TERRE HAUTE —
Maybe instead of a new swimming complex, Terre Haute ought to built itself an ice rink.
I mean no disrespect to swimming, but ice hockey is the only sport that Terre Haute can’t unequivocally claim an elite athlete in.
As you might have seen in Sunday’s Tribune-Star, I spent some time chronicling the considerable exploits of Terre Haute native A.J. Reed for the University of Kentucky’s baseball team.
I spent two days in Lexington, Ky., watching Reed pitch and slug his way into baseball’s consciousness, but it occurred to me how blessed Terre Haute has been in recent years with elite athletes in several sports.
I think we sometimes take for granted how many national-level athletes Terre Haute has. If you extend it to the surrounding counties, the numbers go up even more.
When you list them all at once, it’s pretty darn impressive. Here goes:
Big Ten starting quarterback? Check. Former Terre Haute South standout Danny Etling mans the controls at Purdue.
NFL? Covered. Former Terre Haute North star Steve Weatherford has carved out a solid career and has achieved fame and a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants.
NBA players? Not only are there a pair, but both are on playoff teams.
Greg Oden might not have played his high school ball in Terre Haute, but he still returns here often and he’s ours. He’s with the Miami Heat. Robinson, Ill. can proudly claim Meyers Leonard, who is with the Portland Trail Blazers.
At the college level, former Terre Haute South star Jake Odum just recently finished his career as one of Indiana State’s most decorated men’s basketball players in its Division I history.
Marshall, Ill.’s Lucas Eitel also just wrapped up a solid Division I career.
The Sycamores still have ex-Terre Haute North star Justin Gant. His former North teammate, Matt O’Leary, announced Wednesday he is transferring from Loyola to IUPUI.
On the women’s side, Sullivan’s Rhagen Smith is with the Sycamores and former Riverton Parke standout Sara Dickey had a breakout freshman season at Evansville.
Baseball? Terre Haute’s Josh Phegley played a half-season with the Chicago White Sox last season and could get another look this year as he’s currently at Triple-A Charlotte.
Marshall, Ill.’s Derek Eitel is currently pitching at the Triple-A level for Reno in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. Eitel hopes to become Rose-Hulman’s first major-league player since Art Nehf played in the 1920s.
Brazil’s Brady Shoemaker sat out the 2013 season due to injury, but is off to a good start (.322) at Double-A Jacksonville in the Miami Marlins system.
Reed will no doubt join these local standouts in June when he’s drafted.
It isn’t just the ball-and-stick sports. Terre Haute’s Kylie Hutson and Sullivan’s Erica Moore, both former Sycamores, are world-class track athletes. Hutson competes in the pole vault and Moore, who is trying to make a comeback in 2014 after injury woes in recent years, is a middle-distance runner.
Cloverdale’s Chad Collins has been regularly making the cut on the PGA Tour this season.
I haven’t even counted Indiana State athletes who aren’t from the Wabash Valley but who have graced us with their presence. There’s too many current and former Sycamores to mention in that regard.
There are so many more I didn’t mention — my apologies for that — and so many more to come. I think it’s instructive to remind everyone just how many great athletes this area turns out.
In fact, outside of the Indianapolis area, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the state that produces such a variety of elite-level athletes across the sports spectrum.
Pat yourself on the back, Wabash Valley. You bow to no one when it comes to producing elite athletes.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at 812-231-4272 or email@example.com. Follow Golden on Twitter @TribStarTodd.