April 7, 2006

Champions dinner to benefit
Catholic Youth Organization

By John Shaughnessy

Only someone with a wild imagination—or great faith—could have believed this team could win a state championship.

Heading into the Indiana High School Athletic Association state football tournament, the seniors on this Catholic high school team had won seven games and lost 23 during their three years of varsity play.

So the goal of winning six straight games to become Class 2A state champions seemed unrealistic—except to head coach Ott Hurrle and the players on the 1990 football team at Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis.

That championship team fills Hurrle’s thoughts as he prepares his talk for the Building-A-Champion Dinner at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis on April 20—an event that will benefit the Catholic Youth Organization.

“It was their closeness. They held together and got on each other to do the right thing. They never lost confidence in each other and they started to click at the right time,” said Hurrle, who will share the spotlight and the microphone with five other coaches who have led Catholic high school teams in Indianapolis to state championships.

“If they had not been of the character of people they are, I’m not sure we would have been able to achieve what we did. They’re still all real close to this day.”

Closeness, confidence, character. Those qualities kept getting mentioned in interviews with Hurrle and the other coaches who will talk at the dinner: Linda Bamrick, girls’ basketball coach at Cathedral High School; Jim Boswell, football coach at Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School; Leo Klemm, boys’ basketball coach at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School; Bruce Scifres, football coach at Roncalli High School; and Jill Starliper, former volleyball coach at Bishop Chatard High School.

Faith is also a key factor in championship teams, Starliper said.

“Our student-athletes all have faith, which means that they have beliefs,” said Starliper, whose Chatard team won the Class 3A volleyball state championship in 2004. “A person has to have beliefs in order to be driven. The difference is that our student-athletes are spiritually driven—which, I believe, helps them in every aspect of their lives.”

Scifres tells the story of a former Roncalli football player who defined what it means to be a champion.

“Nate Ashworth was the best athlete in his class,” recalled Scifres, whose Roncalli football teams have won six state championships, the most recent in 2004. “He was ranked fourth in his class, too. As a sophomore and a junior, he started on both the varsity football team and the varsity basketball team.”

Yet tragedy struck Ashworth as a junior when he suffered a stroke on Mother’s Day in 2003.

“He had to sit out of school that next year,” Scifres continued. “He came back the following year to play on the 2004 team. He had 50 to 60 percent of the use of the right side of his body, but he was determined to come back and play for us. He went through the weight training and the conditioning. He got into a few games. A couple things stood out. He always was friendly to everybody. And he never showed any signs of feeling sorry for himself.”

That inner drive is crucial in making a champion, according to Boswell, who coached Cardinal Ritter to a Class 2A state football championship in 2003.

“Internal conditioning is more important than physical conditioning,” Boswell said. “You have to condition the soul to be spiritually strong. You have to know your priorities and keep them in order. For us, the priorities are faith, family and football.”

All the coaches agree that the qualities that lead to success in sports lead to success in life, too.

“When I hear the word ‘champion,’ I think of a human being who gives their best every day, not just on game day,” said Klemm, who led Brebeuf’s boys’ basketball team to a Class 3A championship in 2000. “Every day, you give what you can from the core of your being. It becomes part of a flow in your life.”

(The Building-A-Champion Dinner will start at 6:30 p.m. on April 20 at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House, 5353 E. 56th St., in Indianapolis. The cost is $40 a person or $300 for a table of eight. For more information, call 317-545-7681.)


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