Hornocker C-T Athlete Of The Year; Leads 10 Golden Eagles In The Top 25

hornocker

This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative. Margo Hornocker

BY SCOTT HUNT – shunt@chronicle-tribune.com
Bird. Jordan. Peyton. Brady. Or you could say Larry, Michael, Manning or Tom relevant to whatever sport was being discussed at the time.

The common denominator with these four athletic greats is just one name is necessary to instantly recognize the person being discussed.

Over the past 21 months, recent Oak Hill graduate Margo Hornocker has worked herself into the status of a singular-name recognition on the girls’ high school track and cross country stage in Indiana.

The work for Margo started shortly after a disappointing 64th place finish in the 2017 IHSAA state cross country championship and will continue at Butler University in a few short weeks.

What’s taken place in between has been a picture of focus, determination and drive that is uncommon in many high school athletes.

Margo has the results to show for it: Four Grant four championships; two Central Indiana Conference championships; two sectional and a regional championship in track; another G4, CIC, sectional and regional title in cross country — all coming in just the past school year.

And that’s really just the beginning for the 2017-18 Chronicle-Tribune Grant County Athlete of Year.

“From where she started at (as a freshman), we thought she was going to be somebody that was going to have a good career and somebody that was going to help,” Oak Hill coach Paige Brunner said of Hornocker when asked if he was surprised at the level of achievement Hornocker’s reached. “She came in with Shallen Lenhart, who at the time was starting to set most of our records and was as good as we had around here, along with (Eastbrook’s) Sophie Seward for awhile.

“If you would have asked me that last year at this time, I would have said ‘no I wouldn’t have been surprised’.”

Considering Hornocker had just finished fourth in the 1,600-meter race at the state championship at this time last year, the room for improvement seemed to shrink.

But improve she did and along the way Margo re-authored the entire Grant County record book for girls’ distance runners.

Hornocker’s pursuit wasn’t for records, though. It still isn’t, unless it’s a personal best.

“The records were all really good and I was really thankful that I got those, but those were just on the way to what I wanted to get,” Hornocker said. “I think maybe I didn’t even appreciate them as much as I was getting them because even though I did get them there was more that I wanted beyond that.

“Those were just like little steps up to what my bigger goals were in the end.”

It seems as if the goal for Margo will be an unending pursuit of just getting faster, stronger and smarter.

In setting her county records, Hornocker eclipsed three ‘barrier’ times, according to Brunner. Breaking the 18-minute mark in the cross country 5K, the 11-minute mark in the 3,200 and five minutes in the 1,600 are all barriers that Margo ran her way past.

“For her, the thing that was amazing was the fact that each record she broke was in an event that kind of has this unobtainable barrier that a lot of people don’t even think is possible,” Brunner said.

“What she was willing to do and the additional steps she was willing to take in her career, she broke barriers doing that as well,” he added. “She did stuff that we haven’t had other athletes do. On senior day when they announced what her scholarship was worth, I had a bunch of kids coming back to class and talking about how much Margo got.

“Well, she went and got that. She earned it.”

Brunner recalled during the past winter on board the Oak Hill boys’ basketball team bus that was ready to leave for a game in Peru and Margo running by at the end of a seven-mile run in near freezing temperatures that silenced the would-be state champions for a couple minutes. He also said he expected a text every time weather cancelled school at Oak Hill and talked of seeing her lifting weights by the light of a smart phone on some of those days.

This was during the winter after Hornocker claimed all-state honors and a spot on her first Indiana All-Star team with an 11th place finish at the state cross country meet. It capped a season that saw her twice break the 18-minute barrier, something less than 35 other girls in history have done.

Prior to Margo, only Seward (18:29) had run the 5K under 18:30. Hornocker averaged 18:18 for the season.

Seward (11:24 in 2013) and Marion’s Laura Bruns (11:18 in 1994) were the only two girls to break 11:30 in the 3,200 in track before this season. On a cool, breezy day during the Oak Hill Relays, Margo completed her eight laps in 10:58.9.

The capper for Hornocker came during the 2018 track and field tourney. Her journey started with a 4:58.8 in the Marion Sectional to reset the mark of five minutes flat she ran at the 2017 state meet. That time would last just two weeks and she battled to a fifth-place finish at state in 4:57.49. More all-state honors and a second Indiana All-Star team selection.

