What a year 2019 proved to be.
It was filled with many highs, a few lows and many more friendships formed within the community than I could ever have imagined — which is a big reason why I came back after my brief three-week “hiatus.”
One of the many rewards this job affords is the seeing young adults succeed.
And there was plenty of success over the past calendar year.
There were conference championship teams, sectional championship teams, a regional champ, a few more regional champions individually, a team state qualifier and a few individual state qualifiers.
I remember when I first broke into this profession back in 2007, the first time I was assigned to cover a state finals (track and field) I thought it was the absolute coolest thing.
To this day, I still get goosebumps when a team/athlete qualifies for the state meet. Although making a trip to the state championships every sports season has become the norm, it is something I will never take for granted.
The first time it happened this past season came during track and field season. I watched Gibson Southern’s Maria Hillyard bust out a PR in the discus for a regional championship before saving her best for last in the shot put as she became the first Lady Titan to win two regional championships.
In between those two wins, Princeton Community’s Avery Jones-Taylor kept her undefeated streak in the 400 meters alive with a championship run although she had a broken bone in her foot which would require surgery in the offseason.
I did not get to attend the boys’ track regional as I was covering tennis and softball on the same night, but the sectional provided another highlight. Princeton Community’s Jackson Kreig won the 800 and 1,600. As he crossed the finish line in both races, just as he had done so many times throughout the season, he gave tribute to his late mother.
The Gibson Southern softball team finished two wins shy of making the state championship game, but what a season the Lady Titans compiled. More impressive is the fact they had such a dominating season despite being bumped up to playing in Class 4A due to the ridiculously absurd success factor rule implemented by the fine folks at the IHSAA.
Before I was able to see her compete in person, I was sent a photo of Princeton Community freshman Heidi Meade after she won an invitational. I would have bet my savings that from the looks of the photo, she had won a middle school race. No way I would have guessed she was in high school. But despite being by far the smallest runner in nearly every meet, the freshman turned even more heads with each passing race — all the way to the state championships. I did see one runner during the state meet who may have been a little bit smaller than Meade, but not by much. Now I can’t wait to see how she competes on the track this fall.
Oh and her twin sister, Haley, is not too far behind either.
Speaking of running, I would be remiss if I didn’t dedicate a couple lines to PCHS veteran coach Bill Niederhaus. With the track and field state finals taking place on the campus of that university in Bloomington, on Friday and Saturday in addition to softball semistate taking place 20 miles down the road in Bedford I decided to stay in Bloomington on Friday night. Before I finalized my booking, Niederhaus mentioned he had an extra room on Friday night and it was mine if I wanted it. I normally do not accept such things from anyone, but I decided to take him up on the offer. It’s a gesture which definitely was not needed, but it was very much appreciated.
One of the first things I was told about the Gibson County when taking the job, was the coaches and school administrators are top notch. Niederhaus definitely falls into this category as do the majority of the coaches here.
I may not be everyone’s “cup of tea” and that is OK. Never have been and never will be, but those like Bill are very much appreciated.
The Gibson Southern girls’ golf team made an incredible run to the state championships this past fall. As fun as it was watching them succeed and getting to know them a little outside of the course and also their families, I will remember something else from the season.
It also happened at the state finals. Senior Allie Sensmeier, who was the Lady Titans’ best player throughout the season, did not have the finish she wanted. Anyone who knows Allie knows she wears her heart on her sleeve. After a frustrating final two rounds, Sensmeier felt compelled to apologize to her older sisters, who made the out-of-state trek to watch her finish up her prep career, for the way she played.
As fun and enjoyable as it is to witness athletes win, it’s equaling gut-wrenching to see them fail — it’s the worst part of the job. That moment was tough to watch as all three had tears running down their face.
I never got the chance to talk to Rachel and Megan, but I am guessing they both would say Allie’s apology was not necessary.
As hard as it was to see that personal moment, it also made my heart smile a little knowing that athletes like Allie care so much about their support system.
It’s just another example of how great of young student-athletes we have here in Gibson County.
As I stated in the beginning, 2019 provided a little bit of everything for this ole reporter. I am thankful when I decide to come back after stepping away, that you all welcomed me back with open arms — well the majority of you anyway. Getting to share and tell stories here in Gibson County has been an absolute blessing, and I can’t wait to see what memories unfold in 2020!
Hope everyone had a great and safe New Year!
Travis David is the sports editor of the Daily Clarion. He can be reached at 812-220-4843 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Tdavid_21.