Gold was the top color of 2016 sports

By Steve Sell
December 31, 2016

It’s a rite on the last day of December to look back at the year and rank the top local sporting events that made headlines.

I really don’t like to condense it to a Top 10 because we’re fortunate in that we far surpass that number of five-star moments. 

So I’m going to list a Top 20 of 2016, as well as moments that earned honorable mention, and I’m sure I still left off an event or two that someone is going to believe to be list-worthy. Just be thankful we have so many great accomplishments to choose from.

1. McPherson High junior Elle Barrett wins double gold at state. Winning a state championship is a great feat, but for Barrett to win state in the long and triple jumps is exceptional. Don’t be surprised if she makes a serious run at a repeat in 2017.

2. Moundridge senior Peri Lange duplicates Barrett’s effort by winning the Class 2A 100 and 300 hurdle events. Lange was a dominant figure all year and helped the Wildcats to fourth place in Class 2A.

3. McPherson High sophomore Mandi Cooks wins state in the high jump. Cooks and Barrett led the Bullpups to a sweep of the jumping events in the Kansas State Track and Field Championships and the team placed fourth overall. Cooks is now a junior, so she has a shot at being a three-time state title-winner.

4. A state tennis championship was brought home in the form of the doubles team of McPherson High’s Ellea Ediger and Rachel Ivers. After finishing second in 2015 and being the top returning team in 2016, there was a lot of pressure on the Bullpup duo. But they basically steamrolled the competition to earn a future spot on the MHS Wall of Fame. The Bullpups nearly won the team state title as well, but took second to Wichita Collegiate.

5. Hesston High brought home a state doubles title as well. The boys team of Parker Roth and Grant Dahlsten rolled to the Class 3-2-1A championship, helping the Swathers to a runner-up team finish.

6. McPherson College’s Art Hop is the NAIA national champion in the pole vault. Hop goes down as one of the all-time Bulldog greats during a spring where track and field, while not a glamour sport in terms of attracting fans, was the highlight of the year. Mac’s Brandt Wolters was third nationally in the javelin and Chris Linnin was eighth in the high jump, giving the Bulldogs an unprecedented three All-Americans.

7. Hesston’s 4 x 800 relay team is the best in Class 3A by taking first at Cessna Stadium. Jon Weber, Zach Esau, Luccas Schmucker and Austin Bollinger combined for a 4-second victory to grab the gold.

8. McPherson High’s Andric McGill becomes the state’s all-time leading soccer goal-scorer for boys. Although the Bullpups’ season ended earlier than had been hoped, McGill’s last career MHS goal gave him the state record of 101, eclipsing the old record by one.

9. McPherson High’s boys basketball team takes second in the state. Bishop Miege denied MHS a 3-peat by rallying in the fourth quarter for a 69-59 victory. With a 23-2 record, MHS was 71-3 during the last three years. MHS’ Drew Pyle was later named Kansas’ Mr. Basketball.

10. Hesston’s football team takes second in Class 3A. The Swathers were almost an afterthought after four weeks of the season as they were 1-3. But they rode a prolific and balanced offense to nine straight wins to earn a spot opposite of defending state champion Rossville in the finals. Hesston led nearly the entire game before Rossville tied it late in regulation, then won it in overtime, 48-42.

11. MHS’ boys tennis team takes second in Class 4A. Like the girls, the boys also came up just short to Wichita Collegiate in the spring. MHS’ doubles team of Nolan Schrader and Kento Aizawa made it to the finals before losing to a team from Miege. With nearly everybody back, the Bullpups will be dueling Collegiate again this year.

12. Hesston High’s volleyball team finishes second in Class 3A. After defeating No. 1 Silver Lake on Friday in pool play, the Swathers couldn’t repeat the feat on Saturday during the tourney finals. But it was still a great year for the Swathers, who are becoming state regulars.

