The Republic is celebrating the county’s top student-athletes for excellence in sports performance and sportsmanship at an inaugural gala, and you’re invited.

Indiana University’s new football coach Tom Allen will give the keynote address, and the evening will culminate with the announcement of three new and special awards: the male athlete of the year, the female athlete of the year and the prestigious Josh Speidel spirit award.

The June 7 event at The Commons is aimed at recognizing prep athletes who have excelled both on and off the field, and the gala will bring together the student-athletes, families, friends, coaches and the public in a countywide celebration, said Chuck Wells, publisher of The Republic.

“At The Republic, high school sports are at the heart of what we do in our community,” Wells said. “We have the opportunity to tell great stories about great student-athletes. It only makes sense that we all get together as a community and celebrate their achievements.”

One of the most inspiring portions of the evening promises to be the announcement of the Josh Speidel spirit award winner. The honor is named after the Columbus North graduate who overcame great odds in fighting back from a severe brain injury suffered in a 2015 traffic accident.

He was a senior in high school when the accident occurred and had to learn how to walk and talk again. He’s now enrolled at the University of Vermont and is a member of the Catamounts basketball team.

The spirit award recognizes Josh Speidel and his family for their courage, tenacity and selflessness in coming back from “a situation that would have been devastating to most,” according to the award’s criteria.

Dave and Lisa Speidel agreed to establishing the award in their son’s name, and it will be given to a student-athlete who shows the same kind of toughness and perseverance in overcoming a challenging situation or who has exhibited a generous spirit and unselfishness by helping others and making the community a better place.

Nominations will come from athletics directors at Bartholomew County high schools — Columbus East, Columbus North, Columbus Christian and Hauser.

The other first-time awards will be male and female athletes of the year for all of Bartholomew County. Athletics directors will nominate a senior male and female candidate from their respective schools for athlete of the year. Overall male and female winners and the Speidel award winner will be selected by The Republic.

The Republic also will honor the student-athletes who have been named Republic athletes of the year in their respective sports — that is more than 20 male and female athletes in 13 sports: Football, tennis, golf, wrestling, swimming, cross-country, softball, gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, track, soccer and tennis.

The inaugural event, catered by Henry Social Club, will feature one of the state’s newest college football coaches as the speaker.

Allen, a New Castle native who was a high school football coach, become Indiana University’s 29th head football coach on Dec. 1, replacing Kevin Wilson. He made his college coaching debut when IU played in the Foster Farms Bowl last year.

Allen joined IU as associate head coach of defense in January 2016. During his time as an assistant coach, IU’s defense improved in every major statistical category against a schedule featuring four top 10 opponents, a program first, according to the university. Allen was a finalist for the Broyles Award, which is given to the top college football coach in the nation.

A 25-year coaching veteran, he has been an assistant coach at the University of South Florida, Ole Miss, Arkansas State and Drake University. His first collegiate coaching job was at Wabash College, and he was head coach at Ben Davis High School from 2004 to 2006.

Student-athletes and their parents will be given complimentary tickets. A limited number of tickets are available to the public, and corporate and business table sponsorships are available. Tickets are $25 each and can be purchased at The Republic.

At a glance

What: Gala honoring high school student-athletes from Bartholomew County. Special awards include the Josh Speidel spirit award and male and female athletes of the year.

When: June 7. Doors open at 5 p.m. Dinner, catered by Henry Social Club, starts at 5:30 p.m. followed by the program and awards presentation.

Where: The Commons, 300 Washington St., Columbus.

Speaker: Ted Allen, Indiana University head football coach.

Tickets: $25 each. Student-athletes and their parents will be given complimentary tickets.

Table sponsorships are available for businesses and organizations and can be purchased by calling Kathy Burnett at 812-379-5655 or sending an email to kburnett@therepublic.com.

Individual tickets are available for friends, family member and the public at The Republic, 2980 N. National Road, Suite A, Columbus, IN 47201. You can also make your reservations by mailing your check to The Republic. Make sure to include how many tickets you want, the names of those attending, a phone number, your mailing address and an email address. Put “Attention: Kathy Burnett” on the envelope.

A limited number of tickets are available so make your reservations now.

Still got questions? Call 812-379-5655 or send an email to kburnett@therepublic.com.