MUNCIE, Ind. — Suzanne Crump can’t remember a time when Cowan’s athletic teams had as much success as they did this past year.
Crump first joined Cowan’s athletic staff in 1997 and was the school’s athletic director from 1999 to 2007 before spending a decade within Muncie Community Schools. She returned to Cowan in 2019.
Since the turn of the century, Cowan has hung its hat on being one of the best Class A volleyball teams in the state. During Crump’s first eight years as Cowan’s AD, the Blackhawks won seven regional championships in volleyball.
The Blackhawks’ success isn’t just limited to the volleyball court anymore, however.
This past year, Cowan — which only competes in 11 IHSAA sanctioned sports — had three of its teams advance to the semistate and win regional titles, an individual wrestler finish on the state podium, five teams win sectional championships and two cross-country runners advance to semistate as individuals.
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“I don’t know if I ever remember the number of sectional championships or regional championships by one school in a single season. It was really pretty incredible,” Crump said. “Hats off to our athletes, not just athletically but they’re just great kids. Our senior class was phenomenal and they were great leaders on and off the court … It’s a lot of fun and hopefully we can take it a step farther and be just as successful this coming year.”
Before any of the championships, however, the Cowan community was rocked with the news that former teacher and boys basketball coach Lee Ingles died in a car crash in October. In the spring of 2020, Ingles had helped the Blackhawks win their first sectional championship in 44 years. His impact, however, went well beyond the basketball court.
From that moment on, Cowan’s athletic teams rallied around the “All for Ingles” mantra. And it propelled some of the teams and players to success that they had never achieved before.
“It was amazing. You know, he didn’t just have an impact on the boys basketball team, he had an impact on every student in that building whether they were athletes or not,” Crump said. “… With COVID and coach Ingles passing and being successful on the fields and the courts and (doing) what we did, I think we’re going to look back thinking this was a year that was just absolutely amazing.”
In the fall, the volleyball team — which won its first Mid-Eastern Conference championship since 1976 — advanced to the Class A semistate a year after winning the state title in 2019. Two girls runners — Lauren Smith and Brynn Wright — also advanced to cross-country semistate.
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In the winter, the boys basketball team started off slow but ended up winning their second consecutive, and third ever, sectional championship while the girls team fell in the sectional finals to a Northfield team that ended up advancing to the semistate round of the state tournament. The wrestling team continued that success by winning the first Delaware County and sectional championships in program history. Junior Toby Abbott finished eighth in the 145-pound weight class at state.
In the spring, Cowan’s softball team completed an incredible turnaround by advancing to the semistate, where it lost to eventual state champion Northfield in an 11-inning game. The baseball team, meanwhile, defied all odds to defeat Daleville in the sectional championship and advance all the way to the semistate, where it lost to eventual state champion Washington Township.
Looking back, it’s hard to say what exactly led to such a successful season across the board. Crump credited the athletes — many of whom play multiple sports — and the coaches who supported each other throughout the year.
“We want not just one team to be successful, we want everybody to be successful,” Crump said. “… It was everyone supporting everybody. I think when you do that, you end up with the success that we had and I’d love to be able to keep it going and just be there for each other and support each other. That’s what it takes to be successful.”
About a month removed from perhaps the most successful all-around year Cowan athletics has ever seen, Crump remains optimistic moving forward. She noted how special the senior class was this season but also knows that there are number of lowerclassmen who will return looking to match the success they saw during the 2020-21 season.
Whether Cowan can match the success it had this season during the 2021-22 season is yet to be seen, but Crump said she hopes this past season will “springboard into this year.”
“Whether we win as many sectionals as we did this last year, we’ll have to wait and see, but, even if not, we’ve got a great coaching staff and kids who will come back,” Crump said. “They’re working hard and, hopefully, we’ll see some success in the new school year.”
Robby General covers East Central Indiana high school sports for The Star Press. Contact him via email at [email protected], on Twitter @rgeneraljr or phone at 765-283-8864.