“Up until my sophomore year it was never in my head that I could get those times,” Hornocker said. “As I was getting better and taking time off of my PRs I would slowly chip away at them. My freshman year breaking 19 seemed super hard and I wondered if I’d ever break it.

“Once I broke it, when I ran that time I thought that was really good but it was like the next day 18:56 didn’t sound that fast and I thought I can run faster,” she added. “Then it was just more motivation. Every time I’d PR I would be looking towards the next thing … it wasn’t until this past year that I knew for sure what kind of times I could run. I still, hopefully, think my best time are in front of me.”

Brunner said ultimately all the work Hornocker put in to run her 4:57 was worth only three seconds. And maybe a few thousand dollars worth of scholarship money.

“It’s a big drop (in time), especially when you get down that low, but it puts in perspective for a lot of other kids to look at and realize that everything she did and the lengths she went to was ultimately for three seconds,” Brunner said.

Hornocker has already had a weekend on Butler’s campus with her new teammates and coaching staff and now has a similar but new training plan to complete this summer before arrives in Indianapolis for the school year in mid-August.

She also said her new head coach Matt Roe shared some words of wisdom with his incoming class of freshman.

“(Roe said) you’re all really talented, and he said it in the nicest way he possibly could, but he told us you’re all not good anymore,” Hornocker said. “All of us have ran right around five minutes for the mile and he said running five minutes in the mile won get you anywhere.

“He wasn’t saying it in a way to take a hit at us, he was just motivating us telling us now is them time you guys need to work together and get yourselves better.”

So the work continues, and so likely will the improvement.

It’s just Margo being Margo.

“She’s now in a position where you don’t even have to say her full name, you don’t even have to say Oak Hill, if you said Margo by the time she was a senior, people knew who Margo was,” Brunner said.

“I keep saying the word special. Its hard to kind of put into words, to be honest, I feel like I do her a disservice with certain things I can say about her,” he added. “She’s Margo. She’ll forever just be that kid that kind of set the bar high and went after things and has an amazing ceiling. Its going to be interesting to see and very fun to watch what she can do at Butler.”

1. Margo Hornocker, Oak Hill
Senior, cross country-track Hornocker finished her senior season with state finals podium finishes, all-state honors and Indiana All Star selections in both track and cross country. She also re-wrote the Grant County distance running record book in her final season as a Golden Eagle. See page B1 for more about the Chronicle-Tribune’s 2017-18 Athlete of the Year.

2. Tahj Johnson, Oak Hill

Sophomore, cross country-basketball-track If not for Hornocker, the lightning fast Johnson would have been in line to take the top spot for the year. He was the top runner for Oak Hill’s semistate qualifying cross country team in the fall, before filling the sixth-man role on the Golden Eagles 2A state basketball championship winning team. Johnson finished his 10th-grade year with a dramatic final 100 meters to finish runner-up in the 400 meter state championship race on June 2.

3. Brennen Butche, Mississinewa

Junior, cross country-trackButche once again proved he is one of the best distance runners in the state of Indiana by finishing fifth in the cross country state championships last October. He also won Grant Four, CIC, Marion Sectional and Regional championships before finishing sixth in the New Haven Semistate. Butche ran a blistering 15:26 in the Marion XC Invitational to establish a new Grant County record in the 5K. He finished his junior year with 13th-place finish in the 3,200 meter state championship race where he established a new PR and Ole Miss record of 9:25.35.

4. Jenessa Hasty, Oak Hill Jr.

Junior, cross country-basketball-softball

Hasty may have been the best all-around female athlete in Grant County for 2017-18. She was easily the third best cross country runner behind Hornocker and Gamble. Hasty won both the Grant Four girls championship and the small school race at the New Haven Invitational in the fall. She then played the catalyst for the Golden Eagles sectional champion basketball team averaging nearly 12 points, three rebounds, two assists and 3.5 steals. She then batted .487 with six home runs and 30 RBI for the Eagles softball team.

5. Jalen Blackmon, Marion

Freshman, basketball A basketball prodigy, Blackmon finally arrived last year and proceeded to set Giants freshman school record for most points (601) and highest scoring average (22.3 points) and the single season mark for most 3-point baskets (103). The silky smooth point guard helped lead Marion to a 20-win season and a regional championship game appearance.

