Column: Line Drives — Winter sports are on the way

[This is my column in the Nov. 13 issue of The Commercial Review.]

What a difference a year makes.

While two fall sports programs are still alive — the South Adams and Fort Recovery football teams are amidst playoff runs — the last few weeks I’ve been preparing for the start of winter sports.

Unlike a year ago, I welcome the season with open arms.

And it’s just around the corner.

Girls basketball in Indiana kicks off this week, with the Jay County and South Adams girls teams opening their seasons Friday night.

The Starfire girls swim team, led by two-time state qualifier Cady Farlow, jumps into the pool Saturday at the Norwell Invitational. The following weekend, the Patriots girls begin their 2014-15 campaign with hopes of knocking off four-time defending sectional champion Muncie Central to win the title at home.

On Nov. 26, the JCHS and SAHS boys hoops teams tip off their seasons. The Patriots are at home against Muncie Central and are eyeing their 14th consecutive winning season under coach Craig Teagle.

South Adams is hoping to bounce back from seven straight losing seasons and back-to-back years with 18 losses.

Fort Recovery’s basketball teams are under new direction this year. Brian Patch, the longtime coach of the boys team, took on a new challenge by jumping over to coach the girls program in a surprise move in May. Chris Guggenbiller, a 1999 FRHS graduate, will take his spot in leading a Tribe boys squad that is without someone named Kahlig for the first time in eight years.

(Greg Kahlig, a 2010 FRHS graduate, went on to star at University of Findlay, setting numerous school and Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference records. He is now playing overseas in Spain. Elijah, a 2014 graduate, is following in Greg’s footsteps at Findlay. The Oilers begin their season next week.)

Patch and the Indian girls tip off Nov. 29. Guggenbiller and the boys start a week later.

On Dec. 2, the focus returns to the pool as the Jay County and South Adams boys teams begin their season at Bluffton and Adams Central, respectively. The Fort Recovery tankers also start their schedule with a road trip to Van Wert.

The Patriot and Starfire wrestling squads open their 2014-15 campaign across the mat from one another Dec. 4, as the two teams meet as Allen County Athletic Conference opponents for the first time.

Lastly, Jay County’s gymnastics team begins its season Jan. 8.

One of the biggest storylines this winter sports season will who can make a run at state, either again or for the first time.

A total of 16 local athletes, including one team, competed in the state finals last season and all but three of them return with their sights set on a repeat performance.

The JCHS gymnasts reached state as a team for the first time in program history, and absent Tasya Smith, the Patriots hope to head back to Worthen Arena in March. Courtney Miles, a freshman, who competed in the International Children’s Games in August 2013, is poised to fill her spot.

Jay County sent nine swimmers — four boys and five girls — to IUPUI and Josh Lykins is the only one who graduated. Anne Vormohr just missed the podium a year ago, and the she would like to go back to Indianapolis with more teammates this time around.

Sawyer Miller, a South Adams senior, saw his junior wrestling season end at semi-state, and I’d put money on the fact he would much prefer to end his high school wrestling career in the state finals at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse instead.

Additionally, Jay County’s teams will be in a conference for the first time in four years with hopes of making a run at a new set of championships.

Each season brings a new set of challenges for every athlete. As exciting as it is for them to compete, it’s just as exciting for me be on the sidelines watching.

Good luck to all local athletes this winter.

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