URBANA — Your secret is safe with her.
It’s an annual request of recipients of this award to keep a low profile as long as possible. Keep that circle of knowledge tight.
Adrianna Katcher took it a step further and made a game of it.
“I wanted to surprise my parents,” she said. “I remember telling (my sister) Kora, ‘Let’s keep it from Mom and Dad as long as we can.’”
Finally, though, the truth escaped.
“Mom said, ‘Are you hiding something from me?’” Katcher said.
A graduate of Center Point-Urbana High School, Katcher was a three-time state champion in cross country. An all-stater in basketball, leading the Stormin’ Pointers to four state-tournament appearances, including a Class 3A championship as a junior. A dual spring athlete in soccer (three state tournaments) and track and field (two-time state runner-up in the 3,000 meters).
You can call her Adrianna. Or you can call her A.J.
“I’ll answer to both,” she said.
And for 2020, you can call her The Gazette’s Female Athlete of the Year.
A multi-sport standout
A basketball signee of Southern Illinois University, Katcher stands at the top of one of the area’s deepest classes of girls in recent memory.
“Her lasting impact (at CPU) is the number of programs in which she’s been involved at such a high level,” said Scott Kriegel, the school’s athletics director. “The days of the single-sport athlete are here to stay, and she has been able to defy that.”
Defy it? Katcher blew the doors off it. From August through May (or, this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, August through March), she competed at a high, high level.
“I love the fact that she did other sports,” Southern Illinois women’s basketball coach Cindy Stein said. “I’m so impressed with her work ethic and competitive nature.”
That came early, by nature and by nurture. Katcher’s mother, Amy, graduated from Saint Ansgar in 1993, the last year of six-player basketball, and was a three-sport athlete. Her father, Joshua, participated in four sports at Nashua, then was a wrestling coach at Hampton-Dumont High School before the family settled in Urbana in 2007.
“Josh is by far the better athlete,” Amy said. “But we’re both pretty competitive, and I think going to Josh’s wrestling meets rubbed off on the girls (Adrianna is the oldest of four daughters).
“They would fight to see who would get in the van first.”
Tall and slender, Katcher gravitated to basketball quickly. Soccer soon followed.
“Once she started playing sports, she had that extra drive, that extra gear,” Amy said. “She would give 100 percent, all of the time.”
And she didn’t get tired.
“Her oxygen capacity is higher than normal,” Joshua said. “She could play an entire game and she wouldn’t get tired ... she’d just say she couldn’t feel her legs for a while.”
Becoming a state champion
The family sat down before Adrianna began middle school. With basketball in the winter and soccer in the spring, the question was raised how she would keep busy in the fall.
“Volleyball and cross country were my fall options, and I had no interest in volleyball,” Adrianna said. “I thought cross country would at least keep me in shape.”
It wasn’t her favorite sport. But it was the sport in which she enjoyed the most success.
“A very gifted runner,” CPU cross country coach Amy Poduska said. “She’s not going to put in 80 miles a week, and she doesn’t need to. She’s very, very competitive.”
Katcher had run some small-town 5K races before her first middle-school meet.
“My first race, I wasn’t being super competitive, but Dad yelled, ‘You’ve got three in front of you. Get going!’” Katcher said, “It grew on me and I started to enjoy the long runs with my teammates.”
Katcher was a middle-school state champion in seventh and eighth grade. Her high school career got an early boost at a meet at Starmont.
“There were a couple of runners there that I probably wasn’t supposed to beat,” Katcher said. “When I did, it was a great boost that I belonged with the best of the best.”
Katcher won the Class 3A individual title that fall, then repeated as a sophomore.
She settled for second as a junior, then entered her senior season with a minor shin injury. But by the time the state meet rolled around, she was ready. And hungry.
“A couple of kids tried to stay with her, but when Adrianna gets to 2 miles, she starts hitting corners hard and exploding,” Poduska said. “She’ll change her pace, and others aren’t expecting that, and she’s able to maintain that.”
Katcher won going away, in 18:29, 11 seconds ahead of her closest pursuer.
“I remember, before the race, saying I wanted to go out with a really good time and finish with a grin on my face,” Katcher said.
And she did. After she caught her breath, her first act with the media was to thank God.
“He has blessed me with ability,” she said.
Two days later, it was on to basketball.
A versatile teammate
In Katcher’s four years of hoops, CPU compiled a 90-13 record. The Stormin’ Pointers made it to state all four years. In 2017, 2018 and 2020, they lost in the semifinals to the eventual champion.
