Looking back at her freshman year at Riverton Parke High School, Sara Dickey said recently, "I had a lot of energy. I wanted to do everything."
Apparently so. Dickey earned all-Wabash River Conference honors in five sports when she was in ninth grade — remember, there are only three seasons — and was on her way to becoming her school's Most Memorable Female Athlete.
"After that [freshman year, when she competed in cross country, volleyball, basketball, softball and track] I gave up cross country and softball," Dickey said, settling into a career with 14 all-conference designations. It's probably worth noting that her lone season of softball was 2010, the Panthers' only state championship, and that Dickey scored the game-winning run in the title game.
There was competition for the top honor. Riverton Parke has had a history of talented girls that also includes Traci Ball (a softball great who led the girls basketball team to a single-class sectional title) and Taylor Vauters (who broke all but one of Dickey's basketball records).
But Josh Douglass, who coached both Dickey and Vauters in basketball and who predicted Vauters' assault on the record book, is one of many who consider Dickey in a class by herself.
"She excelled in everything she did," Douglass pointed out. "She's just one of those freak athletes."
"Her specialty was basketball, but whatever she did she gave 100%," said longtime Panther volleyball coach John Memmer.
Memmer recalls the only volleyball practice Dickey missed one season, because she had a critical recruiting visit to make. "She was upset about it, because she didn't want to let the team down," said Memmer, who had to convince Dickey to miss what he said wasn't a particularly important practice. "She was an outstanding volleyball player, and she gave it everything: emotionally, physically and mentally."
Memmer also coached Dickey in track — a sport in which Panther athletic director Charlie Martin, and possibly Memmer too, think Dickey could have been a multi-event superstar.
Why do they think so? Perhaps because Dickey, who competed in hurdles and sprints her first two seasons, decided to try something different as a junior. "I'd been doing hurdles, and I felt like doing shot put," Dickey said recently. "Why not?"
Why not indeed. In her first year as a shot putter, Dickey won the sectional and got to the state finals.
"I probably tried all [the track events] except the long-distance runs," she said.
Like other coaches said, however, basketball was Dickey's passion. After setting all the Riverton Parke records that Vauters broke (and the record for blocked shots, which still stands) she went to the University of Evansville and was the best player the Purple Aces had while she was there.
Dickey is currently spending time with her family in Parke County, but much as she loves them and her home area, she'd much rather be in the Czech Republic, her latest foreign venture. She has no plans to stop playing.
"[Basketball] was always so much fun for me," she said. "I found a lot of joy in it and I still do, even at 25 years old."
Dickey's favorite Riverton Parke memory was her junior basketball season. "We won the regionals [and lost to eventual state champion Fort Wayne Canterbury at the semistate], coach [Douglass] was awesome, and we were all really good friends," she summarized.
"She has a great personality and she's a hard worker," Douglass said. "She always wanted to help her teammates. She could have scored a lot more, but she only shot about 8 or 10 times a game. I couldn't get her to shoot."
"A coach's dream," Memmer agreed. "We've never had another player like her . . . some schools never have anybody like her."
• Other Panthers — In addition to Ball and Vauters, unheralded three-sport standout Sheldan Falls and state-finals softball pitchers Haley Chambers, Ashley Loomis and Mandi Martin were also strongly considered.
Other Panther standouts include Jenny Beeler, Jenny Bettis, Sarah Burnham, Jennie Cleghorn, Kelly Combs, Sara Crum, Katrina Cruser, Ann Delp, Jamie Ellenfeld, Emily Fellows, Kelsey Hiland, Maddie Hunt, Keylee Irelan, Sarah Jukes, Malerie Higginbotham, Megan Moseley, Jessica Organ, Alison Penn, Zoie Penn, Danielle Rice, Mackenzie Scherman and Paige Yando.