6. Heisman Skeens, Mississinewa

Junior, football-basketball-trackSkeens was one of the most prolific offense football players in the state last fall with nearly 3,000 all-purpose yards and 40 touchdowns in helping Ole Miss win its first sectional championship since 1988. He then played a key reserve-role for the Indians basketball team during the winter. Skeens won the 200 meter race at the Marion Sectional and also finished third in the long jump to earn a regional berth in both.

7. Andrew Barajas, Eastbrook

Senior, football-trackBarajas was another football player, like Skeens, that proved to be unstoppable at times for the Panthers. He totaled more than 1,800 yards and 32 touchdowns as was a defensive captain and safety for Eastbrook’s regional champion football team. Barajas earned a top-50 all-state nod from the Indiana Football Coaches Association and a spot in the North-South All Star game at North Central on July 13. He was also a big point producer for the Panthers track team that won its second straight sectional championship.

8. Connor White, Eastbrook

Senior, cross country-trackWhite narrowly missed a second-straight trip to the cross country state championship after finishing 22nd in the New Haven Semistate. He earned a Class 2A All State honorable mention from the Indiana Track and Cross Country Coaches Association in the fall. White finished his high school career with a flurry, winning the Marion Sectional in the 1,600 and finishing third in the regional to earn his first trip to state in track. In Bloomington, White passed a handful of runners in the final 50 meters to earn an eighth-place finish and all-state honors. White will attend Taylor University this fall.

9. Justin Johnson, Marion Sr. FB, BK, TR

Senior, football-basketball-trackJohnson proved to be a nightmare for opposing defenses from his quarterback position for the Giants. He accounted for nearly 2,300 yards and 24 touchdowns with his legs and arms while also playing a solid cornerback position for the Marion defense. Johnson then helped the Giants’ basketball team to a regional championship during the winter. In spring, he won the sectional long jump championship and was the leader of a young, but very fast Marion 4×100 relay team that won sectional and regional championships.

10. Cade McCoin, Mississinewa

Senior, football-baseballMcCoin became a two-time C-T Baseball Player of the Year after batting an even .500 and led the county with seven home runs and had an impressive 1.699 onbase-plus-slugging percentage. He also was a four-year starter at quarterback and as a senior passed for 2,154 yards and 26 TDs in spearheading the Indians to a sectional title. His play on the gridiron earned him a spot in the North/South All Start game on July 13 in Indianapolis. McCoin will play baseball at Indiana Tech.

11. Caleb Middlesworth, Oak Hill

Senior, basketball-baseball The C-T’s top winter athlete, Middlesworth was the physical and emotional leader for the Oak Hill Class 2A boys’ basketball team during its run to the state championship. The 6-foot-8 center averaged more than 22 points and nearly 10 rebounds during the Eagles’ tournament run. Middlesworth also was a C-T All-County pitcher and helped the Eagles win the Grant Four tournament.

12. Maddi Evans, Madison-Grant

Senior, volleyball- basketball-softball A rare three-sport athlete, Evans had her best success in softball where she won C-T Player of the Year honors for a third straight sprint. The Taylor University recruit battling a pulled quadriceps muscle all season but still went 10-2 in the pitching circle with a 1.14 earned-run average and 125 strikeouts. Evans also batted .459 with four home runs. She also was a standout back row player in volleyball and an outside shooting threat for the basketball team.

13. Kyler Funk, Mississinewa

Sophomore, football-wrestling After a standout football season, where he helped the Indians win a sectional title, Funk was among three Grant County wrestlers to compete in the IHSAA state finals. Funk was the first Ole Miss participant at state in 45 years, and he closed out the season with CIC and sectional titles at 182 pounds and a fourth place finish at semistate.

14. Christian Bratcher, Eastbrook

Senior, football-wrestling Bratcher was a valuable two-way player for the Class 2A No. 1-ranked football team. Yet, his best sport clearly was wrestling, where he established himself with the county’s all-time greats. This past season, Bratcher was unbeaten until the ticket round of the semistate and missed out on the IHSAA state finals. Bratcher finished 47-1 and he also picked up his fourth Grant Four and CIC titles and also won the 160-pound weight class at sectional and regional.

15. Spencer Ballinger, Oak Hill

Senior, basketball-baseball A driving force behind the Eagles’ 2A state championship basketball team, Ballinger shifted gears quickly and delivered a fine baseball season for the Grant Four champions. The 6-5 forward often was a go-to player in basketball and averaged 15.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists, earning him coaches’ Small School All-State Top 15. In baseball, he batted .326 with a team-best four home runs and 34 RBIs.