13. Smoky Valley’s cross country team takes second in Class 4A. Even though the Vikings are among the smallest schools in the class, they enjoyed a spectacular year. Smoky Valley’s Calvin Shannon placed third individually.

14. McPherson High’s girls soccer team places third in the state after taking second the year before. The Bullpups had a tremendous season, but were outlasted 1-0 by Miege in the Class 4-1A state semifinals before coming back to defeat DeSoto 2-1 in overtime to win the consolation game.

15. McPherson High's girls basketball team once again advances to state, where it loses in the first round to Labette County. The Bullpups had another great year, going 20-3. Also making it to state, but losing in the first round, were the Moundridge girls, Elyria Christian School girls and Smoky Valley boys.

16. McPherson College’s tennis teams both make nationals in Mobile, Ala. The Mac women won the KCAC title and the postseason tournament title to complete the sweep, while the men won the postseason tournament to advance, joining regular-season champion Bethany.

17. McPherson High’s football team returns to the playoffs. After failing to qualify for state in 2015, ending a nine-year playoff run, the Bullpups got right back on the horse. After losing their first two games of the season to ranked teams Buhler and Maize South, the Bullpups reeled off eight wins in a row before losing to Maize South in the second round. Drew Labertew’s field goal with 13 seconds left in the game had given the Bullpups their first-round victory over Andale in one of the most exciting finishes in school history.

18. Area schools Smoky Valley, Moundridge and Little River joined McPherson and Hesston in the playoffs. Smoky Valley won its first-round game against Nickerson before losing to eventual 4A Division II champion Pratt in the second round. Moundridge and Little River went out in the first round.

19. McPherson High’s volleyball team made its annual trip to state. The Bullpups are basically written in every year as a state qualifier, but were unable to make it to Saturday’s Final Four after going 1-2 in pool play.

20. Central Christian College’s men’s basketball team makes nationals. The Tigers of coach Tony Romero had a splendid season, winning 20 games and advancing to nationals, where they placed sixth.

• High Honorable Mention •

1. Carol Swenson of McPherson is named to the Kansas State High School Activities Association Hall of Fame. Swenson was a longtime coach and administrator at McPherson High and later the Sports Information Director at McPherson College, earlier making the MHS Wall of Fame and the McPherson College Hall of Fame. He's also the longtime voice of the Kansas State Track and Field Championships along with Don Steffens.

2. Central Christian College’s women’s soccer team once again qualified for nationals. The Tigers didn’t quite approach last year’s 20-win season, but they did earn another trip to the NCCAA tournament where they went 0-2 as coach Scott Fogarty has something special going.

3. McPherson High grad Addie Lanning wins the women's 136-pound national wrestling championship while competing for Ottawa University.

4. The McPherson High Wall of Fame announces its new class — Kento Aizawa, Doug Gayer, Breckon Kaufman, Megan Pedersen, Drew Pyle and Amy Suenram.

5. McPherson College welcomes three new members to its Hall of Fame — Erica Alvarez, Kenny Romero and Tom Worthing.

6. McPherson High swimmer Eric Gaeddert makes the Elite 8 in two events at state, finishing fifth and sixth. For the girls, Hailey Cutting and Katie Wurm made the finals individually in their events, with Cutting taking a sixth and Wurm garnering a pair of eighths. A relay team also made the finals, taking seventh. Cutting, Wurm, Maggie Leaf and Olivia Hansen were on that team.

7. McPherson High bowlers Carl Frazier and Bailey Holton make state as the Bullpups still have had a qualifier for state in every year of the program's existence.

8. Mya Kretzer is a double All-American at the USA Wrestling National Championships during the summer.

9. McPherson's Senior American Legion baseball team takes third in the state. The core group of the team finished first, second and third in the state the last three years.

10. Jacob Lackey ends Treg Fawl's five-year stranglehold on the McPherson City Golf Tournament title. Lackey eagled the final hole of the event to nip Fawl by one shot. Lackey also combined with Casey Cheek to win the 2-Man title.