Editors Note: Cam Saunders, Aaron Barnett, and Seth Johnson finished as the runner-ups in the inaugural Journal Review Boy's Athletic Career Achievement Award. Details about the award and the girls and boys winner will be announced later this week.
The razor-tight tally gives an indication of the quality of the three male athletes who finished in the second spots for the inaugural Career Achievement Award sponsored by the Journal Review.
Only a couple points separated the first place finisher, which will be announced later this week, from Cam Saunders, Aaron Barnett and Seth Johnson, all of whom gave voters plenty of reasons to support their cause.
With 26 varsity letters earned in their high school careers, these three not only led their teams in many ways, but were recognized with all-conference and even all-state awards.
All three are headed to college to continue their athletic careers, although not in multiple sports. Their accomplishments make it easy to see why they are not done, after leaving three legacies at their schools.
It was one sport after another for the Crawfordsville grad, from football in the fall to basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring.
A total of nine varsity letters are attached to his name, in addition to All-Sagamore awards. He was this spring’s Journal Review Baseball Player of the Year. This season’s hoops and baseball teams captured Sagamore Conference championships.
“It was an awesome feeling to run out under the Friday lights, sprint on the floor in front of a packed gymnasium, or take the mound in a big conference matchup,” Saunders said. “I was motivated (in all sports) because I knew my coaches and teammates were investing practice time, and so was the competition. My team was counting on me to work hard and I didn’t want to let them down. There was never any burnout, because I always looked forward to the next season. College coaches always said they were most interested in multi-sport athletes, and if it wasn’t for multi-sport athletes, we wouldn’t have won Sagamore championships in basketball and baseball this year.”
Saunders also leaned on his family.
“My family was extremely important in my athletic career,” he said. They were my biggest encouragers and also pushed me to be the best I could be. My dad was an early coach and my mom was a “team mom” in every sport. All my coaches were also big influences. They all lead programs that focused on investing in our lives as student-athletes. They cared more than about wins and losses. They wanted us to become better young men.”
Which is exactly what a couple of Saunders’ coaches said about him.
“Cam totally embraced being a student-athlete in every way,” his Hall of Fame baseball coach John Froedge said. “He was focused and worked hard in the classroom and at all three sports. His time at CHS was just a reflection of how he lives his life. He is strong in his faith; has a positive can-do attitude and just tries to be the best person he can be. He was a joy to coach.”
“Cam never missed a workout, meeting or scheduled event,” basketball mentor David Pierce said. “He was all-in from day one. He always gave his best effort and brought a positive attitude that reflected on everyone around him. He was a big piece of two Sagamore championships this year and is that class act that makes everyone better. We have his parents to thank for that — great kids with high character don’t happen by accident. They are made.”
“Cam is a talented guy who worked his tail off to get better athletically,” CHS Athletic Director Bryce Barton said. “He spent a lot of time in the weight room and away from practice. He always had a positive attitude and accepted the role that each coach gave him. He was a very good representative of Crawfordsville High School.”
The Fountain Central grad was in sports stories more than regularly, and 11 varsity letters are the easiest proof of that career impact.
Four in football, four in basketball and three in track filled up a couple of letter jackets. He was all-WRC plenty of times, was named Junior All-State in football and Academic All-State as a senior. He also qualified for the regional in track as a senior.
“I love competing, having fun and putting in the work to garner success,” Barnett said. “It was a ton of work that I would could not replace with anything. It was so rewarding. The memories and accomplishments will never leave me.”
What keeps an 11-letter winner going?
“Internal motivation and the will to succeed,” he noted, “as well as the external voices and pressures. I dedicated myself to hard work and then had to want to be dominant and compete for everything. The all-conference and all-state recognition definitely motivated me because it was then that I could see myself as that high-caliber playmaker. I had to hold myself to that higher standard and work even harder. It added more pressure, but that helped fuel my fire. Football was my passion, but basketball made me work on other tools, and track really helped with speed and running technique that will translate to college football. I also got a lot of motivation from my mom helping me to be my best, and from my coaches and even the media who recognized the things I accomplished. It was also fun to prove some disbelievers wrong.”
Jason Good had a double look at Barnett. He was his basketball coach until becoming Athletic Director.
“I’ve known Aaron since he was in elementary school,” Good said. “I have enjoyed coaching him tremendously, and he was one of the best students in the classroom I ever had. He was a leader on our basketball and football teams in many ways. One of his most special traits is the way he interacts with our younger kids. He always made time to talk to them. His level of maturity in handling himself was impressive. He was a fantastic representative of Fountain Central.”
The student also gave the coach a memory.
“In the basketball sectional of his junior year, we were playing Rossville, which happens to be my alma mater,” Good said. “They were 15-point favorites, but for a 10-minute stretch of the second half, Aaron was involved in every play on both ends of the floor. With four minutes left in the game, we were ahead by 20. That intensity and desire to win was impressive to watch.”
His football coach echoed many of the sentiments.
“A lot of kids around school looked up to him because he played three sports,” football coach Ryan Hall said. “With him being involved all the time, he showed he wanted to be successful and that he cared for his school. One sport athletes can kind of disappear after their season is over. Playing three sports definitely helped. Going up for a pass became like getting a rebound. He was a real leader.”
The North Montgomery grad earned four wrestling and two baseball letters. He was just the third Charger wrestler to reach the state finals round twice in his career, to go with multiple county and conference titles. He put in his time on the diamond, becoming a starter his senior season.
“Playing baseball gave me a break from wrestling,” Johnson said, “but I have loved baseball since I was a kid, and played baseball since a kid, so I really enjoyed the challenge of getting better there, and always do my best. It is also a great way to hang out with the guys in a different setting than wrestling. There are friendships from baseball that I wouldn’t have made anywhere else.”
“Seth and Mary (Jackman) are both kids as good as we have ever produced from North Montgomery,” Chargers Athletic Director and baseball coach Matt Merica said. “They are great students, great kids, great leaders. They are well-liked. You can’t ask for two better kids.”
“Seth was an absolute wrestling stud — one of the greatest ever at North,” Merica continued. “He was a great competitor on the baseball diamond and was a great guy to coach. He worked so hard. We want kids to be multi sport athletes like Seth. It speaks of their character and it’s a great experience. Seth became more and more of a leader and I know his wrestling success led to his baseball success.”
“Seth has always been a hard worker,” North wrestling coach Bryce McCoy said. “He was very respectful and honest, and had a competitiveness about him that shows in all things he does. Playing baseball helped make him a better wrestler. He’s a great student and competing in multiple sports all year long on top of his academic workload has set him up to succeed.”
Advice to young athletes
All three noted that being a multiple-sport athlete was worth the effort, and encouraged the next athletes to do the same.
“Do it for the friendships,” Johnson said. “It’s a great way to get your mind off the other sport.”
“It’s a grind,” Barnett said, “but it’s extremely fun and will give you so many memories. You’ll be exhausted at times, and in a lot of those moments of exhaustion you will feel accomplished.”
“Sports and competition teach so many life lessons,” Saunders said. “You have to buy into the team aspect and that it isn’t about you. Different sports means different friendships and different pressures. It also brings different rewards.”
Three guys with impressive resumes heading to the next chapters of their academic and athletic lives.
Not second-place guys at all.