert back in March in the midst of a tournament run with his undefeated Tigers for Fish Report LIVE! was one I'll always remember. I'm positive Coach had more important things to do than talk to us, but I'll never forget how friendly and thankful he was about the interview. The Bohman Tractor Pull & Family Picnic in August was as much fun as any of the other area festivals I attended all summer.  The Bohman's are great people and they sure know how to entertain.  

The Powder Puff division at the annual Bohman Tractor Pull is sports and entertainment

Unless you were visiting another planet in June you heard all about Meghan Vogel of West Liberty-Salem at the state track meet. She helped someone in need, just like she always does, only this time the spotlight captured it...and it went viral. Alexis Sharp made Minster school history in the fall becoming the first girl to play football for the Wildcats. The gridiron girl decided after a mission trip to Haiti that no one could make football happen but her, and she was right. In October New Bremen's Ralph Boerger was honored with some World War II medals that were long overdue. After six decades we're positive Ralph waited long enough.  In the middle of chasing another state football title the Coldwater Cavaliers sported yellow to support a player’s father battling cancer. Football teaches a lot of life lessons and this was certainly a big one.

Hanging out with Meghan Vogel before she helped the Reds throw out the first pitch

Harry Brown, who established the Versailles Sweet Shop in 1939. Virgil Arkenberg of Ft. Loramie, a lover of VW Beetles and my grandpa. Donny Yingst, a sports guy who gave his service to the Covington community. Joann Gariety Shipley, just a Russia gal living in Virginia and a huge Fish Report contributor. Don Meyer from Newport who seemed to be everyone’s friend, including ours.  And Linie Hausfeld from Minster who founded Hausfeld Motor Sales and was a Firefighter of the Year.

Blogging about Russia history and posting old pics like this was a passion of Joann Gariety Shipley

Farewell 2012,

Monday, November 5, 2012

First place and first class...

Liberty Center head coach Tim Atkinson (left) and 
his daughter Brittany (second from top) were guests 
on Fish Report LIVE! back in early October

The Liberty Center Tigers girls cross country program came into the 2012 season as last year's Division III state champions.  Their top runner is last year's individual state champion, sophomore Brittany Atkinson, and their head coach is Brittany's father, Tim Atkinson.  Before this past Saturday's OHSAA State Cross Country Meet, I had never personally met Coach Atkinson or Brittany.  My only previous contact with them was three weeks ago when both were kind enough to do a short telephone interview for my Fish Report LIVE! webcast.  At the time, Coach Atkinson suggested that perhaps we could meet if both Liberty Center and  Russia were fortunate enough to make it to the state meet.  Fortunately, both teams did make it to the state meet and on Saturday Liberty Center managed to defend their title, beating a very good Coldwater team that had just beaten them at the regional meet the week before.  Brittany ran another great race and individually finished second behind super sophomore Sarah Kanney of Coldwater. Since I was doing some reporting work for Fish Report at the state meet, I wanted to get a few post-race comments from Brittany and her coach about their performance.

I found Brittany at the finish chute shortly after the race was over.  She was busy talking to a newspaper reporter and seemed to have a serious demeanor as she answered his questions.  As I waited a couple minutes for her to finish up, I wondered what the chances were she would recall our telephone interview from several weeks ago.  Who? Fish Report?  After Brittany was done with the reporter I approached her and introduced myself.  When I said I was with Fish Report she gave me a big smile and said she remembered our conversation.  The interview went great and I was impressed with her well spoken answers.  I also asked Brittany where I could find her dad and she pointed me in his direction.  Just as she turned to leave I called her attention to a young boy outside the fence that was waiting patiently for her to autograph his souvenir program.  Brittany came over to sign the program as her high school friends behind her shouted "awww" and snapped a picture.

By the time I located Coach Atkinson he was up around the awards podium.  He was getting ready for his top three runners to be honored as All-Ohio, which included his daughter Brittany, senior Kelly Haubert and junior Paige Chamberlain.  Assuming there would be a couple minutes before the awards ceremony started, I thought I might as well take a quick second and just say hello.  I didn't want to take up his time with an interview because after the All-Ohio awards, his team would then be presented with the state champions trophy.  I walked over to Coach Atkinson and extended my hand to offer congratulations.  I told him who I was and mentioned that I interviewed him a few weeks ago for Fish Report.  Coach Atkinson immediately got a smile on his face that reminded me of his daughter's smile a short time ago.  He told me how glad he was to meet me as we talked about the race and another dream season for his team.  Coach Atkinson then told me he had someone he wanted me to meet.  He yelled over to the podium area where his runner Paige Chamberlain was getting ready to be announced All-Ohio.  He told her to come over and introduced me as the guy from Fish Report.  Paige had just ran a time of 19:00, which was 1:28 faster than her regional time the week before.  I asked Paige how in the world someone can improve that much in one week.  Paige had the biggest smile on her face and said she felt like she let her teammates down the week before and didn't want that to happen again today.

