NORTH WEBSTER — The annual Tournament of Champions saw a pair of three-peat winners but with a slight twist.
While Grace College’s Tommy Hickerson ran away with his third title on the men’s side, Ball State’s Megan Kratzsch collected her third consecutive title but split top honors with Purdue’s Madison Schermerhorn at the annual event at North Webster Elementary.
Hickerson collected $2,000 in scholarship money from the Shoop Sports and Youth Foundation for his win, while Kratzsch and Schermerhorn split the top prize in the women’s tournament with $1,750 apiece.
“It was the last one, so obviously I wanted to end really well,” said Hickerson, who finished off a 3-for-3 championship performance at Saturday’s event. “The opportunity to come out and do this — I would rather come out here and spend four hours sweating and working hard than writing a six-page paper, so I really enjoyed this. It was awesome.”
“I love the atmosphere. Everyone is so nice, and I love competing with other athletes,” said Kratzsch of her three-peat. “Even if you weren’t an athlete in high school, you were still able to come in and compete, and I love that. I love competition, and I love people so coming in here and doing that is just so fun to me. I love it.”
An incoming volleyball recruit at Purdue, Schermerhorn wasn’t even sure she’d be able to make it to Saturday’s TOC. Fortunately, she was able to make some space in her busy schedule for it and was well-rewarded for her efforts.
“We weren’t sure at first, but since it was on this Saturday we were able to make it. I’m really glad I did because I’m not on full scholarship at Purdue, so every bit will help,” she explained. “And just like (Kratzsch) said, the competitiveness that’s here and the encouragement from the girls, it’s just all really nice to be around. It’s just a fun way to get out and raise money and be competitive the whole day. It was a really cool experience.”
Schermerhorn and Kratzsch each tallied 27 points over 10 events at the tourney, which features a variety of events to test a wide-ranging sample of athletes’ physical abilities and skills. Schermerhorn earning top finishes in the free throw competition, 40-yard dash, long jump and shuttle run, while Kratzsch collected top honors in the pull-ups, softball throw and obstacle course, as well as runner-up finishes in the 40, soccer course, long jump and shuttle run.
“It’s really unique just because it tests a bunch of your different skills. The mile, that’s your distance and endurance, the 40-yard dash, the obstacle course — just the various events that it has, you can’t really base yourself off of one event. So it can mix between many different people, and that’s what I like about it,” Schermerhorn said.
Hickerson — who recently earned his second track and field national championship as a javelin thrower for Grace — won his third TOC going away, with a total of 24.5 points, more than 5.5 points better than his closest competitor. His wins came in the long jump, pull-ups, shuttle run, soccer course and the 40 — where he and Rylan Kuhn split with dual 5-second stops — and he finished second in the obstacle course.
“Tommy Hickerson, an amazing athlete, a specimen. He’s just an all-around athlete; there isn’t anything he can’t do, so what can you say about the guy?” asked tournament director Mitch Willaman. “And as great of an athlete as he is, he’s an even better person. I could say that about all the kids out here.”
Hickerson, Kratzsch and Schermerhorn may have won the top prizes at Saturday’s event, but there was plenty more scholarship money to go around.
Wawasee grad and West Point track recruit Luke Griner earned $1,500 after netting 19 points with wins in the obstacle course, mile and three-point shootout, while John Grose put up 14.5 points to garner third place and $1,000, and Kyle Bleed finished fourth with 13.5 points for $500. Aubrey Kuhn placed third on the women’s side with 15 points to earn herself $1,000, while fellow Wawasee alum Hannah-Marie Lamle split fourth-place honors with Warsaw grad Emma Bohnenkamper as each totaled 12 points and claimed $250 in prize money.
“I’m just thankful to the Shoop Sports and Youth Foundation for providing this opportunity for the kids that they can come out here and earn $10,000 in scholarships in this form. They’re looking for an opportunity that they can come out and use their athletic skills to earn some money. It’s just a great thing that the Shoop Sports and Youth Foundation does year after year,” said Willaman.
“I really like how there’s really not a whole lot of qualifications other than the fact you just need to be in college because it just gives everyone a chance. Because there’s tons of athletes that don’t compete in athletics at a collegiate level, so people can come in here, and all they have to do is just sign a waiver, be the first 15 to pay $15 and then you have a chance to win $5,000 to $2,000,” said Hickerson. “It’s nice of Shoops that they reward more than just first place.”
Although the competition for those needed dollars may have been fierce, athletes also displayed an impressive amount of sportsmanship and camaraderie and could even be heard encouraging one another during events.
“Awesome attitudes from the beginning. Just positive right from the mile right on through the 3-point shootout,” Willaman said. “Every event just lifted each other up, just encouraging each other in the pull-ups or whatever the event may be. Just great attitudes and just good kids.”
“It’s awesome because it’s based on camaraderie,” said Kratzsch. “You’re not all here for yourself. You’re here to support because everyone is going to school. Everyone needs the money, everyone is trying to go for the same goal.”