Three-sport standout leaves legacy at East

Cortney VanLiew was a four-time sectional champion in volleyball, a state qualifier as a sophomore in swimming and a regional qualifier as a junior and senior in track.

But the Columbus East senior’s favorite sports moment didn’t come from any of those seasons. The three-sport standout was most happy about her senior year of swimming, when she helped the Olympians set a school-record in the 200-yard freestyle relay.

“It was really cool to be able to do that with three of my best friends,” VanLiew said. “Everything we had worked for really came out, and it was shown through the emotion and through the way we swam.”

VanLiew was honored Wednesday night at The Commons as the first The Republic Bartholomew County Athlete of the Year. A committee of Republic editors, writers and executives selected the Female Athlete of the Year Award winner, announced Wednesday night at The Republic’s Bartholomew County Athlete of the Year Gala.

The 5-foot-11 VanLiew leaves East as one of the most decorated athletes in Bartholomew County history. She finished with 12 varsity letters — three in each of her four years with the Olympians.

She was a state swimming qualifier in the 100-yard freestyle as a sophomore and was a two-time regional track qualifier in the 400 meters, but her focus in the next level of competition will be volleyball. She is taking her talents to Florida Gulf Coast University, where she’ll compete in volleyball and beach volleyball.

VanLiew’s biggest success during her high school career came on the volleyball court.

In volleyball, VanLiew helped lead East to a final four appearance in Class 4A her freshman year and to another regional championship as a senior. This year, VanLiew was named first-team All-State in volleyball after leading the Olympians with 554 kills and 372 digs, while adding 21 blocks and 32 aces.

Shortly after that senior volleyball season, VanLiew brought national attention to Columbus East when she was selected as a finalist for the Wendy’s High School Heisman Award. VanLiew was the state’s female winner and was one of five girls from across the country to be invited to New York City for the Wendy’s High School Heisman ceremony.

Besides her on-court accomplishments, VanLiew’s advancement in the Wendy’s High School Heisman process came in large part because of her academics and community involvement.

At the time, she ranked 13th in her class with a 4.2 GPA and was a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society, LEAP Mentor Program, C4 Leadership and IHSAA Student Leadership.

VanLiew lives in Seymour, but came to East mainly for its volleyball program.

Often times during the past three winters, VanLiew would drive from her Seymour home to East for morning swim practice, go to school, go to another swim practice after school, go to Plainfield for club volleyball practice and get back home to Seymour late at night.

“The reason I can make it to all those practices is because of my teammates and my coaches,” VanLiew said in the fall. “They really help me look forward to practices, even when I’m having a bad day, to work myself to know that I’m doing it for them, not just myself.”

Cortney VanLiew

School: Columbus East

Year: Senior

Parents: Mike and Janet VanLiew

Sports: Volleyball, swimming, track and field

Accomplishments:

  • Led the Olympians to four sectional and two regional volleyball titles.
  • Named Class 4A All-State and Academic All-State in volleyball.
  • State qualifier in the 100-yard freestyle in swimming as a sophomore.
  • Two-time regional track qualifier in the 400 meters
  • Wendy’s High School Heisman national finalist

Future plans: To play volleyball and beach volleyball at Florida Gulf Coast University and major in exercise science and go to physical therapy school

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.