Liberty Center's Paige Chamberlain cut 1:28 off her
regional meet time the week before to help the Tigers 
past the 4th-place Russia Raiders

As Paige returned to the podium area Coach Atkinson told me one more thing.  Liberty Center Schools received some sad news a few weeks ago when one of their math teachers was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.  He's a teacher that is very well liked by the team and before the girls left for the state meet, they decided to visit him this past Thursday.  As terrible as his situation is, all he wanted to talk about was the success of the cross country team.  Coach Atkinson said his girls rallied around that and perhaps that's who they ran for on Saturday.

As much as I am a Russia Raiders fan, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed with happiness for the Liberty Center Tigers.  I've learned how they went from a program that almost didn't have a team several years ago due to lack of participation, to a two-time state champion.  Coach Atkinson, Brittany and Paige gained at least one fan from Russia this past Saturday and I look forward to hopefully another meeting with my Raiders at next November's state meet.  Until then, congratulations Liberty Center, you're first place and first class!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

2012 Russia cross country preview...

2011 was the 6th consecutive year the Russia boys have qualified for state 

If you happen to be a fan of Russia boys or girls cross country, this is going to be a fun year.  If you're not a fan, now would be a good time.  The bandwagon takes off tonight in Russia at the Shelby County Preview and ends, with a little luck, on November 3rd in Hebron at the state meet.  Raider fans have more reasons than ever to be excited this season and here's why.

The Russia boys return practically their whole nucleus from last year, having graduated only one senior from their top five scorers.  Back from 2011's state qualifying team are Bryan Drees, Steven Stickel, Jordan Gariety, Brandon Barlage, Alex Herron and John Heuing.  Those boys, combined with some strong returners from the junior varsity, will push one another to win their fair share of meets throughout season.  The Raiders also have a group of fast freshman coming in that you'll be hearing about in the future.  There's really not one particular standout among these boys which means you can expect 3-4 different Raiders to cross the finish line first for the team on any given Saturday.  The Raiders biggest challenge in the Shelby County Athletic League won't be for a team championship, rather for individual honors.  Although Lehman's Joe Fuller will be the favorite in tonight's SCAL preview, the league's top runners include Ft. Loramie senior Jacob Siegel, Anna junior Adam Larger, Botkins junior Roger Miller and any one of the top Raiders.  Looking across Ohio however, there are plenty of other D3 teams with better preseason times than Russia - on paper.  Locally, Minster and St. Henry will be tough.  Last year's state champ McDonald is still loaded, as are familiar names like Seneca East and Columbus Grove.  The Russia boys program has made going to the state meet somewhat of a tradition recently.  Having run there the last six consecutive years, it's safe to say none of the current runners remember the last time Russia didn't make it to state.  Qualifying hasn't been an issue, placing high among the elites has been the bigger challenge. During that six year stretch the Raiders finished a very respectable 3rd in 2007 and 4th in 2008, but the last couple of years have ended with finishes of 12th & 13th.  None of those trips or prior appearances have earned a banner on the wall in Clair C Naveau Gymnasium, and that's really the only thing missing from all their success.  Is this the season?  Time will tell, but the talent is there, and as the season wears on the boys will gain motivation - motivation from the success of their girls team which should be outstanding.

The 2012 Russia girls team has the depth and talent to perform well

The 2012 Russia girls team may have more depth and talent than any Raider teams in recent history.  Like the boys, the girls program lost only one graduating senior from last season. Back this year are senior veterans Lauren Francis and Becca Meyer.  Lauren has established herself as one of Ohio's best runners and will be looked upon to lead a lot of young talent for the Raiders.  Becca and returning junior teammate Kirsten Voisard regularly battled for the 2nd and 3rd positions last season and, along with Lauren, are the only runners remaining from a memorable 2010 team that finished 5th at the state meet.  Sophomores Claudia Monnin, Hannah Bornhorst and Emily Borchers also return from last year's varsity team and will provide some great competition, as well as some new talent that's bound to make a splash.  As good as Russia can be, one thing is for sure - this area is loaded.  The Raiders don't have to travel far to find another good team in Ft. Loramie.  Expect these two schools to duel for the county championship and watch for a fun individual battle between Lauren Francis and Meg Westerheide for the Redskins.  Looking at Russia's schedule, they will be tested almost weekly against powerhouses like Minster, Coldwater and West Liberty-Salem, as well as Ft. Loramie.  Our bet is that one of those five teams mentioned will be hoisting a state championship trophy in November.  Will it be the Raiders?  If Russia remains healthy they could be right in it.  Minster has already been bit by the injury bug and it's rare for any team to go injury free, but cross country is unique because the regular season doesn't really matter that much - peaking for the post season is what counts.  Get ready for a fun season Raider fans.

