Championship Mettle: Trio of state titleists are The Republic Athletes of the Year

Reese Kilbarger-Stumpff, Emily Moore and Tucker Smith all had state title aspirations when they entered high school four years ago, and all three were able to accomplish that as juniors last year.

This year, the trio of Columbus North athletes added individual state titles as seniors. Kilbarger-Stumpff and Smith are The Republic Male co-Athletes of the Year, and Moore is The Republic Female Athlete of the Year.

Moore is one of the most decorated gymnasts to come through not only North, but the entire state. After winning multiple state medals as a freshman and sophomore, she broke through as a junior to win the state championship on the beam.

This year, Moore repeated as beam champion with a school-record 9.825 and added titles on the floor with a 9.725 and in the all-around competition with a 38.275 at Ball State.

“I’m really happy about it,” Moore said. “I did what I wanted to do, which was win state. I wanted to do it, so I just had the motivation to do it. I knew it was my last year to be able to win state.”

North co-coach Bob Arthur has seen plenty of talented gymnasts in his four decades of coaching and said Moore is one of the best.

“She’s just a spectacular athlete and was dedicated to the sport,” Arthur said. “She was an absolute game changer for our team all four seasons. Finishing her career with the beam, floor and all-around championships was a great end to her career. I’d like to have her back on the team next year. There’s certain athletes you just cannot say enough good things about, and Emily certainly falls into that category.”

After leading the Bull Dogs to the cross-country state team championship as a junior, Kilbarger-Stumpff won the individual title last fall in Terre Haute.

“It was a really fun race,” Kilbarger-Stumpff said. “But 2020, winning state as a team was just unbeatable. That bus ride home, we were just all hyping each other up. To pick out one specific highlight, it was probably just morning summer practices, meeting with the team.”

At the state track meet this spring, Kilbarger-Stumpff added another state title when he anchored North’s 4×800-meter relay team to a state-meet record 7 minutes, 37.90 seconds. He went on to finish runner-up in the 1,600 in 4:09.56 before running out of steam and taking 11th in the 800.

“It was a really fun season,” Kilbarger-Stumpff said. “We learned a lot as a team. I know I learned a lot. The whole last month of the season, I was working around an injury. But then all of our teammates were running super well. I was sort of surrounded by that.”

Kilbarger-Stumpff is the school-record holder in the 800 and as part of the 4×800 relay team.

“Reese will go down as one of the best distance runners in Columbus North history, and that’s saying a lot with the teams that we’ve had,” North track coach Rick Sluder said. “He just has an incredible work ethic and a very determined attitude. He led us in both seasons. He would do anything we ask of him.”

Smith, meanwhile, defended his championship in the shot put at the state track meet, while also finishing runner-up in the discus. His top shot throw of 72 feet, 1/2-inch at the Conference Indiana broke the all-time state record that he set last year and was the best in the nation this season.

“That was pretty much the goal because I knew I wouldn’t be doing the Nike Nationals because it was in Oregon,” Smith said. “So keeping that was a pretty big deal, and I was happy to keep it by the margin that I did. We have a lot of throwers (in Indiana) coming up that should be able to take the No. 1 spot in the nation, so hopefully, I was kind of a spearhead to kids taking throwing more seriously in high school.”

Last week, Smith was named Gatorade Indiana Track and Field Player of the Year for the second year in a row.

“North has had amazing athletes,” Sluder said. “You go back to Christian Wagner and Mackenzie Caldwell and some of those, and he is one of the best. Without the pandemic (that led to the cancellation of the 2020 track season), he has maybe three state titles. He left a huge legacy, and he also left a big impact on the team at how to be good at what you do and humble.”

Smith and Kilbarger-Stumpff led the Bull Dogs to a third-place team finish at the state finals at Indiana University.

“It’s amazing that we had not only two of the best North and two of the state-best of all-time, they were really humble,” Sluder said. “They were so humble and hard-working, they showed all of our younger kids how to be a great athlete. We’re just very lucky to have them both at the same time.”

Smith is headed to throw at Oklahoma. He hopes to win the Big 12 title in the shot put and eventually win an NCAA championship.

Kilbarger-Stumpff is headed to Colorado to run cross-country and track.

“I’m really excited for it,” Kilbarger-Stumpff said. “It will be interesting going from at or near the top of everybody I’m running against to right back to the bottom again. I’m hoping I bounce back and do a lot better.”

While Kilbarger-Stumpff and Smith will be continuing their athletic careers, Moore is finished. She will attend Indiana State as a regular student.

“I’m kind of sad,” Moore said. “I got really close with the girls on my gymnastics team, so it’s kind of sad to leave them.”

The Republic Athletes of the Year (open to Bartholomew County seniors):

Male

2016: Rhett Myers, Columbus East

2017: Mitchell Burton, Columbus North

2018: Brigham Kleinhenz, Columbus North

2019: Trenton Kelley, Columbus North

2020: Eric Stiles, Columbus East

2021: Blake Huffman, Columbus North

2022: Reese Kilbarger-Stumpff and Tucker Smith, Columbus North

Female

2016: Katrina May, Columbus North

2017: Cortney VanLiew, Columbus East

2018: Adi Minor, Columbus East

2019: Megna Chari, Columbus East

2020: Olivia Morlok, Columbus North

2021: Mackenzie Barnett, Columbus North

2022: Emily Moore, Columbus North