Carmel’s 2015 girls swim team has established itself as perhaps the best in U.S. history and certainly the best ever in Indiana.
In conjunction with that, The Indianapolis Star is selecting all-time best teams in the 19 other Indiana high school sports. Selections were made in consultation with experts from around the state.
Being coach of both boys and girls teams at a state cross-country meet is a hassle. Granted, the coaching is done before the actual races, during months of training.
But in 1987, Chuck Koeppen wasn’t reveling in the victory by his Carmel girls because the boys race was under way at South Grove Golf Course. A colleague shouted, congratulating him. Koeppen had no idea what the girls’ score was.
Nineteen. A perfect score – 1-2-3-4-5 – is 15.
“Everyone’s mouth kind of dropped,” Koeppen recalled. “That is a pretty good score for a state meet.”
Floyd Central was second … with 127 points.
Carmel’s score was so good that MileSplit retroactively declared Carmel as the national co-champion along with Palos Verdes (Calif.) for that year. The team is one of only six in girls cross-country inducted into the National Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Cross-country scoring can be odd to those not involved in the sport because teams are scored only against themselves. Runners who don’t represent team qualifiers are not counted. So even though Amy Tomlinson was Carmel’s top finisher in seventh place, she scored one point because the top six were individuals.
Still, Carmel’s 1-2-4-5-7 team finish was unprecedented. It has been unequaled. The five girls were separated by 19 seconds, and all were among the top 18. Susie Stewart was 10th, Tess Woods 12th, Jenny Klehm 15th and Stephanie Gray 18th.
Not that the results were unusual. Carmel scored 19 in the Ill-iana Classic, matching teams from Illinois and Indiana; 16 in the Olympic Conference; 15 in Hamilton County, in which the top four tied for first place, and 15 in the sectional.
“Most meets were near perfect scores. They were that tough,” Koeppen said.
It was the fourth of what became five consecutive state titles, a record run that was equaled (by Carmel) last fall. Stewart, then a senior, was on a state championship team each year.
“She was probably our leader,” Koeppen said.
Stewart went on to run for the U.S. Naval Academy. She finished second among women in the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon in 1999 and was 28th in the 2000 Olympic Trials marathon in 2 hours, 46 minutes, 38 seconds at Columbia, S.C.
Tomlinson, then a sophomore, was an Academic All-Big Ten runner at Illinois. Woods became a standout at Eastern Kentucky.
Koeppen, now at IUPUI, won a record 23 state championships in 37 years of coaching at Carmel: 11 in boys cross-country, 11 in girls cross-country, one in boys track. This was his most dominant team.
“I’ve had many coaches in my life, but there is only one that I would ever call ‘Coach,’ ” Tomlinson wrote in a 2008 e-mail to The Indianapolis Star. “Calling someone else by that name always seemed wrong to me after that.”
Call Star reporter David Woods at (317) 444-6195. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidWoods007.