BOURBON — Coaches often tell their young athletes that adversity is a test and with it comes the opportunity both to build and to reveal character. But tough times don’t only test players themselves — coaches and administrators are also tried right alongside their young charges.
Triton’s many tribulations were well-publicized this past school year, beginning with the tragic death of junior football player and wrestler Cameron Scarberry in September and continuing right through the winter sports season with not one, but a litany of flooding-related disasters and near-escapes. With the completion of the new floor at the Trojan Trench, the high school began construction on an ambitious new auxiliary gym in the spring, and in mid-May, flooding issues reared their ugly head once more to threaten the newly-completed floor in the main gymnasium. It was a year where the hits just kept coming for Triton athletics.
Throughout the many mishaps, no single person was likely tested more — or at least more frequently — than THS Athletic Director Mason McIntyre. But McIntyre kept in mind that there were young eyes upon him, and he made sure his department passed those tests.
“We teach our kids that all the time — we tell them character is made in these times of adversity, and your character is tested in those times. So how did we respond, as adults who are teaching these kids, in that moment?” said McIntyre. “I remember telling someone ‘However we handle these situations, we’re going to teach a lesson to our kids that they’re going to remember forever.’ With the passing of Cam, we looked at each other and said ‘How do we handle this? We have to handle it in a way that is appropriate and make sure that whatever lesson we leave these kids with, it’s one that is as positive as it can be.’ Hopefully if they have another situation like that they’ll maybe be able to look back on that and remember those times and how it was handled.’”
Scarberry’s passing back on Sept. 17 was undoubtedly the lowest point of Triton’s 2017-18 school year. Trojan football was off to a stellar 4-1 start when the junior two-way lineman’s life was cut short in a car accident in Etna Green. But the response Triton received from the surrounding community and from neighboring schools quite possibly outshone even the tragedy of Scarberry’s death. McIntyre was especially struck by the welcome the team received at Pioneer the following week, when their conference foes pulled out all the stops to show their solidarity with the Trojans, helping raise money to help pay for Scarberry’s funeral expenses via a GoFundMe account and memorializing the young player before, during and after the game.
“Probably the thing that stands out to me the most is just how a community comes together in those kind of dark times, those trying times. That was certainly true for us. It started with Cam passing and just watching the community come together and support each other and support his family. That was probably one of the things that stood out the most for me,” recalled McInytre. “The other thing that stood out for me was just kind of the sportsmanship or the class of fellow schools when that happened with Cam and we played Pioneer that next game there, and they were just so awesome to us. I had no clue really as that night unfolded how awesome that night would be. I remember talking with their athletic director before the game and just saying ‘Thanks for doing everything’ because they had told us they were going to try to raise some money and that kind of thing. And John (Bingaman) said to me ‘You’d do the same thing for us,’ and I said ‘Well, yeah, we probably would.’ But after the night was done, I realized that I don’t think we would’ve. The way that they went out — they put (Cam’s jersey number) 54 on their helmets, they put 54-54 on the scoreboard at the end of the game with 5.4 seconds left, got together and prayed with our kids. They just went above and beyond.”
Triton football went on to complete a record-breaking season, one in which the Trojans set new benchmarks for numerous offensive categories on the way to a record-tying 8-4 finish. The winter sports season started more or less innocuously enough, but that all changed in early January, when flooding originating from a burst pipe in the boys locker room was ultimately revealed to have ruined the hardwood floor of the high school gymnasium. The discovery began a mad scramble by McIntyre not only to have that floor repaired but also to rush to make the necessary adjustments to the winter sports teams’ schedules.
