2014 has a tough act to follow.
Today completes 2013 and the year has raised the bar to rarefied, almost unattainable, heights.
We had state championships, near championships, league championships and individual championships.
One or two sports didn’t dominate our landscape. There was a wide spectrum of success which ran the gamut of the calendar.
Of course, though, there were a few events that stood tallest among the rest.
Anytime McPherson High raises a banner, it’s a main event. For the 50th time in school history, a banner was raised in December at the Wall of Fame ceremony in honor of the MHS girls tennis team. A lot of schools can’t even say they’ve had a single state championship in a sport, yet McPherson’s array of pennants that adorn the Roundhouse causes jaws to drop by other schools that enter the sphere of success.
The Bullpup girls dominated Class 4A tennis unlike any MHS team ever before. Emily Ediger and Camry Holle earned automatic entrance on to the hallowed Wall of Fame by winning the state doubles championship (they officially go up once they graduate) and since both are juniors, they could possibly repeat if that’s the direction they want to go. Then you had Ellea Ediger coming up just short in the singles final, as MHS nearly pulled off a stunning sweep of the two titles.
Katlyn Reifschneider in singles, and Taylor Swartzendruber and Brooke Bate in doubles also placed, as the Bullpups piled up the points. The latter two were the only seniors.
Tennis dominated the headlines throughout the year. MHS boys’ coach Doug Gayer retired after 30 years and will be automatically on the Wall of Fame when his five-year waiting period is up. He led MHS to a third-place state finish this past spring and MHS’ doubles teams of Ben Davidson-Max Pyle and Ryan Horton-Peter Horton finished second and third, respectively, and the Bullpup teams had to face each other in the semifinals.
There was no shortage of excitement on the hardcourt, traditionally McPherson's most heralded sport. MHS’ girls came within three minutes of repeating as Class 4A state champions and the Bullpups’ Katelyn Loecker was named the Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year for the second straight year. The boys won the McPherson Invitational with a gutty win over undefeated and third-ranked (Class 6A) Shawnee Mission East in the finals, though they came up short in the sub-state when they were ousted by Abilene on the Cowboys’ home court.
Moundridge and Inman, the best rivalry West of the Mississippi, took their local show to the main stage by meeting in the first round of the Class 2A State Tournament. The Wildcats ended the Teutons’ 15-game winning streak and went on to take third place.
One of the amazing hoop stories of the year was the McPherson College men’s basketball team. After slumping all the way to eighth place during the regular season — after reaching the NAIA Final Four the year before — it figured to be little more than a formality for the Bulldogs to lose in the first round of the KCAC Tournament. But they stunned regular-season conference champion Saint Mary in overtime in the opener, shocked Friends on Kasey Miller’s buzzer-beater in the semis, then defeated Sterling in the championship game. As the 32nd and last seed in the field at nationals, the Bulldogs drew No. 1 William Penn in the opening round and scared the daylights out of it, leading in the second half before losing.
Also in basketball, Central Christian College’s Chris Jones was named an NAIA honorable mention All-American for the third straight year. He left the school as its all-time leading scorer, rebounder and was No. 1 in career blocked shots.
Football produced a number of headlines. McPherson High was thought to be in a major rebuilding project, yet made it to the second round of the Class 4A playoffs before being ousted by Andale. The Bullpups’ Kyler Kinnamon broke the 25-year-old single-season rushing record of Dwayne Chandler, while TJ Stites went over 1,000 yards despite not carrying the ball until the fifth game of the year. Garrett Larson was named first-team 4A All-State by the state’s Big Two papers.
It was a 5-6 year for McPherson College, whose coach Pete Sterbick resigned after the season, replaced by defensive coordinator Steve Fox. Bethany’s new coach Manny Matsakis found it tough going in his first year after being hired following the resignation of Jamie Cruce. The Swedes were 2-9 and finished last in the KCAC, but did have a road victory over Tabor, which went farther in the NAIA playoffs than any other conference team. Matsakis arrived in Lindsborg with a mile of accomplishments, so don’t expect the Swedes to be down for long.
McPherson High’s boys soccer and volleyball teams were at or near the top of the state rankings all fall. The soccer team wound up taking third at state and Dylan Blosser was named Area Player of the Year by The Hutchinson News. The volleyball team was ranked No. 1 throughout the regular season, but wound up going out in 4A state pool play after losing to eventual champion Miege and tall-and-talented Louisburg. MHS’ Paige Regnier also was recognized by The Hutchinson News as its Area Player of the Year.
On the track, Inman’s Grant Garst easily stole the show, earning two gold medals at the State Track and Field Championships at Wichita. It gave him three golds in his career. Also in the area, on the mat, Smoky Valley’s Trevor Whittaker won the first state wrestling title in school history, going 40-1 at 170 to grab the gold.
Other noteworthy events:
• McPherson High's Derick Goodson completed the most successful swimming career in school history, qualifying for state in eight events. He wound up winning a silver and bronze at Topeka, the highest finishes in school history.
• Treg Fawl won his third straight McPherson City golf title and fourth in the last five years. He combined with his father, Tony, for a third City two-man title.
• Cy Rolfs at McPherson College and Robert Lancaster at Central Christian College resigned their women’s basketball head coaching jobs. Longtime Kansas Wesleyan coach Gordon Reimer took over for Rolfs and Chris Honeck replaced Lancaster. Both new coaches have their teams off to surprisingly good starts.
• Moundridge’s girls volleyball team made the 2A State Tournament, going 1-2 in pool play.
• McPherson College offensive linemen Heath Hewitt was named as a Daktronics NAIA Academic All-American, one of only 24 players in the country to be selected.
• Bethany College’s men’s basketball team may be a story to watch in 2014 as it finished 2013 on an eight-game winning streak and is tied with Friends for the KCAC lead. The Swedes are led by Idris Ibin Idris, who has been in the top five in the nation in scoring for most of the season.