Prep Zone

Spring athletes struggle with the 'P word'

2011-05-12T22:00:00Z 2012-09-25T23:46:22Z Spring athletes struggle with the 'P word'By Steve Hanlon steve.hanlon@nwi.com, (219) 933-4198 nwitimes.com

The tension was thick at Munster last spring. You could cut it with a cake knife.

Morton was taking on E.C. Central in the Class 4A baseball sectional. It was a one-run game.

Yes, the tension was thick, indeed.

In the third inning of the sudden-death contest, several Governors left the field and got on a bus. It was still a one-run game.

Some Govs were leaving for their prom. D'Jari Griffin refused.

The game started at 6. The prom started at 6.

"I told her I was playing, and she was furious," Griffin said of last year's date, Megan Rossi. "She just gave me that look. It wasn't a good week for us."

Last spring at Morton happens all over the area this time of year. Spring athletes must sometimes decide whether to compete or move their feet.

To wear a uniform or a tux. Or a dress.

Most of the Governors said they would rather dance than win a sectional game. So Morton athletic director Roy Richards had to have a talk with the team.

The mini-bus was offered to the players who wanted to leave the sectional early. Griffin and Steve Miller were the only ones who stayed. They had to drive back to the school, take a shower, change into their tuxedo in the locker room and get to the event which was in Merrillville.

Then, there was more trouble there.

"Once we got there, they announced it, and they had little trophies for us," Griffin said. "Megan was really mad. She wanted to do the Grand March. She wouldn't let me sit down at all.

"I had to dance the whole night. Even to songs I hated."

Rossi laughed about that story. She knew Griffin hated country and western music, so she made sure he was on the dance floor when the bales of hay surrounded it.

"He got there about an hour before the prom ended. It was not cool," Rossi said. "DJ is not a fan of country songs. So I made him stay out there with me. But by the end of the song, he started singing along.

"He knew the words."

Morton's prom was a week ago this year. Moving the momentous event earlier to avoid athletic conflicts seemed like the right thing to do for Richards.

And it saved money on the mini-van driver.

"It's hard," said Richards, who recalled 10 years ago when a conference baseball game against Lowell was on the prom date. He said they filled out the roster with junior varsity players and got ready to go.

But when the players got inside, they said they didn't want to go, so the game was never played.

"Prom is scheduled a year in advance," Richards said. "We try to not have athletic events on that date if we can control it. Obviously, a sectional is something we have no control over."

 

First things first

Hebron won its first Porter County Conference softball title in 2006. The Hawks, though, didn't win it on the field.

Their dancing shoes were stolen.

After beating Hanover Central in the semifinal, Hebron won the title by forfeit. Boone Grove had six players in the dugout for the 3 p.m. game.

All the other Wolves were in front of the mirror getting ready for their prom.

"I've been a coach for 11 years and never seen anything like this," Hebron coach Scott Eriks told The Times then.

"We hate winning this way. Of course, like any team, we'd like to win it on the field.

"From now on, everybody's just going to say we won, because the other team forfeited. In a way, I feel for (Boone), but I see the other side, too. This tournament has been scheduled for a long time."

Boone coach Andy Niksich tried to get the game moved, but it wasn't possible.

 

Twin Lakes dates

Twice in the last four years that Pete Iussig was coaching softball at Lowell, dancing got in the way of playing the game he loved.

And it always happened the week of the Twin Lakes Invitational.

In fact, his Red Devils had a rule that had to be followed. They couldn't say the word "prom" in the dugout, on the field or on the bus ... or anywhere that the team was with Iussig, who resigned last season after 21 years on the job.

"It was just the P word," Iussig said. "So it would have a negative connotation. If I heard some girls talking about a dress, I would ask them if they were talking about the P word. They always said no."

Iussig said when he was a young coach he got upset about prom getting in the way of a softball game. Building a program meant winning and making the school and community proud.

Then, Iussig got older.

"I was totally consumed with winning when I was younger," he said. "But as I aged, I knew the girls deserved to go to prom. So I'd say, 'Let's see what the younger girls can do.'

"I realized it was about making memories. It was about the journey."

One year the Red Devils who left the Twin Lakes tournament for prom got a picture together at prom to give to Iussig.

It isn't easy being an athlete in the spring, especially a senior. So many large moments and so many games, and on a given year it all collides.

As angry as Rossi was last spring, the Governors' softball pitcher had to think about what if the spike was on the other foot.

What if prom was held on the same night as a sectional game?

"I would've done the same thing," Rossi said. "Prom is just one night. I would've been more focused on the softball program."

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