A touch of orange filled the conference room at Donner Center on Friday morning when two Columbus East coaches and a former Olympians athlete were honored with Jack Cramer Ideals of Athletic Competition Awards.

Head girls track coach and assistant football coach Glen Brown, assistant girls basketball coach Kylie Weichman and recently-graduated three-sport standout Cortney VanLiew became the latest recipients of the Cramer Award, which is in its 40th year.

Longtime coach rewarded

Former East football coach John Stafford has known Brown for more than 40 years. Stafford coached Brown when Brown was in high school and coached with him in football and wrestling after Brown returned from Hanover.

In his presenting speech, Stafford said Brown has been a very committed educator to all the students he’s ever come in contact with and that both in athletics and in the classroom, he’s been a valuable commodity for the community.

“He has been a great, great man to be associated with,” Stafford said. “He was a great player at East when we were first starting out … I think from his playing days at both East and Hanover, his competitive nature, his hard work, his loyalty has really served him well. … He’s a fierce competitor, he’s a great sportsman and a very good teacher. I think he represents everything good about being a Jack Cramer Award winner.”

Brown was in the first graduating class at East in 1974 and was the school’s first Judson Erne Mental Attitude Award winner. He competed in football, wrestling and track at both East and at Hanover College, where he was an All-American in 1978.

Brown, who also spent eight years as the Olympians athletics director and now teaches at Columbus Christian while continuing to coach at East, talked about having great role models in his grandfather and father.

“The characteristics of the Jack Cramer Award were some of the ideals that I came in contact with very early in my life,” Brown said. “As I was growing up, there were many people, coaches, players and administrators that I would look up to and strive to follow these same characteristics. But I have to say that building my character started out even before my athletic career started. I would look to my own family first.”

A passion for coaching

East girls basketball coach Danny Brown noticed Weichman nine years ago when she was coaching at Southside Elementary and thought, “who is that wild coach?”

That was Danny Brown’s first reaction. After watching her a few more times, he saw something else.

“I realized that was passion — passion for her team, her school and for the game of basketball,” Danny Brown said. “I thought if I ever had an opening, that passion would be good for my staff. Her dedication, determination, preparation and sportsmanship are all attributes that I think Jack Cramer would be proud of.”

Weichman has been the Olympians’ junior varsity coach the past six years and started the school’s feeder program. She has been mentor for senior projects at both East and at Columbus North and has been involved with Bartholomew Brown Jennings Special Olympics.

The 2001 North graduate started coaching basketball at Foundation For Youth as a junior in high school and started coaching elementary boys basketball at Smith Elementary as a sophomore at Franklin College. After college, Weichman coached girls basketball at Southside and with the Columbus Boomers and Columbus Rebels AAU teams.

“Everything that I do about coaching, I’m very passionate,” Weichman said. “… At the end of the day, when you coach them, you’re not only coaching them in the sport that they’re playing, but you’re coaching them in life, and you want them to improve on their life skills and take whatever little bits and pieces that you can provide along the way and make them into a better person than they were when they first joined your program. These kids are not just basketball players, they’re extensions of my family.”

No jet lag for recent grad

VanLiew made a special trip back from Florida to be a part of the ceremony. She got home at 2 a.m. Friday and has to leave on Sunday to go back to Fort Myers, Florida, where she will play volleyball and beach volleyball at Florida Golf Coast University.

This summer, VanLiew has been at FGCU conditioning and working out with a strength coach,.

“It’s a quick trip, but it’s definitely worth it to come and to celebrate this with coach Brown and Kylie,” VanLiew said. “It’s just an awesome award, and it really means a lot to me. I had some very good role models growing up — (former Olympian and current Memphis setter) Faith Myers being one of them — and I just wanted to be that type of role model to other people, and with this award, I saw the impact that I had throughout my high school career, not only as an athlete, but as a person and as a leader.”

VanLiew graduated from East after winning letters all four years in volleyball, swimming and track. She was a state qualifier in swimming in the 100-yard freestyle as a sophomore, a regional qualifier in track in the 400 meters as a junior and senior and All-State in volleyball as a junior and senior.

Last fall, VanLiew was honored as the state winner and a national finalist for the Wendy’s High School Heisman. Last month, she was named The Republic Female Athlete of the Year.

VanLiew was introduced by her two head volleyball coaches during her time at East. Faith Wilder-Newland coached her in the East Columbus club program and was the Olympians’ coach during VanLiew’s first two years.

“Think in your mind about the one person who just exudes energy and enthusiasm and always has a smile on her face and never seemed to have a bad day,” Wilder-Newland said. “If you know Cortney well, then you know that she is that kind of person. It  seemed to lift everybody up, even the coaching staff, to see a kid like Cortney come into the gym. … She just has that magnetism that people want to be around her.”

Stacie Pagnard coached VanLiew the past two years. Pagnard noted that one of the seven ideals that shape the Jack Cramer Award is maximum effort, and she said VanLiew not only emphasizes that ideal with her physical play, but also with her mindset.

Pagnard said VanLiew’s greatest gift is her leadership and selflessness.

“She has imprinted the minds and hearts of all who have played with her and against her and coached her,” Pagnard said. “She leads with empathy for those being led while possessing an innate passion for competition that is second to none. Even as the most decorated athlete in Columbus East history, Cortney’s story is just beginning. I have no doubt that she will continue to crush the goals she has set in front of her.”

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