BEST OF THE YEAR

Top Sports Stories of 2020

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COVID halts sports worldwide

The COVID-19 pandemic gradually crept into the United States in the early weeks of 2020.

But for most, the date the sports world was impacted by the virus was March 11 when Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert contracted the virus, bringing the NBA to a halt. The next day, the NCAA pulled the plug on the basketball tourney, and by the weeks’ end the IHSAA postponed the boys’ basketball state tournament, which had just completed the sectional round a week prior.

The IHSAA later canceled the remainder of the tournament, and canceled all spring sports on April 2 as schools remained closed until July 1.

Both Major League Baseball and the NBA returned in early July, while the NFL regular season started on time in early Septmember. The NCAA canceled fall sports championships, but many football programs across the country pressed on, and both men’s and women’s basketball seasons are currently in progress.

While many states have kept high school sports suspended, Indiana high schools returned to the fields normally this fall with new guidelines and parameters in place. The IHSAA conducted each of its fall state tournaments, with very little interruption.

Currently all local winter sports teams are pressing on as 2021 nears, but not without quarantines and postponed games for all sports. 

Froedge bids farewell

Crawfordsville baseball coach John Froedge did it all in his nearly 40 years of coaching.

Nearly 800 wins, 13 sectional titles, two state championships, and a hall of fame nod in 2010. Most importantly, positively impacting the lives of hundreds of Athenian athletes spanning four decades.

Froedge announced his retirement in the fall of 2019, planning to coach one final season in the spring of 2020, although that never happened after the season was canceled due to COVID-19

“After much prayer and discussion, Deb (Froedge’s wife) and I made the decision a couple of months ago that 2020 spring would be my last season at CHS,” Froedge told the Journal Review in November of 2019.

Froedge won 796 games in 39 seasons, including 21 Sagamore Conference championships, the 13 sectional titles and two state championships with five regional titles.

Brett Motz, who was an All-Star shortstop under Froedge in 1995, will take over the reigns of the program in 2021.

Webster 3rd at state

North Montgomery’s Drew Webster had his eyes set on the top of the podium at the IHSAA Wrestling state finals last February.

The senior came up just short, but still made history for the Charger wrestling program. Webster finished third at 220 pounds, the second highest placing ever by a Charger at the state finals, and became the fourth wrestler in school history to place twice at the state finals. 

Webser appeared to have won his semi-final match against No. 1 ranked Evan Bates, but fell to the Chesterton wrestler 6-5, before defeating North Posey’s Nate Willman in the third-place match.

“I thought I had it won,” Webster said following the semi-final loss. “There are things you can’t control in life, and the refs call is one of those things. It is one of those things, and it is what it is, and you’ve got to move on from things that happen. Things are always going to go wrong in life.”

Mustangs make it 4 in a row

The Fountain Central boys’ tennis team had six seniors for the 2020 season.

Carson Eberly, Cody Linville, Jacob and Sawyer Keeling, Brent Myers, and CJ Yager each helped the Mustangs make history by winning a fourth-straight IHSAA Sectional title this fall with a 3-2 win over Covington.

Each of the six seniors helped the Mustangs at the varsity level for at least two years, with four years of service from Eberly and Jacob Keeling. Eberly was a perfect 4-0 in sectional championship matches throughout his career.

“We knew if we were going to win our fourth straight, we’d have to take down Covington who we’ve seen improve season after season,” Fountain Central coach Chris Webb said after the sectional win. “There’s almost a sense of relief with the guys knowing that they’ve had this goal in mind for four seasons now. This didn’t happen overnight and there was some pressure on our guys to perform.”

Williams leads Jags to tourney

During Kelsi Byrd’s senior season at IUPUI, the North Montgomery graduate helped the Jaguars to a runner-up finish in the Summit League Championshp, losing a late lead in the championship game. 

Just three years later it was another west central Indiana product that helped IUPUI punch its first ticket to the NCAA tournament.

Fountain Central grad Macee Williams helped the Jaguars to a 51-37 win over Green Bay on March 10. Williams had 13 points and nine rebounds and three assists in the win. As a junior, Williams won her second-straight Horizon League Player of the Year in 2020.