In 2019, in Class 3A, they won it all.
“My junior year, we all had the same goal,” Katcher said. “Nobody cared who scored, as long as somebody did. We didn’t care about anything other than winning.
“We had people on the bench that had a lot of skills, and we kept each other accountable.”
Katcher entered the program as a quiet freshman. As time passed, she found her voice.
“Behind the scenes, she started to run the show and took more ownership,” CPU basketball coach Philip Klett said. “She had a good pulse as to what was going on.
“Her teammates like her. She’s a humble kid. She’s not going to brag.”
In high school, Katcher’s game was able to drive and score, or drive and dish, and her length made her an excellent defender.
“She’s so versatile. She can handle the ball, she can guard, do this, do that,” Klett said.
In college, most players will be her size. Katcher will need to adapt.
“Once she starts concentrating on basketball, she’s going to get so much better,” Stein said. “She’ll be able to play all five positions. She’ll face the basket a lot, attack the basket. We want her to run to the rim.”
Katcher is spending the summer remodeling her shot, releasing from the right side of her body instead of the left.
“They say it takes 30 days to break a habit, so that’s what I’m trying to do,” she said. “If I was scouting me, I would probably let me shoot until I proved I could make it.”
A future in physical therapy
The holder of a 3.98 grade-point average at CPU (three A-minuses kept her from a perfect 4.0), Katcher graduated No. 8 in a senior class of 128. She will major in exercise science, minor in business.
She wants to be a physical therapist after her playing days are over. And with nagging injuries to a shin, a hip and an Achilles heel throughout her high school career, she’s seen her share of physical-therapy offices.
“What I really want is to help people be 100 percent of what they can be,” she said.
At Center Point-Urbana, Katcher maximized her own potential.
“Seasons would change and she’d be right back at it, on to the next thing,” Kriegel said. “My concern was always, ‘Is it too much? Is her body going to break down?’
“She put the time in, and was rewarded. Her first year, she had so much success right out of the gate. You thought it could turn into something special, and it did.”
Adrianna Katcher, at a glance
Full name: Adrianna Jo Katcher
School: Center Point-Urbana
Birth date: Aug. 31, 2001
Family: Parents, Joshua and Amy Katcher; sisters, Kora, Deni and Isabelle
High-school accomplishments: A three-time Class 3A state cross country champion, winning as a freshman, sophomore and senior. First-team all-state selection in basketball as a junior, second-teamer as a senior. Starter on four state-tournament teams; the Stormin’ Pointers won the 2019 3A title and compiled a 90-13 in her four seasons. Multiple all-stater in soccer, highlighted by second-team status as a sophomore. Played on three state soccer teams, including a runner-up finish in 2017. A five-time state placewinner in track, including 3A 3,000-meter runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2018.
Future plans: Will play basketball at Southern Illinois University, majoring in exercise science and minoring in business.
(First place votes in parentheses)
1. Adrianna Katcher, Center Point-Urbana (8) 49
2. Abby and Grace Flanagan, North Linn (1) 27
3. Marie Hostetler, Mid-Prairie (1) 25
4. Kayba Laube, Marion 20
5. Caitlynn Daniels, Cedar Rapids Xavier 14
Others receiving votes (alphabetic order): Hannah Bridgewater, North Linn; Sommer Daniel, Tipton; Aubrey Joens, Iowa City High; Kaylin Kinney, Cedar Rapids Kennedy; Macey Kleitsch, West Delaware; Karsyn Stratton, Clear Creek Amana; Shateah Wetering, Montezuma
Others nominated (alphabetic order): Summer Brand, Mount Vernon; Dimia Burrell, Linn-Mar; Taylor Cannon, Iowa City Liberty; Claire Gaarde, Iowa City Regina; Sarena Garber, Hillcrest Academy; Jill Holub, Williamsburg; Kelly Kirchmann, Springville; Brylee Klosterman, Iowa City Liberty; Jenna Leggat, Cedar Rapids Prairie; Haylee Lehman, West Liberty; Sidney McCrea, Cedar Rapids Prairie; Mallory McDermott, Cedar Rapids Prairie; Rachel Nagel, Cedar Rapids Jefferson; Salima Omari, Iowa City West; Anna Pfeiffer, Western Dubuque; Carli Reittinger, Cedar Rapids Prairie; Emily Staal, Central City; Abigail Santana, Linn-Mar; Abby Welter, Cascade\
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