NORTH WEBSTER – It was a matter of repetition for a pair of returning champions. Both Tommy Hickerson and Megan Kratzsch returned to the Tournament of Champions with experience, and both were able to use it to their advantages to claim the top prizes at the annual scholarship competition.
Kratzsch, in her fourth year of competing in the TOC, was able to maintain a good balance among the 10-event parlay, cruising to a 24-point finish, well ahead of runner-up Ashton Ellis’ 13.5. Hickerson, in just his second appearance, won it for the second time with 17.7 points in what was a very competitive and balanced boys competition. Caleb Ray was second at 10 points.
Heading into her senior year at Ball State, Kratzsch has now earned $5,500 in scholarships from the Shoop Sports and Youth Foundation. Her latest $2,000 on Saturday had her place first in five of the ten events, making it look easy in events like pull-ups (10), the soccer course (20.67) and obstacle course (32.96) and also winning long jump (7-0) and the 40-yard dash (5.34).
Kratzsch also was second in the shuttle run (9.09) and fourth in the softball throw (111-0) to wrap up her second title. She won in 2017 and was second in 2016. She didn’t place in the money in her first appearance in 2015.
“There wasn’t a real game plan coming in, just come in and give it my all,” said Kratzsch, who is studying to become a physical therapist. “If I had a bad obstacle, I just brushed it off and kept going. Just keep pushing through and have a positive attitude. God blessed me with athleticism and being able to do a lot of things. This means a lot overall, being really grateful to earn some money to help with school.”
Ellis, with Kratzsch the only two returners in the women’s group, rallied big-time in the final event, the three-point shootout, to salvage $1,500 for second place. Hitting six bombs in the final event, Ellis secured three points to give her seven points in the last three events to edge Emma Bohnenkamper, who ended with 13 points. Ellis took runner-up in the mile and in the soccer course. Bohnenkamper, who squared off against Ellis when they were Northern Lakes Conference basketball opponents at Warsaw and Goshen, was the three-point champ with eight makes and the mile run winner as no surprise after being a middle-distance track star with the Tigers this past spring. Bohnenkamper will take a $1,000 scholarship to Indiana University this fall, Ellis’ earnings will go to St. Francis after transferring from Lake Superior State after her freshman year.
Four place for the women went to Purdue-bound Aubrey Kuhn, who scored 11.5 points. The Wawasee grad’s best showings came in runner-up efforts in obstacle course and 40-yard dash. Kuhn earned $500 for her four hours of work.
Kaylie Warble was the free throw winner, hitting all 10 attempts, and Hannah-Marie Lamle was the shuttle run winner at 9.03. Lamle was just outside the top four with 9.5 points.
As for Hickerson, he was nearly all or nothing in his day’s work. Hickerson was first in four events, winning pull ups (21), long jump (9-11), the obstacle course (26.16) and the 40 (4.6) and was part of a very significant tie for second place in the three-point shootout at five makes.
Knowing his strengths, as shown in the track proficiency in long jump and the 40, were likely given as Hickerson was a national champion in the javelin this past May for the Grace College track program. Not trying to overdo the weaknesses is where Hickerson was able to maintain his edge.
“After competing last year and knowing what I did well at and what didn’t go so well, I knew where to expend my energy more,” said Hickerson, who will be a busy bee in the next 12 months. The incoming junior at Grace plans to finish up his undergraduate and begin work on his graduate degree, and also is getting married. All the money is important. “This is huge. It helps the tuition costs, and helps my parents out a little as they have helped pay for some of the school as well. When I’m done, I’d like to have as little debt as possible. I’m also getting married at the end of the summer, so my debt becomes someone elses, and theirs becomes mine. I’d like to keep it as little as possible.”
Hickerson had the title wrapped up going into the final shootout, but five others were still in the mix for money. It was one of those in the shootout, Jairus Boyer, who needed just one more to go in. Boyer’s five makes gave him a split of the 1.2 points, but he needed another .3 as he finished with 9.37 total points and in fifth place, behind third place Syrus Fletcher at 9.87 and the tie for fourth between Shad Ebbinghouse and Cameron Schlabach at 9.67.
Ray quietly earned $1,500 for his studies at Purdue by scoring in just three events, a win on the soccer course (18.17) and two seconds on the shuttle run and obstacle course. Fletcher takes $1,000 to West Lafayette, his top showing coming in a win in the mile, but was one of the five tied in the basketball shootout that earned him enough to edge out third place. Both Ebbinghouse and Schlabach were not involved in the shootout mess, Ebbinghouse earning all but one point in the first half of the day and Schlabach getting eight of his points in the second half. Schlabach won the shuttle run at 8.27, beating Ray by .01 and Kurtis Liston by .04.
Six people tied with eight makes to lead the free throw contest, Boyer won the football throw at 154-0 and Rylan Kuhn ended up winning the three-point shootout with 11, swishing the bonus ball for three additional points.
Ebbinghouse will take $250 to St. Francis this fall as a freshman, Schlabach $250 to Ivy Tech as a sophomore.
Quite a way to finish for tournament director Mitch Willaman, who cited this year’s boys finish was the closest in terms of second through sixth that he has had in over a decade of running the competition.
“Today was ultra competitive, just from top to bottom. Everybody had an opportunity, right down to the long distance shootout,” Willaman said. “For the girls, we only had two returners and had 13 new people, which helps level some of the competition with the new factor. The boys, we just had a lot of really good athletes pushing each other today. A lot of close finishes and it showed in the final scores. To have six guys all right there, and a couple others not far away, speaks well to the competition we have coming in, and hopefully for what lies ahead next year and beyond.”