By Keith Knepp
Mike Deak has worn many hats during his 19 years with The Papers Inc. Not only has he served two separate stints as the sports editor of The Mail-Journal, primarily covering Wawasee High School athletics, but he also served in the same capacity for InkFreeNews.com, reporting on sports from in and around the Kosciusko County area, among others.
His range is endless, understanding the intricacies not only of the money sports of basketball and football, but also the ones that didn’t take place under the lights on a Friday or in a packed gym on a Saturday. His knowledge of cross country, golf, tennis and swimming is unrivaled by his colleagues in the area and the acknowledgements and appreciation he received from parents, coaches and athletic administrators gave credence to his diversity.
On Sunday night, Deak’s overall efforts were publicly recognized when he received the Indiana Interscholastic Administrators Association’s Distinguished Service Award for District II. While not confirmed, Deak believes his nomination was forwarded by former Warsaw Assistant Athletic Director Roman Smith, who now holds the top athletic department job at NorthWood. Specifically, Deak was nominated for his work as the sports editor of InkFreeNews.
The award was one of six presented in Indianapolis during the weekend, which took place as part of the IIAAA’s annual conference. The state is divided into six regions, with District II encompassing the north central part of the state.
According to Deak, the IIAAA is the primary organization for athletic administrators from across the state. Seven of the eight Northern Lakes Conference schools were represented at the event, as well as most other schools from the area.
One Distinguished Service Award was presented from each of the six districts. The criterium for nomination includes those outside administration, media members and administrators who go above in beyond in their respective communities. The nominees are considered and voted upon by the athletic directors in their specific region. A variety of other awards were presented at the banquet, as well.
“It’s not just a writing award,” said Deak. “As I understood it from some of the athletic directors, it’s a ‘total package,’ including service to the community, time spent, and the ability to represent the community in a good, positive light.”
While Deak has known for a few months he was to receive the award, he acknowledged the reality of its significance is just now sinking in.
“It’s humbling to know that (the athletic directors) thought of me in that regard,” he continued. “I appreciated that many of them were by my side last weekend. It’s a cool feeling to know that people were paying attention to what I do. Now that I’m home and had time to reflect upon that, it’s very satisfying.”
Deak joins some notable names from the area as a recipient of the award, including Rita Price Simpson (2005, 2011), Bob Nagle (2001), Chuck Freeby (2015), Dean Huppert (2016), Anthony Anderson (2018) and Brent Randall (2019).