Note: As we mentioned above, it all starts tonight with the SCAL Preview in Russia Park at 5:00pm.  Expect a fan-friendly course that allows spectators to see much of the race, including a challenging hill that high school runners will climb twice!  There's also an Elementary Mile fun run taking place after the high school races at approximately 7:00pm.  Don't miss this opportunity to see some of the best cross county runners in the state!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

BOSS Summer Run...

Big Orange runners young and old gather for the BOSS Summer Run

I traveled to Lions Park in West Liberty this past Saturday for the annual BOSS Summer Run.  The event is a fundraiser for the West Liberty-Salem cross country program and featured a 1-mile fun run, 2.4 mile race and 10k race.  After a summer full of 90 degree heat, the morning temperature was cool and in the 60's.  In other words, perfect for running!  I figured if I was going to make the 45 minute drive from Russia I might as well attempt the 10k.  My 2nd-grade son and 6th-grade daughter chose to run the 2.4 miler.  My 9th-grade daughter and wife helped at the finish line.

I'll sum up the course in two words, beautiful and hilly!  Both words compliment each other because what made the 10k enjoyable for me was the scenic and rolling countryside of West Liberty.  It was much different from the flat rural roads around Russia that I'm used to.  I asked the Tigers' top high school boys runner, senior Aaron Scott, if he trained on these same hills.  Aaron explained that the team actually trains a few miles away at Ohio Caverns, which has even more hills yet.  No wonder the boys and girls teams at West Liberty-Salem are traditionally strong!  It was a well run event under the direction of head girls coach Ann Vogel and one race I'll certainly run again in the future.

The BOSS Summer Run is also an opportunity for West Liberty-Salem cross county and track alums to return for a little camaraderie with the high school athletes who have taken their place.  I was lucky enough to meet one of their local legends, 1980 alum Earl Zilles.  Earl was a key member of the dynasty that won four consecutive state cross county titles from 1976-1979.  That dynasty launched the 'Big Orange' nickname for the program under coach Ken Lehman, who then named his shoe store Big Orange Shoe Shop or BOSS!  Earl shared some fascinating stories with me about Big Orange history that I felt fortunate to hear from him.  It sure made my 45 minute drive from Russia worth the trip!

Earl Zilles also won three state track & field titles in 1979 & 1980

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Father's Day to remember...

Getting an award on Father's Day was just part of the memory 

I've enjoyed being a father for 15 years now and I've always enjoyed Father's Day.  It's a day when I feel a little extra proud and a day when the kiddos are a little extra nice.  Father's Days come and go however, and I have trouble remembering one from the other.  This year was different.  I got a chance to spend this past Father's Day weekend with my 7-year old son at the Archie Miller Basketball Camp at the University of Dayton.  I'm not much of a basketball player, but my son loves playing it and I love hanging out with him.  For a day and a half we worked together on basketball fundamentals with the Flyers coaching staff and players.  We ate meals together and we spent the night in a college dorm together.  After the weekend was over I was sore from the workout and tired from the sleeping arrangements, but it's one Father's Day I'll never forget.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Last chance to catch Versailles' Tammy Berger...

Aspiring runner Anna Fiessinger of Russia
caught up with Tammy a few weeks ago

Versailles senior Tammy Berger has been a hard one to run down.  Whether it's been on the track or on the cross country course, high school runners have been trying to catch Tammy for the last four years without much success.  Among her many victories are a couple of individual state cross country titles, two individual state track titles in the 3200 meter run, one individual state track title in the 4 x 800 meter relay, and one team state championship in track.  And she's not quite finished yet.  This weekend Tammy is competing at the State Track & Field Meet at Jesse Owens Stadium in Columbus.  She will be running with her teammates in the 4 x 800 meter relay on Friday, and then the individual 1600 meter and 800 meter runs on Saturday.  For high school fans it will be the last chance to see one of the truly dominant distance runners from our area.  For Ohio State fans it will be a preview of the newest Buckeye joining their team after this weekend.

If you've ever watched Tammy run or met her personally, it doesn't take much to figure out she's talented, focused, humble and quick to credit any personal accomplishments as the result of her team.  Those qualities have made her an elite athlete at Versailles High School and are bound to bring her success at The Ohio State University.  The perfect example of these qualities came just a couple Saturdays ago in the district meet at Graham High School.  I was in attendance that day and watched Tammy win the 1600 meter run, breaking a district record she already held, with a 5:03.59.  Her next race was the 800 meter run, which marked just the second time she was racing the 800 in a competitive setting.  Tammy finished in second place that race, one second behind super talented 800 runner Brittany Bailey from Botkins, and both qualified for the regional meet.  Tammy's final scheduled event at the district meet was the 3200 meter run and she was the two-time defending state champ in that race.  Tammy scratched (didn't run) the 3200 that afternoon and the everyone in the stadium was buzzing why?  I heard several people speculate the heat of the day got to her and questioned why she would attempt running the three longest events.  A newspaper article the next day explained it all.  Tammy wanted a new challenge.  She had already succeeded in the 3200 in the past, twice as a matter of fact.  She now wanted to succeed in the 1600 and 800 before her career at Versailles was over.  Tammy also predicted that choosing not to run the 3200 at the district meet might give her teammate Natalie Grillot a shot at qualifying in the 3200 for the regional and state meets, which would help the Versailles team.  That prediction worked to perfection as Natalie grabbed the last spot in the 3200 that day and made it to the regional meet.

