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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Jessica Rupright was named Norwell’s first Miss Basketball in 35 years.

Rich farmland in Ossian yields athletic success

Harnish
Parker

– Look, there’s nothing in the water out here. Swear on a jump hook, or the deep fade to the end zone, or a fastball with smoke on it.

There’s nothing in the water or the bread at Subway or the doughnuts at Heyerly Bakery – which are yummy, by the way, but don’t seem to contain any magical properties other than an awesome sugar high.

I’ve been all up and down these mean streets. The only chemical agent I found might do a number on velvet leaf, but it doesn’t turn out a Miss Basketball or a record-mulching quarterback or a pitching arm touched by the gods.

All there is, out at Norwell High School, is this marvelous convergence of skill and will and circumstance, and, lord, is it sweet. Athletic specimens like Jessica Rupright and Chandler Harnish and Jarrod Parker don’t often pop up in the same place anywhere, but you never figure to see it at a school plunked down in a lot of good Indiana farmland on the road from Kingsland to Uniondale.

For starters, you’ve got Rupright, Norwell’s first Miss Basketball in 35 years, who leads Indiana against Kentucky tonight and Saturday in the annual two-game series. That would be buzz enough, but folks were already buzzing because of what happened to Harnish a month or so ago, and because of what Parker did three nights ago.

What Harnish, a quarterback, did was get taken by the home-state team, the Colts, with the last pick of the 2012 NFL draft. What Oakland Athletics right-hander Parker did, in his ninth major-league start, was nearly no-hit the two-time American League champion Texas Rangers.

In the end, he went eight innings before Michael Young got the only hit he gave up. He struck out Josh Hamilton, maybe the best player in baseball, twice.

Suddenly Norwell athletic director Eric Morgan has a lot to talk about.

“It all just kind of culminated with Chandler finishing up college and getting drafted and JP going to the bigs and then Jessica winning Miss Basketball,” he said. “And then the boys team making the run …”

Oh, yes. That, too.

While Rupright and the girls were having a splendid winter, Josh VanMeter and the boys basketball team went all the way to state. And while Rupright was playing the Indiana junior girls this week, VanMeter was playing for the junior boys.

Norwell conquers the world. Film at 11.

“It’s definitely been an exciting year, without a doubt,” Morgan says with a chuckle.

It is, he says, a lot like 2006, when Harnish and Parker were both walking the halls and, even at the time, everyone understood how special that was.

“We talked about it quite a bit, actually,” Morgan says. “That whole year we had so many guys on the football and baseball teams that went on to play Division III and NAIA, just so many guys that were so committed to the programs. And those two guys were just two of the main leaders.”

Same with Rupright. And you can put that down to good genes or good coaching or simply being brought up right, but likely it’s some potent combination of the three.

“I think this all says a lot about Norwell,” boys basketball coach Randy Hawkins said in March. “It says a lot about who we are. I keep saying this, but from 2005 to the present, we’ve had a football team in the state finals, we’ve had baseball teams, now we have a basketball team. It just says a lot.”

Without saying a word.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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