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11-15-04 Success is no secret in Grand Lake Area

By Lyle Kittle

  FAIRBORN -- There's usually another story inside the story about a state champion.

  Sometimes a writer works to find it, sometimes it just appears, without warning or searching.
  This is one such story, a story that had its genesis in a period of small talk in the media room between the time Norwalk coach Bill Cramer ended his interview and left, and before Lori Schwieterman, coach of state champion St. Henry arrived.
  I'm glad I left my recorder running.
  First reporter: "What is it about St. Henry? If it's not volleyball, it's football, it's basketball or baseball. How do they do it.?"  Second reporter: "Well, do you look real close at the athletes? They're not just kids playing sports, they're athletes."
  Third reporter: "Yeah, it's more than that. It's more than them. You've got Coldwater, Minster, Marion Local, New Bremen.
  First reporter: "Don't forget places like Fort Recovery, Parkway and the other places down there. I think Versailles is part of that group."
  Third reporter: "St. John's and New Knoxville are in the same conference as those schools, aren't they? And St. Marys and Celina are close by, too."
  There it was. The story had come to me, instead of vice versa.
  Outsiders defining Grand Lake area success.
  I chipped in this time: "So what do you guys see as common to all of those areas? What do you think separates them from other places?"
  Second reporter: "Tradition. And community"
  First reporter: "I think family, also. I get the impression that when these kids come home from practice, or school, they know who's going to be there. It's a family unit. There's a lot of support from everywhere."
  Those three words -- tradition, community and family -- in no certain order. Or maybe all ranking at the top.
  Family. You could see it in the crowd. Parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters.
  Community. A spirited and raucous student section and other fans who don't have youngsters involved in the program, but are there to root on their Redskins. An extended community was there, supporters from outside the system that included, among others, Celina coach Nikki Etzler and family, and Parkway coach Todd Henkle.
  Tradition. Former Redskins' stars in the crowd, along with coach DeDE Stoner, leader of the first five Redskin state volleyball champs.
  There were also a few that represented all three, including Jeannete Vaughn, family as sister of Redskins' star Lindsay Puthoff, community as coach of nearby Coldwater, and tradition as member of Stoner's two state title teams in 1994 and 1995.
  "For me, my sisters played on championship teams," Puthoff said. "I watched them play and wanted so much to be a part of that. I realized how much fun Jeannette had those years and I knew then that I wanted to be part of that tradition. It's a real motivator."
  Puthoff agreed with the factors.
  "I think community's important," Puthoff said. "And I've got a cousin coming up also."
  And so it continues.


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