At the district meet Tammy lead the first lap of the 800 before Brittany 
Bailey from Botkins passed her on lap 2 for a one second win

Fast forward to the regional meet in Troy this past Friday.  Tammy won the 1600 again which qualified her for the state meet.  Next came the very competitive 800 meter run.  Some wondered how this new challenge was going to work out.  As the race progressed and the runners came around to their last turn, what unfolded next was personally my favorite moment of the night.  Tammy was on the heels of Brittany Bailey in Lane 1 and made her move to pass.  What seemed like out of nowhere, flying up next to them came Meg Westerheide from Ft. Loramie.  The three girls were running three wide down the front stretch in front of a cheering crowd and giving everything they had for the finish line. Crossing first in 2:14.06 was Tammy, followed by Meg in 2:14.78, and third was Brittany in 2:15.76 (You can watch the video here).  All three qualified for the state meet, setting up another great race in Columbus this Saturday.  Tammy also removed any doubts about her decision to run the 800 as she not only won the race, but teammate Natalie Grillot once again grabbed the last qualifying spot for the state meet in the 3200 meter run later that day.  That gutsy call at the district meet paid off big-time and the Versailles girls team brought home the D-III regional championship trophy that night.

With the state meet upon us this weekend I won't make any predictions about the results.  All the events have the best talent in Ohio, anything can happen, and the finishes are often decided by 100ths of a second.  However, I am predicting that Tammy will make her Tigers team and community proud.  She's been a pleasure to watch for the last four years, and she will be missed on the track and the cross country course next season.  Do yourself a favor and make the trip to Jesse Owens Stadium this Saturday for an exciting day of races.  After all, it's your last chance to catch Versailles' Tammy Berger.

#1 Tammy Berger, #2 Meg Westerheide and #3 Brittany Bailey
put on a quite a show in the Troy regional 800 meter run

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why I like Carmel, Indiana...

Me and my running buddies in Carmel

I took my first trip to Carmel, Indiana this past weekend.  Carmel is just north of Indianapolis and was hosting their annual Carmel Marathon & Half Marathon on Saturday.  Our group included three of my running buddies and our wives.  The ladies left early Friday morning and decided to do a little shopping before the guys left Friday afternoon and met up with them later.  Carmel is a little under two hours from Russia, Ohio and one of the guys compared it to driving to the east side of Columbus, Ohio.

Carmel is a beautiful city.  Most cities will have a good part of town and a bad part of town, I didn't see a bad part of town in Carmel.  The homes are nice, it's very clean, and the people are friendly.  We stayed at the SpringHill Suites and I commented to a hotel worker how manicured the city was for our race that weekend.  He replied humbly that it's always that way.  We ran the half marathon which was a 13.1 tour of the Carmel that took us through residential areas, past local businesses, onto the Monon trail, and ended in their cute downtown.   It was a neat way to experience all the city has to offer.  We also tried out some eateries over the weekend.  We ate a pre-race meal at the Kona Grill in the Clay Terrace outdoor shopping mall, a post-race lunch at the Stacked Pickle, pizza on Saturday night at Bazbeaux's, and late night drinks at the Detour Grille listening to the band Chicken Bone.  The food and atmosphere everywhere was excellent.  I also have to mention that one of my Fish Report Twitter followers tweeted me on my way over to Carmel that I should enjoy the world famous roundabouts.  I wasn't quite sure what a roundabout was, but I definitely understood after arriving.  You will too if you ever go to Carmel.

I wouldn't exactly call Carmel, Indiana a vacation destination, but if you're looking for some good shopping, good food, and neat city, it's worth a weekend stay.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Meeting Waynesfield-Goshen's Horn sisters...

Morgan and Ivy Horn with Fish Report

One thing is for sure at Waynesfield-Goshen High School in eastern Auglaize County.  As long as the Tigers boys or girls track & field team has the name Horn on it, they're bound to be pretty good.  Take a quick look at the school record book and you'll find the Horn name on 9 of 17 boys events and 7 of 17 girls events.  The most recent Horn's that have made their mark in W-G track & field are senior twin sisters Ivy and Morgan.  Fish Report was lucky enough to meet the girls recently and find out just how special they are.

I originally saw the Horn sisters almost two years ago and it wasn't on the track.  Instead, I was in attendance at their church as they received the sacrament of Confirmation along side my nephew.  At the time I had never heard of Ivy or Morgan, but I remember my sister whispering to me that they were really good runners.  Little did I know how good they would become and how much their faith would influence the sport they love.  Fast forward two years to this past weekend, and I was now being invited into their home by their wonderful parents Jon & Kitt and sitting in the kitchen with Ivy and Morgan.  Prior to arriving I had asked if I could bring my 11-year old daughter, who is an aspiring runner herself.  The response I received was they would love to meet her.  I figured it might be an inspirational experience for everyone.

