WARSAW – Our top individuals see a pair of freshmen as well as two all-time seniors kick off our list as we work towards the top.
10. Breaking Away — Warsaw girls cross country has had a long, rich tradition of dominant runners. When Mia Beckham left for Butler following the 2017-18 school year, her absence left the program with some mighty big shoes to fill. Two athletes began filling the Lady Tigers’ frontrunner spots — Mia’s younger sister, sophomore Adree, and freshman newcomer Wini Barnett. After trading back and forth for the top spot in the lineup most of the season, Barnett eventually emerged as Warsaw’s pace setter, clocking 19:56 for 28th place at the New Prairie Semi-State, then following up with a 19:13.4 time at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute the following week to earn herself a 35th-place finish at the state finals. That former performance helped the Tigers earn their fifth state finals berth in the past six years, and the latter helping garner them a 21st-place finish in the team standings at the state championships. Barnett also stood out on the track, too, as part of a distance crew that helped the Lady Tigers earn their 14th straight Northern Lakes Conference title and 13th consecutive sectional championship. Her third-place performance in the 3200 meters at the Warsaw Regional in May earned her a ticket to the state track and field finals in Bloomington, where she wound up in 27th place. She would’ve earned a second state berth in the 4×800, too, if not for an unfortunate disqualification following a third-place finish at regional.
9. Staying In Her Delaney – Before her senior swim season started, Delaney Wihebrink said she just wanted to enjoy her final season with the Tigers. Even Wihebrink admitted afterwards she didn’t think she could have pulled off what was to come. The swim maven became the best girl to ever swim the breaststroke at Warsaw, even though she had already become that prior to a third-place finish at the IHSAA Swim State Finals. Wihebrink hung a 1:03.06 in her final swim for Warsaw in the finals at the IUPUI Natatorium, lowering her own record that had been falling all 2019. Her placing in Indianapolis was also the best-ever finish by a Warsaw Lady Tiger at the State Finals, and highest since Nate Taylor won a breaststroke title in 2005. Before any of the drama took place in Indy, Wihebrink claimed her first-ever Northern Lakes Conference title in the breaststroke in January, which was one of the bigger boxes Wihebrink wanted to check off of her high school swim bucket list. She later went on to win three sectional titles in the breast and a pair of relays. In her four years of Warsaw swim, Wihebrink qualified for 12 state swims as both an individual and parts of relays. She has signed on to continue her swim career with Grand Valley State University.
8. Redemption Song — Wawasee senior Braxton Alexander’s junior wrestling season ended in heartbreak. His senior season ended under the lights at the state championship finals. Following a state-qualifying performance as a sophomore in 2016, Alexander was eliminated via heartbreaker in the second round of the 2017 East Chicago Semi-State, when a mandatory concussion protocol he was forced to undergo exhausted his injury time and he was told he had effectively forfeited the match despite wanting to continue. Following that disappointing finish, Alexander went on a 38-2 tear through the state’s 138-pound weight class this past winter, with championships at the Plymouth Sectional — a performance that helped the Warriors net their second straight team title — the Penn Regional and back at the East Chicago tournament. Headed back to state with 132-pound cousin Geremia Brooks and 120-pound younger brother Jace, Alexander was mostly dominant on his way to the first state finals appearance by any Warrior in two decades. Ultimately, he had to settle for second best after a 9-2 loss to Columbus East’s Cayden Rooks in the finals, but that loss did little to diminish an exceptional senior season that saw Wawasee wrestling continue its upward climb, in large part due to the strength of its lower middleweight lineup, with Alexander the headliner.
7. Becoming A Panther Superstar – Jaden Miller wasn’t the headliner on any of the three teams to which he played during his junior year at NorthWood. But Miller quietly had himself a very solid set of seasons in football, wrestling and baseball. While Bronson Yoder garnered most of the headlines for the Panther football team, Miller made possibly the play of the year. With Warsaw poised to upset NorthWood in week eight with the Game of the Week TV cameras rolling, Miller’s sack of Josh West on a two-point try kept NorthWood’s undefeated season alive and Northern Lakes Conference title hopes in tact. Miller did make quite a contribution on offense, racking up nearly 900 yards rushing and receiving and 10 total touchdowns. On defense, he had 41 total tackles and three interceptions, and was named a Jr. All-State pick. Moving to the wrestling room, Miller was just as feisty, running up a 28-7 record this past season at 170 pounds. Miller was a sectional runner-up at Elkhart Memorial, but upped the ante with a regional championship at Goshen before getting eliminated in the New Haven semi-state’s first round. Moving to the baseball diamond, his worth translated to a spot in the middle of the order for a 17-win Panther team that contended for an NLC title until the final week. Miller hit .312 with 25 hits, seven doubles, 18 RBIs and was six-for-six in steals. The conference honored him as First-Team in football, At-Large in wrestling and Honorable Mention in baseball.
6. Rookie Returns – Quite a debut for lil’ sis. After watching her older sister, Summer, enjoy her career as two-sport star at NorthWood, Cybil entered the fray in the same two sports as a freshman. Her golf debut was beyond remarkable as Stillson made an impact from day one, shooting 77 at the Harrison Invite to help the Panthers to a title. Stillson continued to take aim at each course, winning three tournament medalists before leading the field with a 78 at the Northern Lakes Conference Championships. Stillson shot a 155 at the two-day IHSAA State Finals, finishing tied for 13th overall in the individual standings while helping NorthWood to its best-ever team finish in 10th place. For the season, Stillson in total matched or set 10 program records. Her course averages of 76.9 for 18 holes and 39.18 for nine holes included a 70 at the Canterbury tournament and a 34 in an NLC dual against Warsaw and Goshen. She earned IHSGCA All-State in the process. In the spring, Cybil worked her way into a softball starting role at second base, and at the plate provided 20 hits, 11 runs scored, two triples and nine driven in.
Honorable Mention (in alphabetic order): Geremia Brooks, Wawasee; Tori Calizo, Lakeland Christian Academy; Nolan Groninger, Warsaw; Grant Knight, Warsaw; Reegan Miller, NorthWood; Jada Parzygnot, Wawasee; Maddy Payne, NorthWood; Abigail Powell, Triton; McKenzie Smith, Wawasee; Bo Snyder, Triton