Column: Line Drives — Tourney is time to be grateful

[This is my column from the Feb. 13 issue of The Commercial Review.]

Tournament time for winter sports is in full swing.

The girls swimming state finals are Friday and Saturday in Indianapolis, wrestling has its semi-state meet in Fort Wayne on Saturday and the Jay County girls basketball team opens sectional play Friday, also in Fort Wayne.

Oh, and the JCHS boys basketball team still has seven games left on its regular-season schedule.

Although it may be busy this time of year, I’m not sure I’d have it any other way.

And there’s nothing more thrilling than the postseason, no matter the sport.

I bounced back and forth between the wrestling regional tournament and the girls swimming sectional meet Saturday, both of which were at Jay County.

The atmosphere in the gym and in the pool was electric. Not only from the home crowds, but those from other schools as well.

After all, it’s what the athletes have been preparing for all season, some of them for their entire careers.

Every takedown, every reversal, every great start from the block or flawless turn is amplified at this level. Tensions and nerves are high and it is when emotions are at their greatest.

For some — like JCHS wrestlers Eric Hemmelgarn and Conner Ray and swimmers Anne Vormohr, Katy Smeltzer and Sophie Bader — making it this far in tournaments is almost a common place.

But for others, such as Donnie Miller and Cory Robertson, who are capping off their senior seasons with surprising berths in the wrestling semi-state meet, seeing them make it this far for the first time in their careers is part of the reason why I love what I do.

I can’t forget about Sydney Mathias and Jamie Valentine, who are starting their high school careers with appearances at the state finals.

The achievements they’ve had as freshmen are just setting themselves up for continued success throughout their careers at Jay County.

I consider myself very lucky to be able to document the accomplishments of the local athletes, not only in writing but as I situate myself behind a camera too.

It’s why I got into the profession in the first place.

The hours may be long — spending all day at a wrestling tournament and then driving to Yorktown for boys basketball, or even the potential to cover three different events Saturday in Fort Wayne — but they are worth every minute.

I’m still convinced I have yet to “work” a day since I moved to Portland in July, and it’s this time of year when I love what I do the most.

That’s something I never thought I’d say when I came to Indiana, when I started covering sports with which I had little or no prior experience.

Getting to spend time around some exceptional athletes is just icing on the cake.

Well played, Jay County.

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