After explaining to the sisters what exactly Fish Report was, one of the first questions I asked was when they developed their love for track & field.  Ivy and Morgan explained that their grandpa Joe Horn, who is a track legend at W-G and still assists with coaching, was a big motivation.  Grandpa Joe was the founder of the Ohio Blue Thunder Track Club and both girls were running the 100 competitively as early as five years old.  Grandpa Joe is responsible for quite a legacy, a legacy with more accomplishments than space I have on this blog.  Here are a few highlights:  His son Jon (Ivy and Morgan's dad) is the 9th all-time best indoor high jumper at Air Force Academy.  His grandson Gray (Ivy and Morgan's brother), now a senior at the University of Florida, is currently one of the top Olympic candidates in the heptathlon.  Another son Jay (Ivy and Morgan's uncle) also ran at Air Force Academy.  And grandson Joe, who is Jay's son (Ivy and Morgan's cousin), won four events for W-G in the 2006 D-III State Track & Field Meet and was part of the only team state championship in W-G history.  To say that Ivy and Morgan have strong bloodlines would be quite an understatement.

Morgan and Ivy's first state championship

Last year's 2011 D-III State Track & Field Meet was a day the girls will never forget.  For starters, the sisters together collected their first-ever state championship medals on the 4x100 relay team.  Ivy also earned a 2nd place finish in 100 and a 3rd place finish in the 200.  The only event she didn't score in was the 100 hurdles when she was leading her heat in prelims, but kicked the 5th hurdle and didn't qualify for finals. Morgan tied for 9th in the pole vault and missed qualifying for finals in the 100 by less than 3/10ths of a second.  Their performances that day helped the W-G team finish 5th in the final standings.  Looking forward to this year's state meet on June 1st & 2nd, the girls have the highest hopes.  Ivy and Morgan would both like to compete in four events. Add to that a really good sophomore thrower at W-G who made it to the regional meet last year in both the shot put and discus, and the Tigers could score a lot of points.  One thing is for sure, if the girls team wants to match the lone state championship the boys team won back in 2006, this year is the year.

After high school graduation Ivy and Morgan will be heading in opposite directions, literally.  Morgan is following family tradition and continuing her education and track career at Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs where she will compete primarily in pole vault.  She explained the academy is not your typical college and she won't get much of a summer break after high school graduation as she already leaves on June 28th for basic training.  It's also worth noting that over 15,000 apply to the academy every year and only about 1,000 get in.  Ivy will be taking her talents to The Ohio State University in Columbus where she has been recruited for the same competition her brother Gray excels at, the heptathlon.  For those wondering what the heptathlon is, it's a seven event competition consisting of the 100 hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200, long jump, javelin and the 800.  Ivy's path is of particular interest to me since she will be joining several other track stars from the area that I have watched compete at the high school level.  She will soon be teammates with current Buckeye freshmen Katie Borchers of Russia and Janel Olberding of Ft. Loramie.  Also joining the team will be incoming freshman Tammy Berger of Versailles.  Ivy acknowledged being recruited by warm-weather SEC schools like Auburn and Alabama, but said her goal is to win championships and felt her best chance to do that is with the Ohio State team.  I asked the sisters how they felt about separating from one another considering they've had such a unique bond of being both twins and track stars together.  Both admitted it was going to be a big life change, but they were also excited about their futures.  In this age of technology, text messaging, Twitter and FaceTime will help with the long distance separation.

Coming into this interview I was aware the girls shared a deep faith in God.  I knew this from seeing a previous television interview with Ivy, and my sister informed me that their dad Jon would soon be the new pastor of the church I watched them make their Confirmation in almost two years ago.  The girls both told me they prayed hard about their college decisions and agreed they trust God in everything they do.  Ivy said her favorite bible verse is First Corinthians 10:31, "whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" and Morgan stated they both feel they wouldn't be the athletes they are without their faith.  Fittingly, one of their favorite activities outside of track has been going on mission trips to Haiti the last couple of years.

Finally, I couldn't leave without getting some bit of advice for my 11-year old daughter sitting there with me.  I asked Ivy and Morgan why they excel at what they do.  I wanted something we could take back to Russia and work on in the years to come.  Without hesitation the girls said they feel they've succeeded because of hard work and attitude.  Hard work that begins in the weight room and means lifting four days per week.  And an attitude that includes loving what you do, having fun and never giving up.  The sisters have a motto, "You get better or worse every day. What did you do today?"  It's not uncommon to hear them yelling that motto in practice at each other and they said it's what really gets them going.  I know one thing, after listening to them talk, their infectious personalities could get anyone going and they now have a couple new fans from Russia.  It's not hard to see why Ivy and Morgan will be winners on the track in the years to come.  More importantly though, it's easy to see why they will be winners off the track for the rest of their lives.