“It starts in practice,” Williams said after the championship game. “We work on if they’re doubling me, which most teams double me. If they double me then I can kick it out to a shooter, especially Holly. They left her wide open most of the game.”

Of course the NCAA tournament was canceled, and Williams and IUPUI missed the opportunity to compete in March Madness, but the Jaguars are 6-1 on the season this year, and Williams is poised to once again defend her player of the year award.

Mounties back in regional final

A poor regular season record didn’t stop the Southmont girls’ soccer team from continiung to excel in the postseason. The Mounties suffered a pair of shootout Sagamore Conference losses to Danville and Western Boone and tied Benton Central to carry just a 2-7-1 record into the sectional tournament. Good thing Southmont owns the Class A Sectional as they won their fourth-straight title with wins over South Vermillion and Cascade. The win over the Cadets came in a shootout thanks to senior Marissa Craig, who hit a game-tying goal in the final minutes and sunk the decisive shot in the shootout.

“This is the one that matters,” Southmont coach Phil Keller said after the sectional win. “When the pressure was on and I told the girls before it started that this is the one that’s going to go our way. This is the one that where if you believe it and you’re positive with, this is the one that’s going to go our way.”

Southmont went on to defeat Centerville in the regional semi-finals 3-0, before losing to Park Tudor for a second-straight year in the regional final.

South swim ends sectional drought

The Southmont girls’ swimming and diving team ended a 19-year drought in February by winning its first sectional title since 2001.

Led by seniors Jane Scheidler, Emma Tyler, and Suzi Pedro, and junior Megan Scheidler — the Mounties won both the 200 and 400 freestyle relays to edge second-place Twin Lakes 332-328.

The foursome went on to swim at the IHSAA state finals at the IUPUI Natatorium, while Tyler competed as an individual in the 500 freestyle after winning a sectional title.

It was determination at the end of the sectional meet that gave the Mounties the title.

“I was a little worried there for a while, because they (her swimmers) worry a lot,” Southmont coach Jane Coudret said after the meet. “We are always stronger in the back half. And they said that to me, ‘we are always a back half team, we are going to be alright.’ I can’t say enough. They are just so excited. It wasn’t a perfect day throughout, but it ended up with the perfect ending.”

Abney wins GNCC title

For years the Grand National Cross Country racing season has crowned season champions at Ironman Raceway in Crawfordsville. And in 2020 the GNCC XC2 Pro-Am National Championship was won by a local product from Veedersburg in Fountain Central graduate Austin Abney.

After dominating the local scene with oer 30 wins in 2019, Abney made the move back to the national racing scene in 2020 just before the season started.

“It was literally two days before the first national race in 2020, I told Dad (Darrel Abney) ‘pack your stuff we are going,’” Abney said this fall. “and he’s had the passion for this sport as long as I have and he said ‘alright we’ll go,’ and that’s what started the journey this year.”

The decision paid off, as Abney won five races in 2020, and claimed the season series title with a second-place finish at Ironman in October. 

Abney plans to make the jump up to XC1 class for 2021.

Johnson named opening day starter for Boilermakers

Former Crawfordsville baseball standout and Indiana All-Star pitcher Trent Johnson used a strong sophomore campaign at Purdue to prove his worth as a Boilermaker.

In early February, Johnson was tabbed as the Boilermaker’s ace pitcher to begin the 2020 season. Johnson tossed 2 2/3 innings in the season opener against Hofstra, striking out four, while allowing three runs on five hits in a 9-6 Purdue win. The Boilermakers were 7-7 through 14 games before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic following a 19-1 win over Western Kentucky on March 8.

Johnson appeared in four games in 2020, starting three. The junior had a 3.68 ERA, allowing six earned runs on 11 hits in 14.2 innings pitched, while striking out 13. 

Stars win third-straight title

Throw out the 1-3 start, Western Boone was still the best Class 2A football team in the state in 2020. They proved that in the stat tournament, outscoring their opponents 224-98, which included a 36-35 comeback win over Fort Wayne Bishop Luers in the state championship game to give the Stars a third-straight IHSAA state championship.

The Stars trailed 35-26 with 3:38 to play, before Robby Taylor scored with 1:55 to go and Josiah Smith kicked a game-winning field goal with seven seconds left. Luke Marsh had 10 tackles in the win at Lucas Oil Stadium.

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