Gerken 'set' the path for special Norwalk teams

Mark Hazelwood • Jan 24, 2018 at 9:00 AM

It all came flooding back to Jess Gerken Miron.

A 1994 Norwalk graduate, Gerken finished with one of the best careers and was a focal point on one of the greatest team of the 32-year tenure of longtime Norwalk volleyball coach and Hall of Famer Grace Hutchinson.

Gerken is one of seven members in the 10th Norwalk High School Hall of Fame class this weekend.

A dinner and banquet to honor this year’s class will be held at the Ernsthausen Performing Arts Center at 5 p.m. Saturday prior to the boys basketball home game vs. Huron. Tickets will cost $15 for the dinner and banquet, and can be purchased from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the NHS athletic office.

This year’s other inductees are Bill Albright (athletic), Dave Ballard (distinguished), Chris Bleile (athletic), Dr. Virginia Showers Ingram (academic), Carrie Monnes Sheehan (athletic) and Tim Sommers (athletic).

Recently, Gerken Miron sat down to explain to her two young children about her time at Norwalk — and opened up multiple scrapbooks.

“And honestly, the thing that stuck out to me the most was the cards and letters, all of these notes of encouragement that I had received from people in the community,” Gerken said. “From teachers, people like Skip Wilde from Domino’s — all of these people who didn’t even know us personally, but were so behind us.

“It was such a neat place to grow up,” she added. “I know Norwalk maybe has its flaws, but the community I remember was full of great support — and I have nothing but fond memories of it all.”

As a setter, Gerken finished with 1,226 assists in her career — which stood as a program record at the time of her graduation. Her 40 assists in a home match against Bellevue in 1993 was also a new program mark and stood for seven years.

In 1991, Gerken was nearly flawless at setter as just a sophomore. She converted 99 percent of her sets (466-of-471) over the course of 24 matches. The Ladies in Blue finished 17-7, finishing as district runners-up.

In 1992, her numbers were equally as impressive for Norwalk, which finished the season at 19-2 overall. Gerken was 571-of-577 setting for another 99 percent performance in 21 matches. Those numbers earned her All-Northern Ohio League first team honors, while being voted second team District 6 and honorable mention All-Ohio in Division II.

However, that team was upset early in the tournament — an unexpected occurrence at Norwalk, even still today.

“After the disappointment wore off, we all as a team believed that next year was going to be our year,” Gerken said. “That was the feeling. We started the season really excited about the possibility of going far — not knowing obviously how exciting it would turn out, but knowing there was the chance we could do special things.”

Indeed, 1993 will always be Gerken’s highest achievement as a member of the Ladies in Blue. Her 549 assists in 27 matches stood as the program record for single-season assists for seven years.

Norwalk went undefeated (20-0) in the regular season in 1993, finishing as the Ohio Volleyball Coaches Association Div. II state poll champions. The Ladies in Blue then finally broke through the regional round, winning six tournament matches to reach the state semifinals for the first time in program history.

Norwalk lost a three-set match to Cincinnati St. Ursula, as Gerken finished with 24 assists in the match. For her efforts, she was voted to the All-NOL, District 6 and All-Ohio first teams for the 1993 season.

“The chemistry with all of the players was amazing,” Gerken said. “I don’t remember, and maybe its just rose-colored glasses on my part, but I don’t remember there being any arguments or petty things amongst the team.

“We were all such good friends on and off the court,” she added. “And obviously several of us had played together for a few years, so there was definitely a strong trust with each other.”

As a team, Norwalk went 45-3 over Gerken’s junior and senior seasons, winning two league titles and the district and regional championships in 1993. Over her three years as a starter, the Ladies in Blue were 62-10.

“Obviously Coach Hutch was the best coach in my opinion,” Gerken said. “I never had a coach like her before or since. She was wonderful for us, and she really knew how to motivate us — and how to really play off of our strengths. She brought out the best in all of us.”

After high school, Gerken went on to play at the collegiate level for two seasons at Div. I Tennessee Tech University. She graduated from TTU with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and spent several years as a teacher.

She met her husband, Josh, in Tulsa, and the couple married in 2005. They have two children, Greta, 9, and Otto, 8.

In 2012, the family moved to Dayton. Two years later, Gerken Miron stopped teaching as her and Josh began their own business. The couple owns and operates a repair and remodeling shop for RVs and vintage campers.

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