Success breeds success at Center Grove

Now seems an ideal time to examine the 2014-15 school year through the lens known as Center Grove High School athletics.

Quite the ride, and it’s not even over.

This spring alone, softball is a state champion for a sixth time, and the boys track and field program snagged its fourth top-5 finish in five seasons at the ISHAA State Finals with junior Cameron Tidd winning the discus competition.

On Tuesday, the Trojans’ top-ranked boys golf team looks to do its part when it tees off for the first round of the State Finals at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel.

Center Grove will be favored, and with that comes immense pressure for a bunch of 15- through 18-year-olds.

So what else is new?

Center Grove’s culture of winning produced sectional and Johnson County Tournament champions in all 16 IHSAA-sanctioned sports this school year — a first for the school.

As much as Jon Zwitt, the school’s athletics director since 1996, would like to patent some secret formula, sell it and retire early, he understands a great number of factors come into play.

“It’s like a chemist, where you try to put the right blend of people and enticements in front of people. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but this has really been a breakout year for us,” said Zwitt, ranking it second only to the 2008-09 school year in which Center Grove won state championships in football, softball and boys tennis.

“Winning is infectious,” he said. “When you get a program like softball, like football, like boys tennis, people see that and want to be like that. It feeds off itself.”

Community support also plays a vital role.

Attend a Center Grove football game — win or lose, home or away, regular-season or postseason — and it’s common practice for adults and students to come onto the field to congratulate or console players once Eric Moore concludes his postgame speech.

Attend a boys or girls track meet at any point during the postseason, and notice the cluster of red-shirted fans seating near the finish line voicing their support of Trojans athletes.

Boys and girls basketball games, soccer and cross country, tennis, swimming and wrestling … the list goes on.

Longtime softball coach Russ Milligan drove this point home while addressing the Trojans’ many fans following Saturday night’s win against Lake Central in the Class 4A state championship game.

Milligan thanked them for lending encouragement during the Center Grove Sectional, for making the drives to Bloomington South and Bedford North Lawrence for regional and semistate, respectively.

And, yes, for absolutely being on top of their game Saturday night at Ben Davis High School.

Center Grove’s 1986 softball team, coached by Rita Robbins, got the momentum started when it defeated Michigan City Rogers, 9-2, to capture the school’s first team state championship.

A decade later Trojans girls basketball players and coaches cut down the nets after winning the state’s second-to-last single-class tournament, followed by volleyball (4A, 2000), boys tennis (2002), football (5A, 2008), boys tennis again (2009) and boys track (2011).

And now softball again, joining Milligan’s state champions of 1995, 1998 (3A), 2003 (4A) and 2009 (4A).

The question now isn’t if, but when Center Grove’s next team state champion will be crowned.

Boys golf, the stage is yours.

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at