Tuesday, June 25, 2024

2024 IndyStar Sports Mom of the Year says: ‘You can’t put a value on playing sports.’

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PENDLETON – Katie Hupfer, formerly Hannold, grew up in here in Pendleton, about two blocks from downtown, four blocks from the school and five from the park. There was a house next to hers with an empty lawn that was perfect for playing baseball or kickball, and whatever else.

“As long as we kept the lawn mowed and grass down,” she said, “we could play sports.”

There were 15 to 18 neighborhood kids who would join Katie and some mix of her siblings (four sisters and two brothers). Virgil Mabrey, the same age and graduating class as Katie, once told her oldest son, Kyle Hupfer, that his mom could throw harder and run faster than any of the boys. “Your mom would have done anything she wanted to in sports,” Mabrey told him.

Mabrey knew, too. He was the basketball team’s top scorer at Pendleton as a senior. But for Katie, growing up in the 1950s and early ‘60s, there were few opportunities for girls to pursue sports. In high school, like other girls her age, she was limited to the athletic opportunities provided through the Girls Athletic Association (GAA). It was better than nothing.

But not much.

This was still a decade before Title IX was enacted by the United States Congress to ensure institutions that received federal funding provided equal opportunities for men and women. Katie played an archaic game of 6-on-6 basketball that was popular in Iowa into the 1990s.

“Girls were too fragile, they thought,” Katie said. “So, they didn’t used to have all the girls run up and down the court. They had two on one end, two on the other end and two rovers. Obviously, you can see how basketball has evolved and come a long way since then.”

Hupfer, 78, has had a front-row seat for much it. Our 2024 IndyStar Mother’s Day “Sports Mom of the Year” traveled thousands of miles — “I’d love to know how many miles,” daughter Angie Bossnack said — following her four children and, now, her grandchildren. Those kids, and their teammates, know her as “Meemaw” who is always on time with the Rice Krispie treats.

But Meemaw is hardly a softie. Her husband, Clarence, calls her “old school.” When it came to sports, she expected her children to fight their own battles. She wanted them to fight through their own struggles without parent intervention. Once when oldest son Kyle came home after a game and said, “Well, I sucked tonight.” His mother’s response? “Yeah, you did.”

“I think one mistake parents are making sometimes is that they are trying to smooth everything over for their kids,” Katie said. “I think it’s good when kids have things that don’t go right and they have to face those things. … That’s part of everything in life. Things don’t always go the way you want them to.”

Katie lost her father, Fred, at age 53 in 1972. One of his favorite pastimes was going to the basketball games on Friday nights. His sons, Phil and Fred, were both standout athletes who went on to play basketball and run track in college at Indiana Central.

“He had a fancy radio so he could pull in all the games when my brothers played,” Katie said. “He wasn’t going to miss a game. He would have loved to have been here when my kids played.”

Katie graduated from Indiana Central, too, in 1968. Her mother, Ruth, was an elementary teacher in Pendleton from 1951 to ’82 and six of her seven children earned degrees in education, Katie included. She taught math and physical education at Beech Grove in her first job out of college, then stepped back from teaching to raise her children.

Clarence got Kyle started playing basketball at a young age in Anderson, where he played in leagues at Wilson’s Boys Club. One day, when Katie brought Kyle to Anderson for a practice, longtime coach Willy Turner asked Katie if the girls were going to sign up, too. Megan was a sixth grader and Angie a second grader.

“He looked at Megan and said, ‘What about her?’” Katie remembered. “I said, ‘What about her?’ She was playing some ‘Y’ ball and stuff but he said, ‘You need to sign her up.’ I had to change my whole thinking about women’s sports and girls playing sports because it wasn’t available to us. It was almost accidental we got her into it.”

Accidental, maybe. But a smart move. Kyle, who grew to 6-7, averaged 26.5 points per game as a senior at Pendleton Heights in 1990-91. He signed with North Carolina-Greensboro before transferring to Manchester after one season to play for Steve Alford. Hupfer went on to score 1,152 points at Manchester and help the program to the Division III national championship game with a 33-1 record in 1994-95.

“My mom was no coddling but always very encouraging to me,” said Kyle, who went on to become a lawyer, business owner and former State Republican chairman. “Coaches were always right. I think her mom was that way, too, which is where she got it from. But where my daughter had access to training and dribbling and different things at a young age, I didn’t start doing stuff like that until later. She was encouraging that my time would come and that’s what happened to me. I was on the ‘B’ team in middle school and then became one of the top players by my senior year in high school.”

Megan was just a year behind Kyle in school. Katie noticed at the high school girls games the concession stand was not open. “I went to (the administration) and said, ‘We’d like to sell concessions,” she said. “They said, ‘You have to clean the gym if you do.’”

