Times 2011 Female Athlete of the Year

Tori Bliss of Portage repeats as Times Female Athlete of the Year

2011-07-03T00:00:00Z 2012-07-07T02:11:34Z Tori Bliss of Portage repeats as Times Female Athlete of the YearBy Jim Peters jim.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com

Whether she's getting her teeth cleaned or her brakes checked, Tori Bliss can't help but be recognized.

"I was at the dentist and a lady came up to me and said, 'Are you Tori Bliss?'" she said. "It was the same thing when I was getting my car fixed. A woman said her daughter was a thrower and they were following me in the paper. It feels good that people know who I am, that I've established myself in Portage history and brought some attention to track and field."

Bliss has done more than that. With her dramatic, record-setting victory in the shot put at last month's state finals, fashioned on a badly sprained left ankle, she became one of only three girls to capture three titles in the event and one of just two to secure four total championships in the throws.

"After my last throw, I was overwhelmed so much, I was in tears," Bliss said. "All the emotions came out. It was almost like a story-book ending."

For Portage throws coach Mark Harsha, the moment summarized the competitor Bliss had become over the last four years.

"Boy, that last hug, it was a good one," Harsha said. "Joy, all of it. She could've simply folded up, but she kept pushing it, kept hammering it, going after it."

Bliss penned the final chapter two weeks later with a second national crown, punctuating a prep career that includes a repeat as the Times Female Athlete of the Year.

"It's been amazing," Harsha said. "Her athletic ability, her competitiveness, the way she's able to step, it's really hard to put into words. She was able to pull from all the sports she's done over the years. You've got the academic part also. She's the whole package."

The throwing circle was and will continue to be Bliss's center stage -- she will attend LSU on a scholarship -- but it wasn't her sole sports endeavor. She was the goalie on Portage's soccer team and an all-area center in basketball.

"She epitomizes the term student-athlete," Portage girls hoops coach Chris Seibert said. "That's what truly separates her. We had a very young team and her leadership never wavered. She was one of the main reasons we turned our season around. I'll not only remember her for what she did on the court, but for the way she was with our 1-year old daughter (Addison). It's just as meaningful."

For Bliss, soccer and basketball, at least of a serious nature, are now done. It's on to the next challenge, one she's awaiting with great anticipation. Well, at least after a few more weeks of sleeping in and lounging in the pool.

"I wake up and I don't know what to do with myself," she said.

That'll change soon as Bliss begins her college training regimen. She was recruited to be LSU's primary shot putter, though she's also intrigued with giving the hammer throw a whirl.

"I'm really excited to see what I can accomplish, being more focused," Bliss said. "I'm excited to get in the weight room, to develop more, to harness what I'm doing and get better at it. I'm looking forward to not being the only 50-foot thrower. I feel I'm at my best when the competition is high and it'll be high about every meet. All the athletes there are going to have the same mindset as me. You're out there to get things done."

As much as she'll miss family and friends, a close-knit group she's been tight with since third grade, Bliss relishes the prospect of being a college student out on her own. And thanks to social media, everybody's just a text message or Facebook post away, even from Baton Rouge.

"I told my friends don't make fun of me if I come back saying y'all, putting words together," she said. "No more snow. I can deal with heat. I can take a bunch of towels and water. I've been in Portage, Northwest Indiana for 18 years. It's all I've seen. I just want to experience something new."

Bliss has set the standard by which all throwers from East Chicago to Evansville will be measured, marks to which young girls will aspire. But all the accolades are only part of her legacy.

"Hard work pays off, plain and simple," she said. "It's sounds cliche', but it's completely true. You can only go so far on natural talent. You've got to put the time in. I missed out on hanging out quite a bit, skipping a party or a movie. But you've got to be willing to make sacrifices to be successful. As I got older, my competitive drive increased. I'm out here to win. It's fun when you win. I have fun that way."

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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