16. Ra Shaya Kyle, Marion

Sophomore, volleyball-basketball

A towering presence in two sports, the 6-foot-6 Kyle was the top hitter for the volleyball team (287 kills) and received C-T Co-Player of the Year honors after leading the Giants to their first sectional title since 1996. Kyle overcame the constant double-teaming to average better than 15 points and nearly nine rebounds a game in leading the Giants to a 13.5-win turnaround over the previous season. She helped lead the Giants to second place in the NCC race.

17. Sammy Sommers, Oak Hill

Junior, swimming-track & field

While a standout distance swimmer, Sommers’ real impact is on the track team where he competed in the long jump for the second consecutive year. Sommers placed ninth at state and medaled to culminate a junior season where he he surpassed his own Oak Hill record with a leap of more than 23 feet, 3-inches. He was long jump champ at the CIC, Grant Four and Marion Regional meets.

18. Caiden Lake, Oak Hill

Junior, diving-track & field Lake finished the 2017-18 school year with three school records in two sports, participated in the IHSAA diving state finals and won a sectional track title in the pole vault. He established new standards in the six-dive (341 points) and 11-dive (520.6) competitions and 14-1 in the pole vault in winning the sectional. His accolades include runner-up finishes in sectional and regional diving and a 16th place at the state meet.

19. Taylor Westgate, Oak Hill

Sophomore, volleyball-basketball

For the second straight year, Westgate earned C-T Co-Grant County girls’ basketball player of the year honors after helping the Golden Eagles maintain the Class 2A No. 1 ranking through the entire season. Westgate narrowly missed out on a double-double, averaging 13 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, and helped lead Oak Hill to its second straight sectional, Grant Four and CIC titles. She also was the top hitter for the volleyball team.

20. Sara Foulk, Eastbrook

Freshmen, Soccer-basketball-track

Just a year removed from middle school, Foulk stepped in and excelled in three sports for the Panthers. While soccer is her best sport, she led the basketball team in scoring and was a multi-event athlete in track. In soccer, Foulk scored 22 goals and assisted on 22 others to finish with 59 points. Foulk led the Panthers to a 14-3-2 season with a sectional title and 3-1 regional loss to eventual state finalist Fort Wayne Blackhawk.

21. Mollie Gamble, Oak Hill

Sophomore, cross country-track & field

While Hornocker garners the headlines, Gamble put together her own outstanding seasons in the two running disciplines, including a trip to the IHSAA state cross country meet. In cross country, Gamble was second in the CIC, Marion sectional and regional and 13th at semistate, which earned her a second straight 2A all-state first team honor. Her track highlights included a runner-up finish at the sectional.

22. Ryan Mansbarger, Eastbrook

Senior, basketball-baseball Mansbarger heads off to Goshen College in the fall after securing the Panthers’ all-time boys’ basketball scoring record. The 6-foot-4 guard saved the best for his last season, averaging a county-best 24.5 points a game and 5.1 rebounds, and his top game was 45 points against Mississinewa in the Grant Four. He was all-CIC and coaches’ state honorable mention.

23. Erika Foy, Mississinewa

Senior, volleyball-basketball

Foy had standout seasons in both volleyball and basketball even while contending with knee issues throughout the winter. In volleyball, she was the leader on a dominant front line and helped the Indians finish 23-7, runners-up in the CIC and Grant Four champions. Foy averaged 17.4 points and 8.6 rebounds and scored her 1,000th point in basketball before ending her season early due to the bulky knee.

24. Kaela Robey, Oak Hill

Junior, volleyball-basketball-softball

Robey’s strength and athleticism enabled her to be a key contributor in three sports for the Golden Eagles. She earned a second team All-Grant County honor in basketball averaging more than nine points and five rebounds a game. Robey also batted .422 with five home runs and 30 RBI in softball and was named all county. She was third on the Eagles volleyball team with 92 kills and added 161 digs.

25. Gabe Watkins, Marion

Senior, wrestling Watkins was one of two Giants wrestlers to qualify for the IHSAA state meet (Victor Lee was the other), and he finished out a 35-9 season at 285 pounds (heavyweight) with a first-round loss. On the way, Watkins was a sectional and regional champion and runner-up semistate finisher.

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