A day this 11-year old won't soon forget

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Where were you moments...

The Announcement

I'm not the kind that easily remembers "where were you" when an important date in history happens.  I can really only recall a handful of moments like that.  September 11th, 2001 was certainly one of those times.  This past Sunday evening I was reminded of another moment as I watched a special presentation on ESPN called: The Announcement.  It was November 8th, 1991 and I was a junior at Wright State University.  I was sitting on a couch in my apartment at Meadow Run when one of my three college roommates came through the door and said, "hey, did you hear Magic Johnson has AIDS?"  I remember being floored by the news with no prior hint that there was even an issue.  Of course I would later find out Magic didn't have AIDS, rather the HIV virus.

I'm not sure why I remember where I was at that moment.  I guess it was just the shock of knowing nothing, hearing the dreadful news and then staying glued to the TV looking for answers.  I suppose in 2012 I would probably hear about the rumor on Facebook, get the news alert from Twitter and watch the replay of the press conference on YouTube.  I wonder if I'll ever have anymore "where were you" moments.  I can't imagine saying, "I'll never forget. I was sitting at a ballgame when I got a tweet on my Droid."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sophomore leadership...

There will be a super sophomore show at the regional semis

You've heard of senior leadership on the basketball floor, right? It's typically an important part to being successful over the course of a long season, and it's usually key to making a run in the post season tournament. Well, that is if you have any seniors... Take for example the Russia Lady Raiders. Their current active roster doesn't include any seniors at all, yet the Raiders have advanced all the way to the regional tournament this Thursday night at 8pm at Tippecanoe High School. The floor general for the Raiders is the very talented sophomore Camille Puthoff. While it's customary for most 10th-graders to log minutes on the junior varsity team and prepare for varsity playing time next season, Camille has developed into a leader with "senior qualities". So how do the other coaches in the Shelby County League feel about her? They voted Camille to 2nd Team All-County along with two seniors and a couple juniors, proving she plays likes an upperclassman.

Russia goes into battle Thursday against Ft. Loramie, who by the way have a pretty decent sophomore themselves. Darian Rose was a huge factor in the Redskins state tournament run last year as a freshman on a senior dominated team. This year, as a sophomore, she's taken over the leadership role from those graduated seniors and is trying to direct her team back to Columbus. In the All-County voting Darian was selected as the only sophomore on 1st team along with three seniors and a junior. Her matchup with Camille and the Raiders Thursday evening should be fun to watch and remember as these two go at it for a couple more years.

Finally, as if those two super sophomores weren't enough, perhaps the best sophomore in the area will be playing in the opening game at Tippecanoe High School at 6:15pm. Midwest Athletic Conference player of the year Haley Horstman leads New Knoxville against Tri-Village. You can find Haley's name among the leaders in most offensive and defensive categories in the MAC. Most importantly though, she's lead New Knoxville to a 21-3 record. Haley has quite a challenge this Thursday taking on the Patriots lead by a super senior, Kayla Linkous, who has amassed over 2000 points in her career. Haley should get a lot of help from her teammate Paige Lehman though, who is New Knoxville's leading scorer.  Oh, by the way, Paige is a sophomore.

Enjoy the show.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fairlawn just might create some March Madness...

Fairlawn's Gillem is averaging 23 ppg with a 
taped shooting hand. (Photo: Todd Acker)

One of the comments I've heard several times since the Piqua sectional tournament draw a couple weekends ago, is how easy the bracket will be for the Jackson Center Tigers.  According to these basketball folks we might as well just put the #1 team in the state into the regional tournament because no one is going to challenge the Tigers until then anyway.  Isn't this why we play the game?  I believe 20-0 Jackson Center can be challenged in Piqua and I'm fairly certain that challenge will come from the 6-14 Fairlawn Jets.  Laugh if you must, but let me give you some things to consider in the days leading up to the start of tournament play this weekend...

I watched Fairlawn win their last regular season game of the year on Friday night against Russia.  Leading scorer Anthony Gillem had his shooting hand wrapped from a broken wrist injury earlier this season, but never mind that.  The kid still scored 23 and has good range from around 25 feet.  I saw him stretching that wrist a few times during dead balls, so it's a little scary to think he's not even 100% healed yet.  This week off should help.  By the way, in the four games since he's been back from the injury he's averaging an even 23 ppg.  Gillem's sidekick is Trey Everett, a really good guard who can dribble, drive and shoot.  He can also electrify the Fairlawn crowd with a rim-shaking dunk just like he did against the Raiders on Friday night.  Those two guards together remind me of another duo Fairlawn used to have named Andy Francis and Richie Beard.  If you remember, the Francis & Beard show took Fairlawn to the regional tournament with a supporting cast pretty similar to Gillem & Everett.  Wells, Cummings and Hughes know their rolls for the Jets and it worked well against Russia.

