The hallowed traveling wooden Founder’s Cup has made its way back to Indian River High School for consecutive years following another strong year for the schools athletics.
The Indians’ seven conference and division championships yielded them a first-place finish in the hunt for the cup, with a score of 6.54, which was nearly the top in the entire Henlopen Conference.
Caesar Rodney earned eight conference championships, one division championship and six second-place divisional finishes, to give them the Northern Conference Founder’s Cup. The Riders just barely edged out Indian River for the Henlopen Conference win, with a score of 6.83.
Indian River’s boys soccer team and girls softball team were the school’s only conference champs, but five other teams earned division championships and two teams finished second, to give them an average of “just above second place,” according to Athletic Director Paul Kmetz.
Indian River’s athletic achievements are nothing to sneeze at, even in comparison to Caesar Rodney and especially when taking into account that they have seven fewer sports to offer students.
Seaford came in second to Indian River in the Southern Conference, with a score of 4.83, but they also had five more sports — two of which (boys and girls swimming) had only one other school to compete.
The Indians’ athletic prowess earned them consecutive Founder’s Cups, which of itself is a fantastic honor. But combine it with the fact that more than 100 Indian River student-athletes made high honors over three consecutive terms, and it’s amazing. Some 102 students qualified for student-athlete kudos.
Mark Browne, Indian River’s head softball coach, is a firm believer in the correlation between success on and off the field, and where it can take driven individuals.
“An athlete that can excel in the classroom is a step ahead of the rest,” he said. “For an athlete to be a top-notch student, they have to be able to manage their time between their schoolwork, practice and extra work to prepare for the season. And that prepares them for the next level. In college, they have to be able to manage their time – and without their parents telling them what to do.”
“Athletics goes a long way, but brains take you a lot farther. And that’s why we’ve been able to do things with the kids,” Indian River Principal Mark Steele said.
“We’ve tried to be real pro-active over the last five years, which allows us to deal with kids before (academic performance) becomes a problem. We lose very, very few students (athletically) because of academics,” Steele continued. “It’s minimal at best. What happens is that the assistant coaches become mentors and we issue progress reports once a week or every two weeks. And the coaches tie that into playing time.”
“It makes it a lot easier to maintain,” he continued.
Kmetz mentioned that the cooperation between faculty and coaching staffs is a big contributor to the students’ success.
“This has been a lot of work from a lot of different people,” Kmetz said. “The coaches cooperate with each other and, when a season is over, they want to know how we did (in the Founder’s Cup rankings). It’s like passing a baton in a relay race. They all want to keep us ahead because they all have a part in it.”
“It’s good to know that all our sports have been successful — not just one or two,” Kmetz said.
Kmetz also gave credit to the addition of a weight room at the school for a sharp spike in athletic and academic achievement.
“The change in facilities was really helpful,” he said. “You could go by there and see 20 kids in there working out. They really love working out, and it seemed to carry over.”