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Region Collegians

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Deborah Hile, Designer

It was quite the year for Region student-athletes.

Let’s hit the rewind button and play back the top feats from Northwest Indiana’s finest on the college scene.

Men’s swimming

Indiana University’s Blake Pieroni (Chesterton) added a high five at the 2017 NCAA championships.

The standout swimmer, who won a gold medal in the 400 freestyle relay at the Rio Olympics, was All-America in five events in Indianapolis.

Pieroni tied for second place in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1 minute, 31.16 seconds, which was the second-fastest time in school history. He posted the second-fastest 200 free time in the country (1:30.87) in the prelims that helped him become the first swimmer in Indiana history to break the 1:31 mark in the event. He also was a part of the 400 medley relay and 800 free relay, which were sixth and ninth, respectively. He was eighth in the 100 free and seventh in the 200 free relay, respectively.

• Purdue’s Joe Cifelli (Marian Catholic/Crown Point) was sixth in 1-meter diving for All-America honors at the NCAA championships.

Football

The University of Saint Francis (Fort Wayne) repeated as the NAIA national champs, thanks to Griffith product Justin Green.

The junior running back rushed for a game-high 144 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-13 victory over Reinhardt (Georgia) in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Green’s performance earned him the 2017 national championship Outstanding Offensive Player of the Game award. He added his name to the NAIA record books with 2,027 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns in 11 career playoff games.

Green was also named to the 2017 American Football Coaches Association's NAIA Coaches All-America First Team.

• It was quite the debut for Wabash’s Ike James. In his first game for the Little Giants, the Lowell product rushed for 238 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-26 victory over Albion College. The St. Joseph’s College transfer finished the season leading the North Coast Athletic Conference in rushing and was fifth among NCAA Division III leaders with 20 rushing touchdowns.

Men’s track and field

Vincennes University’s Jordan Downs (Merrillville) captured the national title in the pole vault at the National Junior College Athletic Association Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Hutchinson, Kansas.

The sophomore reached an impressive 15 feet, 1 inch (4.60 meters). He had the No. 1 mark in the country and a school record heading into nationals with a mark of 16 feet, 4 inches.

Downs also finished 12th in the long jump with a leap of 6.98 meters. He was named the 2017 Atlantic Region Male Field Athlete of the Year.

• Saint Francis (Joliet) runner Brian Blaylock (Lowell) finished second in the nation in the 1,000 meters at the 2017 NAIA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Blaylock finished in 2:26.32 to claim runner-up honors. He had the top time in the event during the preliminaries and finished just 13 hundredths of a second behind the overall champion.

Blaylock also helped the Saints claim the nation’s fifth-place time in the 4,000-meter distance medley relay with a time of 10:16.03.

Women’s basketball

West Florida’s Katie Bobos (Lowell) led the team to the NCAA Division II Women’s Elite Eight quarterfinals in Columbus, Ohio.

The senior forward had 20 points and 15 rebounds in her final collegiate game, a 77-69 loss to California Baptist.

The four-year letter winner finished her career as the school’s all-time leading rebounder (1,005). She is also fifth in school history with 1,362 points.

Wrestling

Michigan’s Stevan Micic (Hanover Central) earned All-America honors by placing fourth at 133 pounds at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis.

Micic lost to eventual national champion Cory Clark of Iowa 6-4 before battling back to take fourth. He finished the season with a 29-7 record.

• Michigan State’s Drew Hughes (Lowell) lost in the consolation round at the NCAA championships, but still managed a 32-9 record at 165 pounds as a true freshman.

Softball

Southern Indiana’s Haley Hodges (Portage) was honored as the school’s Female Athlete of the Year for the second straight time.

The All-American catcher set program records for career home runs (40) and RBIs (162).

• Oregon’s Miranda Elish (Crown Point) helped the Ducks advance to the Women’s College World Series.

She finished her freshman season with a 12-0 record. In 105 2/3 innings pitched, Elish had a 1.79 ERA that was fifth in the Pac-12. At the plate, she hit .276 with 16 RBIs and led the Ducks to 35-straight wins to start the season.

Baseball

Wabash Valley College’s Max Roberts (Valparaiso) led the squad to the 2017 National Junior College Athletic Association Division I World Series with a remarkable freshman season.

The left-handed pitcher went 10-1 on the mound with a team-high 94 innings pitched to go with a team-best 1.44 earned-run average and 98 strikeouts to just 28 walks. Roberts, the son of longtime Washington Township baseball coach Randy Roberts, was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the seventh round of the MLB draft.

Volleyball

Palm Beach Atlantic’s Ally Rohn (Cedar Lake/Calumet Christian) was named All-American by both the AVCA and D2CCA.

The junior standout led the team with 353 kills and a .269 attack percentage as she split time between outside hitter and setter. She also added 460 assists, 366 digs, and 30 service aces. Her 12 triple-doubles was tops in the nation. She also surpassed 1,000 career kills, digs, and assists this season.

Rohn was also named the Sunshine State Conference Player of the Year and D2CCA South Region Player of the Year.

• East Tennessee State junior Alyssa Kvarta (Crown Point) had a team-best 19 assists in a three-set loss to No. 4-seeded Kentucky in the NCAA tournament.

• Southern Indiana’s Shannon Farrell (Munster) was named third-team Academic All-America. The senior also became the school’s all-time leader in digs (1,900).

Men’s lacrosse

Indiana Tech’s Joe Dosen (Crown Point) had five saves in goal as the No. 6-seeded Warriors stunned rival and No. 3 Lourdes 13-12 in the NAIA Men’s Lacrosse National Invitational in Greenville, South Carolina.

Indiana Tech advanced but suffered a crushing loss to eventual champion Reinhardt, 14-13, in the semifinal round.

Women’s running

Indiana State’s Taylor Austin (Griffith) was 20th at the Great Lakes Regional. The senior finished with a personal-record time of 21:40, which ended up being the second-fastest time in program history.

Additionally, Austin also starred in track and field for the Sycamores. In the 3,000-meter steeplechase she advanced out of the NCAA East Region Prelims and got to the dreamland for a runner — the NCAA championships in Eugene, Oregon.

Women’s swimming

Michigan State’s Racheal Bukowski (Crown Point) set a school record in the 100 freestyle (49.46) at the 2017 Big Ten championships. She also swam her best time of 57.37 in the 100 backstroke at the same meet.

Men’s golf

Carthage’s Matt Meneghetti (Lake Central) was the medalist in three fall tournaments.

Women’s bowling

Nebraska’s Kelly Belzeski (Lake Central) led the team to a 14th straight trip to the NCAA championships. Stephen F. Austin’s Paige Kraushaar (Boone Grove) and Maryland Eastern Shore’s Jacqueline Rhoda (Portage) also helped their respective teams to nationals.

The Times welcomes information about local athletes for inclusion in Region Collegians. Email Brian Waddle at bjwaddle@comcast.net.

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