Don't pay any attention to Fairlawn's #7 seed.  They play the #6 seed Mechanicsburg Indians on Saturday, a team they just beat on the road two weeks ago 61-58.  Waiting for the winner is #8 Riverside, who also lost to Fairlawn in OT back in early January when Gillem was out with the broken wrist.  I predict those first two games will be close, exciting and Fairlawn will prevail.  That puts the Jets in the sectional final game against Jackson Center who will roll over Mississinawa Valley and Bradford to get there.  My question is how ready will Jackson Center be for the high-flying Jets?  The Tigers played with a target on their back the entire month of February.  They obviously handle pressure very well and stayed sharp when every team gave their best shot.  Keeping the Jackson Center kids up for the first two rounds will be a challenge for Coach Elchert.  I wouldn't bet against the Tigers in the sectional finals come March 3rd, but I would bet there could be some March Madness in the air!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A night for music fans...

The 2012 Grammy's was both spectacular and bizarre

Just like I do every year, I was really looking forward to watching the Grammy Awards last Sunday evening. I love all types of music and it's one of those nights you get a little bit of everything. Before I even start blogging about the performers though, let me just say the invention of HDTV has made this awards show spectacular. Hi-Def makes a lot of live TV shows look awesome and the Grammy's is certainly one of them. Throw in some surround sound and you're basically in the front row. I'm going to recognize some of the performances that stood out for me, both good and bad, and give each a grade, so here we go:

Bruce Springsteen - I wasn't familiar with his new single "We Take Care Of Our Own", but I thought this was the perfect start to the Grammy's. I was worried the entire telecast was going to be somber with the passing of Whitney Houston and this upbeat beginning shouted a message that the show must go on! B+

Bruno Mars - I love his voice and his song "Runaway Baby" was an awesome 60's sounding number that made me want to go buy his CD. A

Chris Brown - I wasn't a fan of this guy before his performance and I'm still not. He sang "Turn Up The Music/Beautiful People" and I wondered if he was lip syncing due to all the jumping around he was doing. I'll give him the benefit of my doubt, but I thought it was too much dancing and too little singing. F

Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson - Country is my favorite genre and I like their song "Don't You Wanna Stay", but this performance didn't do anything for me. Jason's mic going dead at the end didn't help either. C+

Rihanna - Love this pop singer and about everything she sings. "We Found Love" is on my playlist right now and she did a good job with it Sunday night. B

Cold Play & Rihanna - I don't listen to Cold Play much, but every time I hear them perform I always think I should probably get tickets to one of their concerts someday. "Princess of China" was really cool with all the crowd wearing thosing glowing bracelets...and Rihanna helped too. B+

Maroon 5, Foster The People & The Beach Boys - I liked this mainly because I just like hearing Adam Levine and Mark Foster hit the high notes in those classic Beach Boys songs. Some of those Beach Boys didn't look real thrilled to be there. B-

Taylor Swift - One of my favorite country acts and she didn't disappoint. Taylor sang her hit "Mean" and seemed to aim it at all the bashers out there that bang on her voice. She even changed up one of her verses at the end saying "some day I'll be singing this at the Grammy's". Let em bash away Taylor! A

Katy Perry - Really cool intro starting with "E.T." and then went into "Part of Me". Rumor was that second song was directed at her ex. Didn't love it, didn't hate it. C

Adele - This was the one I was looking forward to. Adele sang "Rolling in the Deep" and it was the best performance of the night. After just returning from vocal cord surgery I kept waiting for her voice to crack, but it never did. I only wish she would have added "Someone Like You" as an encore. A+

Nicki Manaj - I like Nicki Manaj. That was bizarre. F

Jennifer Hudson - If anyone was to sing a tribute to Whitney Houston this was the girl. Beautiful rendition of "I Will Always Love You". One of those goose bump moments. A

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What I'm liking right now...

Roost Modern Italian isn't big inside, but the taste it!

These are a few of the things I'm liking on February 8th, 2012.

- The baseball camp at Russia this past Sunday and this coming Sunday has an amazing group of instructors.  Current pros from the Nationals, Rangers, Diamondbacks and Blue Jays are teaching these little league players big league stuff.
- 7th-grade girls SCL basketball championship this past Monday, #4 Russia vs. #1 Fairlawn.  I know what you're thinking, but believe me, it was pure junior high craziness watching some future stars battle it out with Russia winning 29-26.

- Run by Matt Nathanson with Sugarland.  Not sure what genre this is, but it's on my playlist right now.
- Sherry by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.  Jersey Boys do a pretty good imitation.
- I'm Having a Good Day by Karli Whetstone.  An Ohio girl with some good stuff.

- Mushroom ravioli on spinach from Roost Modern Italian at the Oregon District in Dayton.  Big taste in a very small restaurant.

On the Web
- LeBron James and Blake Griffin take a back seat to this Russia Dunker
- Fit to Fat in Five Hours.  A humorous look at those before and after exercise pics.

