Graduate looks back on time with Tigers

For The Tribune

Katrina Christian graduated from Crothersville High School as one of the most decorated athletes in the history of the school.

She earned 12 varsity letters in four years.

The recent grad left her mark in volleyball, basketball and track and field.

Christian earned All-Conference and All-State honors, put her name in the school’s basketball and track record books, and helped the school win its first sectional trophy in any sport when the Tigers captured the girls basketball title at Orleans in February.

“I think I had a pretty amazing career with everybody here at Crothersville,” she said. “I think my senior season has probably been my best season with the sectional title, and all the records I broke in basketball, the track records I’ve broken this year.”

Christian said she began all three sports in middle school.

“I didn’t start playing volleyball until eighth grade,” she said. “I ran track and played basketball all the way from sixth grade up. I think I enjoyed the bond I had with all of my teammates and my coaches.

“They’re always going to be a part of my life, and they’re going to be family regardless of wherever I end up going with basketball. After my four years at Eastern (Illinois University) I think I’m still going to have a connection to the school, especially coming in seeing my picture up on the wall pretty much forever. I’ll definitely have that bond and connection.”

She is No. 1 at Crothersville, and No. 2 all-time among Jackson County girls with 1,665 points, and holds the school marks for points in a game (39) and season (618).

Last winter she helped the team set the school mark for wins in a season with 19.

Christian was able to use her quickness to not only get open for perimeter shots but to also drive to the basket. She said she enjoyed playing out on the floor.

“Coach (Kevin) Hensley pushed me a lot with opening up my mid-range shots and my 3-point jump shots,” Christian said. “He really pushed me, day in, day out to open up my perimeter game because everybody knew that I had the skill to get to the lane.

“I wasn’t afraid of contact, and they knew that so when they would play zone basically they would shut me down because I didn’t have any perimeter game or outside game, so Coach Hensley and my AAU coach really worked with me getting my perimeter shot.”

The Crothersville coaches had high expectations for Christian.

“It’s mind-blowing to me,” Christian said. “Kevin told me all the time that he knew I was going to have the season I had. My eighth-grade year, my freshman year I sat a chair in the trophy case and stared at Brooke Prather’s record (1,165 points) and I was like ‘I want that record really bad.’

“I made it my mission to go after that record with vengeance. After my AAU coach, Steven Springer, died after my freshman year. He was somebody I looked up to and he really pushed me and knew what greatness I had and the capability to come out and become a division one basketball player. It really pushed me.”

Christian’s successes have resonated throughout the program.

“I never knew I would have a legacy here at Crothersville,” Christian said. “I go down to the elementary school and the kids really don’t fully understand, but they always think I’m this famous basketball player and they always want to get their picture or have me sign something. I think that is amazing because now I give little girls and boys the opportunity to come up here and beat my records.

“They come up and say ‘I want to beat your record,’ and I tell then ‘please do’ because I put it there for a reason and that’s why it’s a record.”

In volleyball, Christian played all-around.

“The thing I enjoyed most was probably hitting,” Christian said. “That was my favorite part, especially when they switched me to middle this year. I got a lot more kills and my setter, Brittany Clem, really set me up well. I really enjoyed the middle position.

“The home matches were a lot of fun because people came out and supported us regardless what our record was, which is amazing to me.

Christian said she enjoyed the rivalry with Austin in both volleyball and basketball.

“When we played Austin, whether it was at home or at Austin I really liked the atmosphere more than anything,” Christian said. “My favorite away gym this year had to be Orleans because we won the sectional there. They have great seating.”

Christian was a Southern Athletic Conference champion in the sprints earlier in her career.

She changed events this spring after suffering a hamstring injury her junior year and this spring she was SAC champion in the high jump, long jump, 300 hurdles and with the 4×800 relay.

She was named the meet’s outstanding performer as a senior.

She qualified for the regional in the hurdles, and holds the school record in the hurdles at 47.4, and the 100 and with the 4×800 relay.

“I fell in love with the hurdles,” Christian said. “You’re out there running for your individual self. I really like that I can go out and do something for me and not have to worry about a team. I am part of the team, but at the same time what I do as an individual has to benefit the team in points.”

Christian said she enjoyed being a student at Crothersville.

“I really enjoyed the small community, everybody knows everybody here,” Christian said. “Everybody came out to support me. On spirit days I had so many kids dress up like me.”

She began summer conditioning for Eastern Illinois University on June 11.

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Arv Koontz is a sports correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.