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May 8, 2013

Driven Thompson adds to accomplishments

ANDERSON, Ind. — Athletic director Steve Schindler can always tell when Anderson senior Darien Thompson has visited his office because of the trail of M&Ms.

Most students who dip into Schindler’s candy supply use a lever on the dispenser to release the M&Ms. Not Thompson.

Instead, she tears the lid off the top of the container and pours its contents into her hand. And just about everywhere else in the surrounding area.

The anecdote is instructive for two reasons. First, it shows Thompson’s knack for unconventional thinking. Second, it’s an example of how the 2013 girls Johnny Wilson Award winner seldom fails to achieve whatever she puts her mind to.

“She’s got pure athleticism,” Schindler said. “This year, the track team needed somebody to run the 300 hurdles. So she raised up her hand and volunteered. Last week, she was the NCC (North Central Conference) champion in the 300 hurdles. Now she’s trying to qualify for state in something she’d never done before this spring.”

If Thompson qualifies for the state finals next month in the 300 hurdles, it will be her second trip to Bloomington for the IHSAA’s signature track event.

Two years ago she was part of a 4x400 relay team — along with Kalyn Davis, Deborah Gardner and Jireh Hart — who showed up on IU’s campus wearing homemade T-shirts celebrating their trip and seemed to enjoy themselves more than any other athletes in attendance.

“I was so shocked,” Thompson said Wednesday during the Wilson banquet at Anderson Country Club. “I couldn’t believe it. For most of us girls, it was our first time being at state. It was a really good experience seeing all those amazing athletes out there.”

Thompson would be the last to admit it, but she can be pretty amazing in her own right.

As a freshman, she became interested in the Wilson awards but knew she’d never be nominated because she competed only in two sports. Her friends — and head coach Randy Harrison — slowly convinced her to give soccer a try.

Thompson was cautious because she wasn’t sure she had any skill for the sport, and she didn’t want to embarrass herself.

As a junior, she finally relented and took to the pitch. That fall she was named The Herald Bulletin’s Girls Soccer Player of the Year.

“When you have somebody like Darien on the field and in the classroom, it makes it easy (to nominate her for the Wilson award),” Schindler said. “Not everybody is like that.”

Thompson also is a member of the National Honor Society, and that’s the recognition her mother is impressed with most.

“That’s the most important thing,” Veronica Thompson said. “She’s a student-athlete, and the student comes first.”

Darien credits her busy three-sport schedule with keeping her focused on academics. She knew if she didn’t make the grade, she wouldn’t be eligible to play. And she’s been playing sports all-year round.

Next year, at Purdue-Calumet, she’ll limit her focus to her first love — basketball.

Thompson was three-year starter at Anderson after joining the Lady Tribe when Highland closed. She helped lead the team to an emotional sectional championship in 2012 after head coach Chad Cook nearly died from a brain aneurysm over the summer.

This year, Thompson was invited to a workout with the top 60 seniors in the state.

She also was a major cog in all three sports in the effort to integrate the teams after the merger of the two city rivals.

That spirit of togetherness was evident Wednesday in her reaction to being named the Wilson winner.

“I’m very honored,” she said. “It’s amazing. It’s really something I focused on doing. But I know I wouldn’t have got this award if it wasn’t for my teammates.”

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