For eight years, Katie bought concessions to sell at the girls games. The Hupfers, at the time, lived right across the street from the school.

“I would take all the concessions over, set them up,” she said. “Other parents pitched in, too. After the games, the dads would get out the brooms and stuff and sweep out the gym. That’s hard to imagine now. But someone has to take that step up and put in the work and make it easier for the next group to come in.”

Angie remembered those trips to Sam’s Club to pick up candy bars and cokes to fill the concession stand. After one of her volleyball games, she jumped into the minivan after everything had been packed up and caught her shin on the vehicle. She looked down at her bleeding leg and told her mom, “I think it’s hospital time.” But first things first.

“We need to unload these concessions,” Angie remembered her mom responding.

By Megan’s senior year, she was one of the best players in the state. The 5-11 Megan was the first Pendleton Heights’ player named an Indiana All-Star after she averaged 21.7 points and 12.0 rebounds. She set school records for career points (1,074), rebounds (638) and single-game scoring (38 points).

“There was a healthy competition at home between us siblings,” said Megan McCloskey, wh lives in Newport, Ky. “Mom, really both of our parents, believed in us working hard and things would pay off. If there was ever an issue with a coach, they wanted us to go in and handle it and be accountable for ourselves.”

After Megan graduated high school, it was the apex of divide and conquer for Clarence and Katie. Megan played college basketball at Morehead State in Kentucky for four years, earning all-conference honors and averaging 13.6 points and 7.5 rebounds for her career (she ranks No. 12 on the school’s all-time list in scoring with 1,444 points and 10th in rebounds with 792).

By 1995, Kyle was a senior at Manchester and Megan was a junior at Morehead State. Angie was already a star as a junior at Pendleton Heights and youngest child Ryan was a freshman in high school. But through all the traveling and trips, it was also a special time for Katie, who was often accompanied by her mother, Ruth, who died in 2011 at age 95.

“Whatever came up, she would do,” Katie said. “I remember driving with her in the fog coming up from Kentucky. She would eat where you ate, stay where you stayed. She was never critical of anything. Whatever came up, she would do. When Kyle played in the national championship in Buffalo in 1995, she flew up there. I’m kind of the same now with our grandkids. I think I kind of learned how to handle things from her, not only with sports but in life. She was always a good example for me.”

Angie was arguably the biggest star of the four kids in basketball, though she said Ryan is “the favorite.” She was the team’s most valuable player at Pendleton Heights all four seasons, leading the program to its first three sectional titles in the single-class tournament in 1994, ’95 and ’96. She broke her sister’s all-time scoring record with 1,455 career points and 798 rebounds.

The 5-11 Angie went on to play at St. Joseph College, where scored 2,510 career points and led the nation as a junior, averaging 30.6 points.

“Now that I have my own kids, I understand everything our mom did supporting us,” said Bossnack, who has three children and lives in Greencastle. “Dad, too. But mom was mainly the one driving us around, making sure we got everywhere. I have a much better appreciation of the time and effort she put into everything.”

Ryan, at 6-7, was also a standout basketball player at Pendleton Heights, averaging 19.9 points as a senior in 1997-98 before going on to play at the University of Indianapolis, where he was the first player named Scholar Athlete of the Year by the Great Lakes Valley Conference and has his picture hanging in Nicoson Hall.

The athletic genes carried on to the grandkids. Megan’s oldest daughter, Madison, was a top high school player at Newport Central Catholic and has gone to be a four-year scholarship player at Division II Ashland University (Ohio). Her younger sister, Riley McCloskey, won a state championship as a junior at Notre Dame Academy (Ky.) in 2022 and was runner-up last fall. She is a University of Memphis commit. Mason McCloskey will graduate this year after he was a four-year athlete at Newport Central Catholic in football and soccer; he will play football on scholarship at Division II St. Thomas More (Ky.). And Reese McCloskey, also a three-sport athlete and Riley’s twin, is also a likely college athlete and member of the National Honor Society.

Closer to home, Kyle’s daughter Adah is a 6-3 freshman who averaged 10.6 points and 11.3 rebounds this season. She picked up her first Division I offer late last month from IU Indianapolis.

“I always stressed to the kids that they were fortunate they got to play,” Katie said. “I called it their ‘days in the sun.’ There are a lot of people who don’t get any.”

That includes Katie. A dozen years after she graduated from high school, Judi Warren led Warsaw to the first girls basketball state championship and was named Miss Basketball. The opportunities have only grown from her kids’ generation to her grandkids’ generation. But she is most proud of what her children were able to do after athletics. All four kids excelled in academics and have successful careers.

“It’s about having expectations, I think,” Katie said. “So many people are worried about keeping children happy instead of having expectations of what they should do. You can’t put a value on playing sports. … But you see the way they handle situations in the lives, that comes from teamwork, meeting obligations.”

Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.

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