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Portage's Tori Bliss, West Side relay headed to IATCCC Hall of Fame

Portage's Tori Bliss, West Side relay headed to IATCCC Hall of Fame

The wait is over for five Region athletes.

The COVID-19 pandemic postponed the ceremony for the 2020 Indiana Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame, delaying the honor for West Side's 1980 1,600-meter relay team and Portage's Tori Bliss for another year.

The event is Saturday at the Indiana Track & Field and Cross Country Museum in Terre Haute.

West Side's foursome of Kenneth Carter, Craig Peterson, Walter Monagan and Sortero Burnett still own the meet-record time of 3 minutes, 13.66 seconds.

Bliss won four state titles in shot put and discus from 2009 to 2011. She remains the record holder in the shot put with a throw of 50 feet, 9 inches as a senior in 2011.

The inductees had a slightly different mindset as the ceremony approached.

“I was surprised a little, but then I thought ‘what took so long?’” Monagan said. “I was inducted in 1998 (as an individual for winning four state titles) and I was recognized in 2016 as one of the first to break 47 seconds in the 400 run (46.93). With the advances in equipment and how athletes have developed, you would think our record would have been broken by now.”

Monagan ran the third leg of the relay. The leadoff leg agreed with the sentiment.

“I was thinking the same thing. Why did it take so long for us?” Carter said. “We were running and having fun, but we thought it would be broken soon after (1980).”

Not only has the record not been broken, only two 1,600 relay teams have broken the 3:15 mark since (Center Grove in 2011 and Hamilton Southeastern in 2013).

The secret, according to Peterson, was the baton passing routine from coach Willie Williams they worked on all week.

“I remember the announcer (at the track) commenting on how well we passed the baton,” Peterson said. “We didn’t watch the runner, we watched a spot with almost a blind exchange. We just reached out and the baton was there perfectly.”

Speaking of perfection, that was a word some used to describe Bliss’ execution of the shot put.

The 2011 Robert S. Hinshaw Mental Attitude Award honoree won shot at the IHSAA meet three straight years and added a discus title as a junior. She also won shot put in the 2011 New Balance Nationals with a personal-best 50-9 1/2 toss.

Bliss carried over her success to Louisiana State, earning NCAA All-American honors three times and setting the Southeastern Conference meet record (60-1) in the shot put. She also still holds the LSU indoor (60-7) and outdoor (60-8) records in the shot.

“A lot of hard work went into each accomplishment, and I’m thankful to be recognized,” Bliss said. “It’s a reminder to work hard and strive to be better every day.”

Unlike the majority of hall of fame inductees, Bliss only waited nine years after her graduation to receive the news, then wait another year because of COVID.

“It was certainly a nice surprise,” she said. “I’m among other very decorated company.”

Marshall Goss, Director of the Indiana Track and Cross Country Museum, said the ceremony usually takes place in February, but it was moved to June and from Indianapolis to Terre Haute for the 2020 class. He hopes to be back on schedule for February of next year.


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