The wrestling team was scheduled to host the Hoosier North Athletic Conference Tournament the following weekend, and the site for the tournament had to be moved in a hurry. Luckily, neighboring Culver Community stepped up to the plate. Senior nights were set for the wrestling team as well as the school’s girls basketball team at nearby Triton Elementary, but there were scheduling conflicts between the school corporation’s lower-level sports programs and those high school teams, not to mention the many headaches coordinating practices between those varying levels entailed. County-rival Plymouth agreed to give an assist to the boys basketball program, consenting to serve as host for the team’s remaining five games, but flooding throughout the town of Plymouth ironically derailed some of those plans, including the would-be senior night game with HNAC foe Knox. McIntyre again scrambled to find a replacement, and this time Argos volunteered to lend the Trojans the use of their gym, but, unbelievably, a travel advisory due to flooding in the town of Knox preempted that game.
“I felt so bad for our senior kids,” said McIntyre.
“Who would’ve dreamed that we would get flooded out of our gym and then go over to Plymouth and they were gracious enough to host us for those games and then the flooding that they had there and really over in Knox — Knox ended up basically being in a travel ban and not being able to send their buses out to play. We lined it up for that game to be played over in Argos, and it didn’t work out for Knox. Yeah, just a crazy year with water, it seems. One water mess after another. It was frustrating just trying to reschedule everything and trying to get everybody’s practices and games in. It definitely was a challenge, but, again, everybody was so understanding and flexible and just accommodating.”
Triton ultimately held a combination senior night/ open house at the newly-completed Trojan Trench, and the high school had a beautiful new gym floor to celebrate as well as the groundbreaking on a new auxiliary gym — one that will provide the school some flexibility whenever it completed some time in the spring of 2019. For a moment, things seemed to be on the upswing for Triton athletics. But mother nature gave McIntyre one more scare in mid-May when flooding from construction on the auxiliary gym backed water up into the high school’s main gym.
“We had a big rainstorm, and there was a big, open hole right outside of the main gym where the auxiliary gym is going. The sanitary lines were open there because they were pouring some footers through there, and that big rain actually came and the bladder of the storm drain blew, so the hole ended up filling up with water and the water backed up into the pipes in the locker room downstairs. So it was in the girls locker room on both sides and the showers — it was coming up the drains from the showers — and in the hallway where we had some drains it was coming up from those drains,” McIntyre recalled. “It was just inches away from spilling out onto the new gym floor. It was one of those things where we’re standing there looking at it going ‘What do we do here? We’ve got to start moving this water.’ So I just took off my shoes and socks and rolled up my pants, and we grabbed some brooms.”
“That was something else that was just like ‘Really? One more thing. Can one more thing happen?’” he said. “That was kind of a strange thing at the end of the year that most people didn’t know about. It just kind of capped off the year.”
In more than a decade as AD at Triton, the past school year was definitely the most trying for McIntyre, but at long last it has come to a close. Like the many programs he oversees at Triton, McIntyre maintains it was teamwork that got his department through it all, and he thanked his family, principle Bob Ross, superintendent Jeremy Riffle, secretaries Mendy Davis and Karen Worsham and school social media manager Orion Lemler for all of their help, in addition to his concessions staff and the school’s maintenance crew for the roles they all played. He can now enjoy a brief vacation — briefer than most realize — before coming back to make preparations for the 2018-19 athletic calendar. For a moment at least, though, McIntyre should be able to look back with some satisfaction at a job well done in the face of one adversity after another.
“I’ve actually told a lot of people that this was year number 11 for me, and of my 11, in a lot of ways it was the worst year I’ve had with everything that’s happened. But yet there were so many good things that came out of it, too. It’s kind of a weird feeling, honestly, just thinking about everything. Really, just how well the kids responded to everything, that’s why I said it was the worst year I’ve had, but I kind of felt guilty because the kids have been so awesome through all of it,” he said.
“When you think about the amount of time that you spend, the hours that you spend before a game getting things ready and the hours after a game tearing things down, putting things away, that’s the time most people don’t know about, and that’s the time also that gets tiring and gets grueling. But you stop and you remember why you do that. You stop and you remember it’s for these kids, and we have outstanding kids here at Triton. It’s really just been an honor for me to help provide the best experience that I can for them. Some of them have had better experiences than others, but at the end of the day I hope they all can walk away feeling proud of being from Triton.”