By Beau Wicker Pharos-Tribune
---- — Rachel Jennings had already earned Logansport’s Sue Jones Award as the top female athlete of her senior class.
Then this week Jennings was named the North Central Conference’s Female Athlete of the Year.
“It means a lot to be chosen with so many good athletes in the NCC,” Jennings said. “We’ve had really good athletes at Logansport and all our teams have been successful the last four years in the conference. I’ve been fortunate to be on really good teams with really good athletes.”
A future Bethel basketball player, Jennings averaged 14.6 points per game and was one of the top shooters in the state for the most successful Logansport girls basketball team in school history this winter. The Berries went 25-2 and 7-0 in the NCC. They were regional finalists in Class 4A.
Jennings was a defensive standout for the girls soccer team that finished tied for second in the NCC. She went 19-4 at No. 2 singles in girls tennis for a Logan squad that finished third in the conference.
Logansport girls basketball coach Jerry Hoover was named the NCC Coach of the Year in girls sports.
Hoover downplayed his award but said Jennings’ award was a great honor.
“Rachel Jennings, unlike some of our athletes at Logansport High School, participates in three sports. She participates in three sports and achieves in three sports,” he said. “Is she the fastest runner in the North Central Conference? Does she jump the highest in the North Central Conference? No. But because she’s in three sports and she did that for three or four years, the coaches in the conference gave her that honor and it’s a great honor. In my judgement it’s a recognition of her total contribution to Logansport athletics in her four years.”
For the second straight year and the third time in the last six Logansport won the NCC all-sports title in girls sports.
“It is an achievement that goes along with [athletic director Greg] Fisher’s philosophy that the coaches have adopted that they have to share athletes,” Hoover said. “You’re better off having the best athletes playing basketball also playing softball and track than trying to horde players and just specialize. It doesn’t work in a school of 1,300. It might work at Ben Davis with 5,000, but it won’t work at 1,300.”
Hoover also chimed in about the NCC losing New Castle and Huntington North following the next school year.
“I feel terrible. New Castle has been in the league since 1926,” he said. “The great players in every sport at New Castle that have competed in the NCC, and they’re going to turn that over. I just feel bad because they’re gone. I’m a history major. ... The NCC isn’t going to be the same with New Castle gone. It wasn’t the same when Lafayette Jeff left, and now that they’re going to be back it restores some of that tradition and mystique.”
Jennings also picked up the $750 Pat Aikman Scholarship at the Indiana-Kentucky All-Star basketball games Saturday. She graduated fifth in her senior class at LHS with a GPA over 4.0.
“It exemplifies what athletics are supposed to be about,” Hoover said. “It’s supposed to be about athletics improving the whole person and the whole person includes athletic and academic achievement. It’s like Jasmine [Penny] being Academic All-Big East, that’s a tremendous honor. Or [Dave] Schellhase being Academic All-American, or [Randy] Wittman being Academic All-American. It is what athletics are all about, athletics improving mind and body.”
Jennings wasn’t the only member of her family that had a big week. Her younger sister Whitney had a starring role for the Indiana Junior All-Stars this week. Hoover said her stellar performance can only help in the 2014 Miss Basketball race.
“I don’t think there’s any question. Every coach I’ve talked to — now I’m not trying to stir the pot and I don’t think they’re trying to make me feel good — they said they love to watch her play. Last week was a week where the basketball eyes in the state of Indiana were on the Juniors game against Kentucky and the Senior-Junior games. She played very well and a lot of people saw her for probably the first and a lot of people had to take note of the performances she had. As far as Miss Basketball, that’ll be determined by the sportswriters and coaches voting. Who knows what they’ll come up with. I know this, she had to help herself just based on what I’ve heard.”
Whitney Jennings and next year’s Berry squad competed against Pike and Roncalli at Ben Davis on Saturday morning. Hoover said he attended the Pike game but had to leave early for the Roncalli game because of a camp he holds in Fort Wayne.
“Pike will play in the Hall of Fame Classic next year and they cleaned our clocks pretty well,” Hoover said. “But I was really pleased with what I saw. The people taking over for the five people we lost stepped up and played hard and played very well. [Samantha] Kain played very well. [Katrina] Neuendorf played well. The freshman played well. Everybody played well. I was pleased with how they responded to that kind of competition. Pike will win the state tournament, not this year but next year. They have a player that will be Miss Basketball that is being recruited by Notre Dame and Connecticut and everybody. We played them hard. It was rolling around on the floor, the kind of basketball I want to keep seeing. If we play like that we’ll have another good year.
“Roncalli is another Hall of Fame team. That’s fine for us. When I first started we couldn’t have got in a game like this. They would have laughed at me. Now they want us in it. They want Logansport around. I don’t care about a game in the summer, it’s about getting better. We have a lot of young players. Sydney Bullard had a couple rebounds that were phenomenal. She jumped up and rebounded off a Notre Dame/Connecticut recruit. So we’re fine.”
Beau Wicker is the sports editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.