Public gets chance to interact with IUC athletes, coaches at open house

IU Columbus volleyball players Madison Hunter, from left, Alaina Wesling and Kenzie Broman watch as Joshua Smith learns how to pass the ball during the IU Columbus athletics open house inside the Circle K Fieldhouse at NexusPark in Columbus, Ind., Thursday, April 4, 2024.

Mike Wolanin | The Republic

As it nears the completion of its second year, the IU Columbus athletics program is still growing.

The Crimson Pride have added men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s track for the 2024-25 school year to go along with the existing sports of volleyball, men’s and women’s cross-country, men’s and women’s soccer, baseball and softball.

Thursday evening, the public had a chance to meet some of those IUC athletes and see that new facility at NexusPark that will host the basketball games and serve as an indoor training facility for the other sports.

“I came down a few months ago, so I didn’t get to see it because it was still getting built,” said Amaya Collins, who is headed to IUC to play basketball. “It’s really nice, way bigger than it looks on social media. I like it.”

Collins, a senior at Frankton, and Jacelyn Starks, a senior from neighboring Anderson, made the 90-minute drive to Columbus together on Thursday. They are two if the initial seven recruits who have committed to play for coach Dana Dunson’s first Crimson Pride women’s basketball team.

“I think that’s what drew me here, just knowing that I can start from scratch and make my point on where I should be at,” Collins said.

“Knowing that we have no banners, no championships, none of that really is going to make us want to get it more and show everybody who we’re going to be,” Starks added.

Owen Law currently is a freshman playing tennis at IU Southeast. But the former two-sport star at Jennings County is transferring at the end of the school year to be part of the first men’s basketball team at IUC.

“I like basketball a lot better than tennis,” Law said. “I was actually going to play (basketball) at IU Southeast, but I just think this place is way cooler.”

Thursday’s event wasn’t just for recruits. It was for some of the younger community members to have a chance to shoot baskets with IUC athletes on the new basketball court, take shots against Crimson Pride soccer goalkeepers, try to hit a nerf ball off softball players, throw a nerf javelin, watch members of the new cheer and dance teams perform, and chat with IUC coaches, athletes and athletics staff while picking up free Crimson Pride swag.

“I’m super excited,” Richards Elementary student Avary McQueary said while shooting baskets. “I really like IU, and I’m here with my friend Ellie (Coy), and I’m excited to try out some of the other stations.”

For other prospective students, it was a chance to meet current students and see the new NexusPark facility, beyond what they already may have seen on campus.

“I think it’s really helpful and beneficial for kids who are trying to figure out what they want to do sports-wise,” said Jasleen Sandhu, a senior at Whiteland who is considering running track at IUC. “It’s helped me figure out what I want to do here academic and athletic-wise.”