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Time to celebrate

Pictured are the 2018-19 Connersville High School winter sports Most Valuable Players for their respective team. The awards were handed out Wednesday night inside the Robert E. Wise Center for Performing Arts. Front row, left to right: Gracey Barnes ((junior varsity cheerleading), Marley Smith (varsity girls basketball), Brenna Friend (varsity cheerleading), Gracey Bloom (Spartanettes), Ryleigh Loper (girls swimming), Maranda Cranfill (junior varsity girls basketball) and Allison Hoffman (gymnastics). Back row: Zack McQueen (wrestling), Noah Belt (varsity boys basketball), Jonah Hensley (boys swimming), Tobey Billups(junior varsity boys basketball) and Quentin Leisure (freshman boys basketball).

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

There are very few things that will bring each and every Connersville High School athlete to the same place at the same time.

Wednesday night inside the Robert E. Wise Center for Performing Arts, one of those events occurred.

The 2018-19 winter sports awards recognized outstanding performances, and celebrated achievement and effort, while at the same time taking a few moments to say goodbye.

Awards were given in boys basketball, girls basketball, cheerleading, gymnastics, Spartanettes, boys swimming, girls swimming and wrestling.

The following awards were handed out:

n BOYS BASKETBALL — Coaches Kerry Brown, J.D. Miller, Brad Cutter, Kodi Smith and Chris Bottomley were on-hand to offer awards to the varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams.

The varsity team finished 16-9 on the season, and was 6-1 in the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference, good for second place to Greensburg (7-0). All-Conference players for the Spartans included Noah Belt and Jacob Brown.

Belt was given the Most Valuable Player award, and Dylan Logan earned the Best Mental Attitude award. Both winners are seniors for CHS.

The junior varsity started the season 10-0 and wound up with a 17-7 record. For the team, Tobey Billups was selected MVP, following a season in which he finished with a 73-41 turnover-to-assist ratio. Best Mental Attitude winner was Luke Garrison.

Freshman basketball finished 10-7. Winners for the team were Quentin Leisure (MVP) and Gage Brown (BMA).

n GIRLS BASKETBALL — Head coach Michael Thompson announced that the varsity team finished 10-13 on the season, and that the girls “improved on nearly every statistic from season-to-season.”

Marley Smith was an All-Conference honoree for the Lady Spartans, and the team’s leading scorer was also named MVP on Wednesday. Smith was joined on stage by Best Mental Attitude winner Samantha Potters.

Thompson also announced that twin sisters Gianna Struewing and Giovanna Struewing were named as Academic All-State players by the ICGSA. Lauren Thompson was also named as an honorable mention to that team.

Junior varsity basketball finished 2018-19 with a 6-13 record. The team honored Maranda Cranfill and Abigail Badore as MVP and BMA, respectively.

n GYMNASTICS — Head coach Joann Borders announced that the Lady Spartans finished the season with a 5-3 record, and earned fourth-place in the sectional.

While that finish wound up being one short of reaching the regional as a team, Connersville did advance one gymnast, as Allison Hoffman earned a fourth-place finish on the balance beam, good enough to move her on to Columbus East High School for the regional.

Hoffman was selected as the team’s Most Valuable Player, and Kenzy Lynch was given the Best Mental Attitude award. It would not be the last plaque of the night for Lynch, who missed the latter part of the winter sports season with injuries to both ankles.

Following her awards, Borders thanked CHS athletes and parents for all the hard work in setting up and taking down gymnastics equipment at each meet.

nText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText Color BOYS SWIMMING — Coaches Jonathan Bitner and Darrell Drew were joined on stage by assistants Taylor Isaacs and Kristin Day (diving) to hand out the swimming awards.

The Connersville boys finished the season with a 5-4 record. They were second at the EIAC meet, and wound up fifth at the sectional.

All-Conference performers for the team included diver Quinton Jones and Skyler Cavins (100 breaststroke). Jones was also honored with big applause for his state qualification in diving.

