Kyle Ahrens usually heads to the gym with his dad, who mans the video camera so the senior at Versailles High in Ohio can review his workouts.
But as the American Family Insurance High School Slam Dunk and Three-Point Championship approached, Ahrens’ father Kevin was called away on business trip.
So mom Susan – doing what moms do – stepped in and has been working the camera as Kyle practices takeoffs and angles to maximize his dunks. She films and then they watch to see what the dunks looked like.
“It’s always fun to be with your kids,” Susan said, “but it’s hard because you want to give input, but you have to watch what you give input on because he’s so intense. It’s alternating between what he wants to hear and what he doesn’t.”
It should come as no surprise that Kyle’s trip to Carmel, Ind., for Wednesday night’s event is a family affair. Kyle won the Fearless Dreamer online voting contest to be selected to compete.
That process required winning four rounds of online voting and massive amounts of support from near and far.
“The fact that we are a small town and a small community, we got people involved all over,” Susan Ahrens said. “I’ve got a niece in California. We had relatives in Arizona and Oregon that were putting it on Facebook. We had people all over trying to help him get there. It’s really neat.”
The result is that the Ahrens group ordered 110 tickets for the event in Carmel in suburban Indianapolis, about a two-hour drive from Versailles.
Jessica Norris from Center Grove High in Grennwood, Ind., was voted into the girls’ three-point contest and Jaelan Sanford from Reitz High in Evansville, Ind., was voting into the boys’ three-point contest. They too have been feeling the love of their communities.
Each event has eight participants. The live event is Wednesday night and it will be shown on CBS on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
“It’s an honor that I got win the voting,” Sanford said. “Now I’m trying to go out there and prove why I won it and show everyone what I can do.
“Everybody I see who knows me has been congratulating me and wishing me luck and asking when it is. It’s all been pretty cool.”
Said Norris, “Everybody in our community has said they’re excited for me. I’m excited for the whole thing.”
The three Fearless Dreamers will have had about two weeks from winning the final round until the competition and each has taken his or her own approach to preparing.
Along with the videos of his dunks, Ahrens had been adding some new dunks to his arsenal and working to get the timing and footwork right.
“I’ve busted out a couple of new things that I had never tried until after the season ended,” he said. “I’m starting to get them down. I’m really excited to show people what I have. … It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, but I’m ready.”
Norris, who lives 45 minutes from the site of the event, has been working with her high school coach to get down the shooting routine. They line up the five racks and Norris shoots and shoots some more.
“I’ve been doing that for an hour … Just to make sure I have a sense of the time,” she said. “The first time I did it, I ran out of time. After a couple of times, I got it. I’ve ben having extra time after finishing.”
Sanford was actually at the gym when he returned a call from USA TODAY High School Sports.
“I’m getting some racks out and simulating grabbing the ball and shooting,” he said. “I’m pretty comfortable with it. It’s not that big of a transition for me. I want to get the feel of the ball and shoot it.”
Though the Fearless Dreamers got into the field via fan vote rather than invitation, all say they are paying attention more to themselves than the competition.
“I saw the list of who’s in it, but I’m just focusing on myself, I’d say,” Norris said.
But as Ahrens put it when it comes to the dunkers, “I’ve heard of a couple of them,” Some of them can fly.”