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Old-fashioned virtues still pay off

In this era of quick-fixes and instant gratification, it’s nice to see that practice, hard work, dedication and good mentorship are still valued in some places, especially the public schools, and still pay big dividends.
We’re thinking in particular about the North Harrison High School Marching Cougars, North Harrison long-distance runner Ryan Byrne, and the Corydon Central High School football team. All have shown this fall that dedication to a goal, long hours of hard practices and training, teamwork, strong and sacrificial adult leadership, plus innate talent, if channeled properly, can lead to great things. And good memories that last a lifetime.
Ryan Byrne is an outstanding young man who knows how to run … and run … and run for a cross-country program that’s consistently good, thanks to dedicated coaches like Monty Schneider and Keith Oppel. Byrne won the sectional and regional titles, was second in the semi-state, and then, on Saturday, he nearly won the state championship at Terre Haute, finishing behind winner Justin Roeder of Hamilton Southeastern by a mere 1.7 seconds!
He can be especially proud that he became the first athlete in Harrison County to ever win the Indiana High School Athletic Association Mental Attitude Award. Tremendous accomplishments!
Byrne, son of Gary and Angie Byrne, showed what can be done when you put your abilities to work, start early, practice hard, and be persistent. Few things require more discipline and persistence than long-distance running, and it’s always good to see young people adopt good habits at an early age when it’s so tempting to do otherwise.
Byrne is now entertaining college scholarship offers as one reward for all his hard work, and, from the looks of things, he will be successful in college, too.
South Central’s Sarah Pease had been expected to shine at the semistate and state meet, too, but she was hurt by illness.
Gary Crisp, 58, has been the band director at North Harrison for 14 years. His band has been to the state finals 10 times and eight times the last eight years. The Marching Cougars have been state champs twice, in 1999 and 2000, runner-up once (1998), and a couple of weeks ago, amidst the rain, they finished fourth in their class.
To maintain that kind of excellence over the years is just plain remarkable. Think about this: 14 seniors in Crisp’s band have performed on the Astroturf in the RCA Dome four straight times, and 24 juniors have been in the state spotlight three times. That’s an amazing record.
Of course, Crisp has had some really fine assistants, and the North Harrison band parents are indefatigable.
We feel bad for Corydon Central Vanguard director Ben Hayes. He got this tradition of marching excellence started around here, and it would have been nice for him and his musicians to have been at the Dome this year, too, his last year before he retires. But, alas, the Vanguard lost out in the regional by a fraction of a point. (Marching band judging is something we don’t understand, along with the silly new Indiana State School Marching Association press guidelines.)
No one knows more about sacrifice than Jason Timberlake, the rookie coach of the outstanding Corydon Central High School football team. Timberlake was slated to be an all-world linebacker his senior year at CCHS in 1997, but a disastrous opening-game injury required his left knee to be rebuilt. He went to I.U. to play football and, depressingly, two more knee injuries ended his career prematurely.
But thanks to a peewee football program started about 10 years ago by Frank Czechin, some big and talented kids who have enjoyed playing together for years, supportive parents, and good coaches like Darin Ward (who’s now at Crawford County), Corydon’s football program appears very sound. It appears that way when you see kindergartners and first and second graders playing organized flag football from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays.
The Panthers are led by 12 seniors who happen to be good friends off the field, too. Most of them have played football together since the third grade and it shows.
Some people think that with a break here and there, CCHS could have had an undefeated season. The heart-pounding thriller they won Friday night against Brown County leaves them 48 minutes away from a sectional championship, something no other football team has ever done in this county.
Everyone in the community is proud of these outstanding, hard-working young performers who deserve their accolades. We hope their success continues.