IndyStar is recognizing high school athletes of the week from across the state. Top Hoosier athletes are nominated by their athletic directors and coaches. For more information about our Indiana Sports Awards, contact Matthew VanTryon at email@example.com or Matthew Glenesk at firstname.lastname@example.org. These athletes were chosen for the week ending Aug. 27.
Hamilton Heights team
Hamilton Heights and Kokomo were scheduled to play at Lucas Oil Stadium Aug. 26. Two rosters of football players, two coaching staffs and two cheerleading squads wanted to win a football game.
After multiple tornadoes tore through Kokomo on Aug. 24, football was put on the back burner. Instead, the teams joined together to make a difference.
Even before the game was officially canceled, Hamilton Heights coach Mitch Street told athletic director Kurt Ogden what he had in mind if the game wasn’t played.
“He spearheaded this project, he (took) it under his wing and he’s done a fantastic job of getting buy-in,” Ogden said of the Huskies coach.
Street and Kokomo coach Brett Colby stayed in touch during the day Aug. 24 and in the days following the tornadoes. After the game officially was canceled, they decided to team up with United Way and meet together as teams Friday afternoon — not on a football field, but in a devastated neighborhood.
Two football teams, two coaching staffs and two cheerleading squads met and cleaned up the Cedar Crest neighborhood for a few hours. They met with devastated residents. They saw flattened houses. They cleaned up trash. Smiled. Shook hands.
“Football was the furthest thing from those kids’ minds once they got off the bus at 4:45,” Colby said. “It was, ‘Let’s go help someone else that doesn’t have much left right now.’”
Hamilton Heights senior Riley White was struck by how fortunate he and his teammates were. Kokomo and Arcadia are separated by less than 30 miles.
“(There was) all the debris laying around, and there were a lot of things destroyed where the tornado actually went through,” White said. “It was just up the road. It was like, ‘Wow, that could’ve hit us.’”
White and his teammates spent several hours with the Kokomo players. After the cleanup was cut short due to storms, Hamilton Heights parents fed both teams. The next day, the Colts surprised both teams with tickets to their preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Despite the tragedy that had struck their community, Kokomo maintained a positive spirit.
“You could tell that they were affected, but they weren’t letting it bring them down. They were interacting and having fun,” White said.
Still, the devastation left behind was unavoidable.
“The city was perfectly fine, but the neighborhoods were destroyed,” Hamilton Heights senior Jesse Brown said. “I helped someone who said they’d lost their dog, so that was hard too.”
Friday, Kokomo got back to playing football. For many, it was a form of healing.
“It’s getting away from stuff for two and a half hours after school and being with their friends, bonding, and doing what they want to do right now, and that’s play football,” Colby said. “A lot of times you can use athletics as a release from a lot of things. Getting out here and forgetting about it for a while is something good for them.”
Drew Michael, Carmel
Michael defeated Cathedral’s No. 2 6-2, 6-1 Aug. 25 and won the No. 2 singles flight at the John Shirley Invite at North Central Aug. 27. Carmel is ranked No. 1 in this week’s IHSTeCA poll. Michael also has beaten Hamilton Southeastern at No. 1 singles and West Lafayette at No. 2 singles this season.
Kayla Benge, Plainfield
The junior medaled in all three of the team’s nine-hole events. She finished three-under Aug. 22, one-over Aug. 23 and one-under Aug. 25. In the Hall of Fame Classic Aug. 27, Benge placed fourth out of 99 players.
Ella Davis, Danville
The Danville senior scored seven goals and six assists in two games against Covenant Christian (Aug. 22) and North Montgomery (Aug. 24). Davis leads the Warriors in assists (9), points (23) and is second in goals (7) through Aug. 29. She had 11 goals and 16 assists last season.
Jarret Whitehouse, Mt. Vernon
Whitehouse had a hat trick and an assist in his team’s 8-2 win over Delta Aug. 22. The senior added another goal in the team’s 6-0 win over Beech Grove Aug. 25. Whitehouse leads the team in goals (nine) and has two hat tricks through Aug. 22. He had five goals and 12 assists in 20 games as a junior.
Caitlyn Newton, Terre Haute South
Newton, a Purdue commit, had 39 kills, three service aces, three solo block kills and 23 digs in the team’s 3-2 win over Bloomington North Aug. 23.
Nathan Herbst, Wapahani
Herbst led the Raiders with a fifth-place finish at the Pendleton Heights Invitational Aug. 24. He finished third in the Division III race at the Rushville Invitational Aug. 27.
Erin Sullivan, Southport
Sullivan finished first out of 167 competitors in the Conference Indiana meet with a time of 19 minutes, 14.3 seconds Aug. 27.