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Vikings enjoy success across athletics in '17-18

CELEBRATE: Huntington North’s girls’ soccer team celebrates after scoring a goal during the sectional championship match against Warsaw.

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@h-ponline.com

Barometers of how successful an athletic season was or wasn’t are often subjective in nature. But Huntington North capturing the All-Sports title for the Northeast 8 Conference (NE8) was as straight-forward as it comes when looking at how impressive a season it was for the Viking athletic program.

The All-Sports standings are based on points given to each school based on the final NE8 standings of each sport. After a narrow second-place finish last year, the Vikings captured first this season, capping off a school year that athletic director Kris Teusch will look back on fondly.

“I think it was good,” Teusch said. “Overall, competitively, I think that we did really well within our conference. We had the three sectional championships and the only regional championship was boys’ cross country. I thought overall, it was good.”

Of the 19 sports offered at Huntington North last season in the NE8 – gymnastics being the exclusion with not enough NE8 schools offering the sport – Huntington North crowned four champions and had 13 total teams finish in the top three in the standings.

Paired with six individual state qualifiers – Chloe Scheiber in girls’ cross country, Alli Aschliman in girls’ swimming, Danielle Korporal in gymnastics, Ricky Haught in wrestling, Karmen Koch in girls’ track and the 3,200-meter relay team in boys’ track – and the Vikings had one of the more successful years in recent memory.

Much of that success came in the fall. Three of the Vikings’ four NE8 champions came in the fall in boys’ cross country, boys’ soccer and girls’ soccer. Second-place finishes from girls’ golf, girls’ cross country and volleyball helped the Vikings secure the top spot in the NE8 standings, a spot they wouldn’t lose.

“I think that’s a huge accomplishment seeing as how this is just the third year,” Teusch said of the All-Sport title. “I think it’s a great accomplishment because…after my first year, I said (to the coaches) work towards that conference championship. Then when we were one point out (last year), I’m like ‘We really ought to win this next year.’ It was great we were able to do that.”

When looking for a highlight from the year as a whole, Teusch could not settle on just one, but instead pointed out a handful of memorable moments.

“Well I mean spring is easy because it just happened and baseball had a really good season,” she said. “It was exciting to watch them break the stolen base record and then to be ranked No. 1 for that short period of time. That sticks out but that’s most recent.

“I think at the basketball tournament that we host, when our kids were so close to beating Hamilton Southeastern who was a ranked team, there was a lot of energy in the gym. That was really a neat time. And same thing for sectional. Unfortunately, it didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but I thought the energy was there.”

In the fall, the Viking soccer programs each captured conference titles and the girls’ soccer team came up just short of a sectional title, falling to Warsaw in extra time. Those accomplishments, along with the sectional title game as a whole, were other standout moments for Teusch.

“I think back to fall and…the soccer programs,” she said. “I think the expectation was there for the girls. (At the sectional championship game) all the kids that were there for that. That was a really neat moment. That was exciting in the fall. Boys winning soccer I think was, the expectation was those kids to be good but I don’t know it was as high as it evolved to. That was pretty exciting for those kids.”

Teusch almost made mention of the girls’ golf program, who saw the duo of Amara Eckert and Laura Ham finish as the top two in the sectional to guide the Vikings to a team title.

“In girls’ golf, Amara Eckert and Laura Ham, for those two to be coming back this year, that was exciting then but even more exciting the fact that they’re going to be returning,” she said.

All the success did lead to an improvement in attendance this year as well for Teusch. Despite poor weather early in the spring, attendance figures across the board were up for the 2017-18 year.

“Overall as a feel, I feel like, it doesn’t reflect it in my numbers, but I feel like the soccer attendance was really up this year,” Teusch said. “Volleyball was up. Boys’ basketball was up pretty significantly. Football, even though we kind of struggled a little bit, I think the attendance was still there and I think people are still supporting them. It was, in my eyes, the attendance was up from last year. Was it significant? I don’t know that it was significant but the numbers support that it was up.”

Along with an increase in attendance, the athletic program has seen an increase each of the last three years in participation and a stark increase from 2015-16 to 2017-18.

Over the two-year span, the number of total athletes has increased by 58, the number of scholar athletes has increase by 39, the number of three-sport athletes has doubled an the number of two sport athletes has increased by 25.

Last season, of the 427 total athletes at Huntington North, 249 were scholar athletes, accounting for 58 percent of the total athletes.

Much of that was due to what Teusch noted was a talented and involved senior class that graduated Huntington North in the spring.

“The senior class that we graduated, the participation numbers were high, the number of scholar athletes is much higher comparatively to the other grades,” she said. “I had more kids who applied for Student Athletic Board in that class than I have in the other classes. It’ll be interesting to see if they’re other people to step up to fill those voids. I don’t want to take away from those seniors and say there are not spots to be filled because I feel like there’s a lot of strengths to those kids that maybe are behind the scenes that people don’t realize that have effected our athletic programs in a positive way that’s not all the time about talent.”

In preparing for next season, a notable change has begun at North Arena both on the court and in the stands. For the first time in nearly 20 years, the court was sanded, repainted and resurfaced. While the court will have a fresh look, there won’t be many drastic changes in the design itself.

“We have a full sand on the floor, so that’ll all be brand new,” Teusch said. “The paint will look just about like it did before. I have been looking around all winter and kind of did some research. The ‘Huntington North’ letters around (the court) as a border is somewhat unique to us so we left that and just changed up a few things. Overall, it’ll look the same when people come in. It’ll be much brighter. (it’s been) almost 20 years since they had a full sand, which is great because our floors been in great shape but it just gets dark.”

Around the court, the metal bleachers that once surrounded Bob Straight Court have been removed and will be replaced by wooden bleachers. The bleachers will feature aisle ways and will be more compliant with Americans with Disability Acts (ADA) guidelines.

The arena will also have a new bank of bleachers on the upper level of the east end and will have newly-installed LED lights that should lead to an overall brighter environment inside the gymnasium.

“We added a bank upstairs which helped. We’ll have a bank on the east end, a bleacher bank,” Teusch said. “Now everything will be ADA compliant so that adds more aisleways. And when you add aisleways, you take seats away. It’ll be great for wheelchair accessibility on the lower level. We’ll have that all the way around. We’re ADA compliant now, which is what’s really important in the eyes of other people letting us host things. I don’t have the exact number but the seating capacity will change somewhat significantly but the occupancy of the area is still the same.

“All new wood bleachers so that dark brown will be replaced with a lighter wood so I think that’s also going to brighten it up,” she added. “Then they just passed at the board meeting to have LED lights in there. They’re going to do that this fall. So it’ll be great now. It’s a great arena. But you just have to update things from time to time.”