As for the awards, Jonah Hensley was named Most Valuable Player, and Ethan Jennings climbed on stage to accept the Best Mental Attitude nod.

n GIRLS SWIMMING — The Lady Spartan swimmers finished 5-4 on the season, and earned third-place in the conference. At the sectional, the team finished fourth.

Audra Volz was an All-Conference performer for CHS in the 100 breaststroke.

The Most Valuable award went to Ryleigh Loper and the Best Mental Attitude winner was Sara Kalkhoff.

n WRESTLING — Coach Mac Taylor and assistant Justin Leising were next on stage and the duo announced that the Spartan wrestlers finished 2018-19 with a winning record (14-11).

The wrestling team wound up with three All-Conference grapplers, as Colton Massey, Zack McQueen and Evan Shafer each earned that distinction.

Connersville wound up sending six wrestlers to the regional and four on to the semistate meet at New Castle.

In addition to IHSAA accomplishments by Spartan wrestlers, two of them had large achievements outside the high school ranks.

Shafer went on to compete at the Freshman/Sophomore boys state meet, and wound up finishing third out of 37 wrestlers in his weight class.

Baylee Lawrence also competed at the Freshman/Sophomore girls state meet, and finished seventh out of 122 wrestlers in her class.

The Most Valuable Player winner was McQueen, and the BMA honor went to Massey.

n CHEERLEADING — Head cheer coach Jenny Mitchell stepped to the microphone next, and handed out four awards.

For the varsity team, Mitchell handed the Most Valuable Player award to Brenna Friend. She then gave the Best Mental Attitude to Lynch, giving the senior her second such award on the evening.

For the junior varsity, winners were Gracey Barnes (MVP) and Lili Miller (BMA).

Before leaving the stage, Mitchell addressed her squad.

“I have been blessed to have been given the opportunity to coach approximately 500 CHS student athletes, so thank you. Together through dedication and commitment, we built a program to empower leaders. To love something so much that it hurts is how I feel about Connersville High School cheerleading.

“A piece of my heart belongs here. Trust and respect are earned, so to every CHS cheerleader, hold your heads high and be so proud. As soon as you put on the bow and zip your skirt, know what you represent, because it is pretty amazing.

“To each of you, never stop believing. I am your coach for life and impossible to forget. Love, your coach.”

n SPARTANETTES — Sandee Toschlog handed out the awards for the Connersville High School dance team.

Before she did that, however, the long-time head coach announced that the team was coming out of a highly successful season, winning the following awards: Spirit Stick, Bid to NDA nationals, Heart of Gold certificate, Superior for Home Routine, Superior for Team Routine, Superior for Team Leader Routine, Innovative award for choreography, Home Routine trophy, St. Jude Pins, Team Routine Silver Plaque, NDA Spirit trophy, 20 blue ribbons, five red ribbons, five spirit ribbons, nine showmanship ribbons, six All-American nominees, two All-Americans, and two pin-it forward pins.

As for her team rewards, Toschlog announced the MVP as Gracie Bloom and the BMA winner as Emily Poe.

Connersville Athletic Director Brent Duncan was next on stage to announce the Connersville High School blanket and CHS clock award winners.

Before he did that, however, he took a moment to recognize a trio of head coaches that were stepping down, following years of service to the school.

He announced that Thompson, Drew and Mitchell will be leaving their teams, beginning next season.

Thompson has been the girls basketball coach since the 2005-06 season. Mitchell has been involved with the cheerleading squad for 16 years. Drew has been head coach of the swim team for four years, but has been involved with the Connersville Area Swim Team for 18 years.

Duncan said that all three would be missed greatly by the CHS athletes and athletic department.

There were five winners for both blankets and clocks.

Blanket recipients included Bloom, Friend, Lynch, Lauren Thompson and Ellie Martin. Those receiving clocks were Smith, Lynch, Jessica Beckman, Elise Bottomley and Katelyn Burris.