Monday, January 30, 2012

What I'm liking right now...

Our seat for Corey Smith in July 2011

These are a few of the things I'm liking on January 30, 2012.

- Russia boys basketball. Two classics over the weekend against Botkins and Versailles, and another huge one this Tuesday night against Jackson Center.  As fun as it gets in one week.
- Snowmobile front flip landed at WXG, the first in history.
LeBron's dunk over John Lucas Sunday. You can't replicate this in a slam dunk contest.

- Maybe Next Year by Corey Smith. Saw him live at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach.
- Home by Dierks Bentley. Patriotic and cool.
- Ours by Taylor Swift. Same reason as Home (watch the video and don't miss the end).

- The Filling Station in Troy - Fun sports bar & grill kind of hidden over by the Clopay plant.  Humongous video game room the kids can run around in while you're waiting for your food.

On the Web:
- Ferris is back for a Super Bowl commercial.  I'd like to live one day in his shoes!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Urbana Spoon...

The front entrance to Fusion 40.83

Any restaurant that requires driving 45 miles through sleet and snow on ice covered roads better be worth it.  And that's exactly what happened last Friday night when our small group from Russia braved a winter storm and took a road trip to Urbana for dinner.  The real reason for our trip was to celebrate a birthday with some good friends from West Liberty, so after we surprised them at their home with our arrival, we headed south down State Route 68 to one of their favorite eateries.  Fusion 40.83 was where our reservations were at and if you need directions look no further than their name.  As it was explained to me entering Urbana, 40.83 are the GPS coordinates of the city.  The other part of their name, Fusion, describes the global menu they offer.  I have to admit I'm not really a restaurant critic or a food connoisseur, but I know the difference between a good and bad atmosphere, and I also know a great meal from an average one.  So here's my review of the experience:

The entrance to Fusion was a wall of windows and unlike something I would expect in downtown Urbana.  It seemed contemporary at first appearance and more like something I would see in downtown Columbus.  The restaurant is basically a single room with high ceilings, a cool bar, and a corner fireplace that gives the place a cozy feel on a winter's night.  Our reservations for eight were at the Chef's Table in the front window.  Unlike rectangular tables that can make talking with everyone difficult, this square table with high chairs was perfect for our group.  The restaurant was busy, but not crowded, and our service was excellent.  When we ordered our meals the waitress didn't ask anyone for their choice of salad dressing and I found this odd.  After tasting the salad we understood was absolutely delicious and any other dressing would have only lessened the experience.  Our orders of entrees included asiago chicken, pad thai, steak, and my order of crab cakes.  I've eaten crab cakes many times before at some very nice restaurants and these were easily the best I've ever had.  Everyone else in our party seemed to enjoy their entrees as well.  The only unfortunate part of the dinner was that we were all so full that everyone passed on desert.  By the way, the prices were pleasantly reasonable and what you would expect for a nice meal in this part of Ohio.

If I was a restaurant critic or a food connoisseur I'd give Fusion 40.83 two thumbs up, four stars, whatever...simply put, it was great.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What I'm liking right now...

I like the 2012 U.S. Women's Olympic Marathon Team

These are a few of the things I'm liking on January 18, 2012

Watching the Olympic Marathon Trials on TV
Anna girls basketball and a likely perfect season
Tom Brady showing the NFL he's still the best

Good Feeling - Flo Rida
Reality - Kenny Chesney
Never Take Me Alive - Mark Cantwil

Smallsmash Classic with Smash fries from Smashburger
Fruit Medley pie from Market Day
Spark Energy Drink from Advocare

On the Web:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Raider fans, I hope you go tonight...

If you're a Russia Raider fan, I hope you go tonight.  I hope you go to Russia's Clair C. Naveau Gymnasium and witness the ceremony between the JV and Varsity basketball games.  It will be the last chance Raider fans get, for a long while, to celebrate a magical day that happened last spring and brought a lot of pride to Russia School. Raider alums Luke Pohlman and Katie Borchers will be honored for two state titles each won at the State Track Meet last June.  Luke won in the 1600 meter run and Katie in the 800 meter run.  It was the first state titles of any kind that Russia brought home since their state baseball title in 1971.  I wasn't born yet for that one.  The students that will be on both ends of the home bleachers tonight weren't born yet either.  It should mean a lot to those students seeing the first state champions of their lifetime.  And I know it will mean a lot to all those adults in the middle bleachers that haven't seen a state champion in 40 years.

This west central Ohio area is blessed.  We're blessed to have so many good local athletes that come from great families.  Every year there are multiple schools just 5, 10, 20 miles from Russia that win state championships.  In a way Russia is lucky, because I'm positive that if the Raiders did this every year tonight's ceremony wouldn't be quite as special.  So, if you can't make tonight's celebration and if history repeats itself, there should be another one of these nights in the year 2052.  I'll be 80 years old then.  I know I'm going tonight.  Well done Luke and Katie, and congratulations Raider fans.

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