By GREG MENGELT
Floyd Central won more sectional championships. Jeffersonville won more regionals. Providence had two state finalists in the same month.
But when it came to picking the Athletic Program of the Year for 2012, there was little doubt. It had to be Borden.
“To have a [Class] A school be competitive on several different levels, that’s awesome,” state championship basketball coach Doc Nash said. “It’s a tribute to how hard our kids work. We have something special here at Borden. It’s a privilege to be a part of it.”
“That's pretty neat. I like that,” Borden cross country and track coach Liz Carmony said of the Athletic Program of the Year honor. “Both the boys and girls had a successful year. It was a neat and exciting year.”
It’s a year no one at Borden will ever forget.
“It’s been pretty awesome,” Borden athletic director Toby Cheatham said. “At the spring athletic banquet, I told the crowd that as far as I knew, and I’ve been a Borden resident a long time, this is probably the most successful year we’ve ever had in sports.”
Everyone knows about Borden’s state championship basketball team — the determining factor in the Braves’ program earning this honor — but if that accomplishment would have stood alone, Floyd Central, Jeff or Providence probably would have been the choice.
Along with an unforgettable boys’ basketball team, Borden had exceptional runners, an undefeated girls’ tennis team and a successful follow-up to a girls’ basketball sectional title.
“We want our kids to be successful in everything they do,” Nash said. “It takes a lot of time and dedication from Toby, the coaches and, most importantly, the kids. They’ve bought into a work ethic and done things the right way.”
“The boys’ basketball championship was obviously a great experience, but we had so many other things we’ve done that were great, as well,” Cheatham said. “It wasn’t just a one-issue deal. Across the board, everyone was successful.”
All in all, the Braves had a phenomenal year. Of course, it starts with the boys’ basketball team. For the second straight year, the Braves had an impressive regular season, starting 9-0 and finishing 17-3 with a Southern Athletic Conference championship under their belts heading into the postseason.
Borden blew through the first two rounds of the Borden Sectional by a combined 108-65 against South Central and New Washington then needed a big fourth quarter to beat Lanesville 59-50 for its fourth sectional crown in six years.
The Braves beat Orleans by a point, then upset Barr-Reeve in the regional championship — again by a single points — for their second trip to the semistate in school history.
Another great fourth-quarter run gave Borden a 47-44 win over University in the semistate and its first spot in the state championship game.
Going in as the underdogs, Borden led a talented Triton team from start to finish for an improbable Class A state championship by a 55-50 margin.
“It’s a sense of accomplishment,” Nash said three months after capturing the championship. “I look back on it and I’m so proud of the kids. To see those guys grow as basketball players and as people is awesome. The championship was just the icing on the cake. It was a fun experience.”
“It was kind of surreal at the time. Even today, I think back on it and I can’t believe it,” Cheatham said. “Maybe it will be soaked in four or five years from now.”
Borden’s cross country team got the program off to a fantastic start by sweeping the boys’ and girls’ SAC championships. The Braves’ boys then went on to win the program’s first sectional championship in school history, beating the likes of state powerhouse North Harrison, New Albany, Providence, Floyd Central and Jeffersonville.
“That was the boys' goal,” Carmony said of winning the sectional title. “I thought that would be very tough, but they worked extremely hard and surprised a lot of people. They showed that it doesn't matter the size of the school.”
Led by freshman Julien Magallanes in ninth place, the Braves just missed out on their first regional championship, finishing runner-up to Perry Central and advancing as a team to the Brown County Semistate. At Brown County, tiny Borden took on some of the state’s giants and came in 12th out of 20 teams.
The Braves' girls’ cross country team won their first conference title in school history, helping the Borden girls join the boys as SAC All-Sports champions. They also advanced to regional as a team for the first time.
The track and field team — also coached by Carmony — then closed the year with a bang by taking the SAC crown for the second year in a row and finishing second at the Floyd Central Sectional for the first time ever. In the process, the runners who helped the Braves win the cross country sectional title broke the school record in the 3,200 relay several times.
Sophomore Brett Williams carried on the throwing tradition at Borden by making his first state finals appearance and finishing in the top 20 in the nation for a sophomore in the discus. Coached by Cheatham — himself a throwing legend and state finalist at Borden — Williams placed third in the Bloomington North Regional with a toss of 160 feet and 15th in the state.
“This year his goal was to go throw 140 and he went 160 at the regional,” Cheatham said. “He went to state and threw 150 again on the biggest stage of his career. He loves the sport and he works his tail off. It’s good to see a kid work hard and get rewarded for it.”
“Brett continued to peak every meet,” Carmony said. “At regional, we thought he had a very outside chance to advance to state and he was remarkable. He has great form, so he didn't surprise me. It was an awesome experience for him.”
The Braves coaches agree. The Athletic Program of the Year award wouldn’t have been possible without Cheatham, whose work has made Borden a force in Class A and in Southern Indiana.
“It think it starts with the leadership of Toby Cheatham,” Nash said. “He’s done a good job of hiring coaches, letting us coach and supporting us.”
“Toby is a very hard worker,” Carmony added. “He's an awesome athletic director. [Being AD] takes a lot of work, and he does so many neat things as athletic director for the athletic program.
The city of Borden showed its loyalty during the 2012-13 season, as well. Braves fans packed every arena during the basketball team's run and supported every sport at the school.
“I don’t think you can find many communities as supportive as ours,” Cheatham said. “What happened [during the basketball run] speaks for itself. We have a great community that supports us and it’s like that in all sports. Basketball just made it evident.”
“The backing of the community has such a big influence on our athletic success,” Carmony said.