By Mike Deak
WARSAW – What a wild and woolly year, this 2020. Nobody in March expected Rudy Gobert to become the goat, and not the greatest-of-all-time, but quickly symbolizing a trivia answer just the same. It’s been a year with now a lot of uncertainty, apprehension and frustration.
But it hasn’t been that way the entire time. January, February and the first half of March had plenty of reasons to celebrate, and the back half of 2019 was chock full of moments to stop and smile. IFN Sports documented all 15 varsity sports that were active in the fall and winter, and kept a lot of notes. As the calendar has flipped to May, we will celebrate our choices for the Top 10 teams and Top 10 athletes. Unlike year’s past, however, we will break down the lists one team and one athlete at a time, giving a finer focus to what made their seasons so special.
Ahead of our countdowns to the No. 1 selections for each category, we will pay tribute to some of the teams and athletes that were chosen as Honorable Mention. In a year that didn’t have a spring, choosing the athletes was much harder. Players such as Jack Wysong, Abby Steffensmeier, Whytnie Miller and Tanner Trippiedi were poised to close out their senior seasons strong. Teams like NorthWood baseball and Warsaw girls track were loaded with talent and primed to make their case to grab one of the 10 spots available.
It’s notable to mention athletes like NorthWood’s Kendal Miller, who was an All-State volleyballer and state champion basketballer, and classmate Andre DeFreitas, who broke the NorthWood boys soccer scoring record. Not to be outdone, Steffensmeier became the all-time leading scorer in Warsaw girls soccer history, a record that has been established four times in less than 20 years.
Caden Jenkins closed out his diving career at NorthWood a two-time NLC and two-time sectional champion, finishing his career at the IHSAA State Finals in the championship round. Makenzie Woodcox and Gigi Engstrand set standards for Valley volleyball, Woodcox leaving as the program’s all-time kills leader and Engstrand setting the single-game assists mark.
Wawasee’s Garrett Stuckman just needed some more time, coming all the way back from an offseason injury to win his first 16 matches of the wrestling season before taking his only loss as a senior at the IHSAA State Finals. Another Wawasee athlete, freshman Alexis Mishler, leads a new wave of talent in the swimming pool after qualifying for state in two events.
Miller overcame a rough set of injuries during her high school career to have a solid basketball season for Triton, one that included winning the Hawkins Award as part of the Bi-County tournament. And Tori Calizo capped a tremendous soccer career at Lakeland Christian with a chance to play four more years at Grace College in the shadows of her proving grounds.
Starting Monday, IFN Sports will start the team countdown from No. 10 to No. 1, one revealed every morning for the next two weeks. The following two weeks will highlight our choices for the top 10 athletes, which will conclude with No. 1 on May 29.