Just when I thought the sports success of 2013 in McPherson could never be surpassed, along came 2014 to upset the apple cart.
When looking back at 2014, it was filled with championships, both team and individual. More banners filled the Roundhouse, state titles were secured and there were big stories from beginning to end.
I was going to do a Top 10 of McPherson and the area combined, but there were so many good stories that I have decided to break it up into two, giving the McPherson area its own props.
As with any list, it’s subjective. It’s in the eyes of the beholder. What may be a big story to me may not seem as big to somebody else, and vice versa. It’s sure to cause conversation at the water cooler or around the dinner table.
Here is my Top 10 for McPherson sports in 2014:
1. McPherson High’s boys win their 12th state basketball championship. The only blemish along the way during a 23-1 season was a shocking first-round loss to Class 6A Wichita North in the McPherson Invitational, but MHS recovered from that to reel off 14 wins in a row. After cruising by Kansas City Sumner in the first round at state, the Bullpups survived an epic overtime challenge from Paola before thumping Topeka Hayden by 17 points in the state title game. MHS junior Kyler Kinnamon was first-team All-State All-Class and the championship was coach Kurt Kinnamon’s fifth, breaking a tie for the most at MHS with Mike Henson.
2. Tom Young steps down as McPherson High football coach. A late entry to the list, Young changed the entire football culture in McPherson. A graveyard for coaches since 1989, Young arrived in 2006 and produced nine straight playoff appearances and eight league titles. The Bullpups had a litany of All-State players and Shrine Bowlers. After going 46-107 from 1989-2005, MHS was 75-22 in Young’s tenure. This season may have been his best coaching job as the undermanned, depth-shy and injury-riddled Bullpups were 7-3 and upset Top 5 teams Buhler and Hays along the way. He also revolutionized the weight training program that will be in place for years to come.
3. Ryan Horton and Peter Horton win the 4A state doubles championship. The Hortons were among the last of a dying breed, the three-sport athlete who excels in all. They were third in the state in doubles in 2013 and the odds-on favorite to win the 2014 crown from the first day of practice. They didn’t allow the glare of the microscope to deter them, as it wrapped up quite a year for the duo. They were standouts on the state championship basketball team and the soccer team that took third in the state in 2013.
4. Amy Suenram wins the state long jump championship. This was one of the real feel-good stories as Suenram’s title literally came out of nowhere. She had entered the state track and field championships as the No. 6-ranked jumper in 4A. Her first two state attempts would not even have qualified her for the finals, but then she unfurled a 16-6 and it stood up the rest of the way.
5. McPherson High’s girls bowling team wins state. The Bullpup boys had won their title in 2008, now it was the girls’ turn. They got off to a slow start in their first game at state, but charged with strong efforts in the second and third games. Team members were Jasmine Wann, Crystal Nutter, Mayce Nightingale, Makenzie Benson, Rhianna Smith and Alexis Kieffer. Nutter and Nightingale placed ninth and 10th, respectively, and Wann was 12th. Herb Halinski joins the rare club of having coached both a boys and girls team to a state title. For good measure, the MHS boys took third at state.
6. McPherson’s American Legion baseball team wins the Class A state championship. The program won a state title for only the third time in the last 60 years, the last championship coming in 1975. What made this accomplishment even greater was that coach Tony Schmidt's team lost its very first state game, then roared all the way back through the loser’s bracket, something that had never been done in tournament history.
7. McPherson High's softball team nearly wins the state title. The Bullpups had a first-year coach in Danica Fitzmorris, yet finished second in the state after having never made the tournament in 27 years. The Bullpups had a consistent offensive lineup from 1 to 9 and the tireless pitching of Madison Hoffman was superb.
8. McPherson High’s girls tennis team takes second at state. The Bullpups came in as the reigning state champions and were ranked No. 1 the entire season. But Independence, inspired by the fact longtime coach Ken Brown was retiring after the meet, took command on the first day and the Bullpups could never catch up. Still, Tyler Brown’s team has continued the tradition that was started by Doug Gayer.
9. McPherson College’s men’s soccer team qualifies for nationals. Doug Quint's Bulldogs shared the KCAC regular-season championship with Kansas Wesleyan, then outlasted the Coyotes in the postseason tournament finals to qualify for nationals, where they were edged 2-1 by No. 3 seed Grand View University of Iowa after leading 1-0 for most of the game.
10. McPherson College’s track and field teams sweep the KCAC titles. The Bulldogs of coach Cameron Magnall pulled off an unprecedented feat in school history by winning the men’s and women’s KCAC titles.
• Five to Mention •
• McPherson High's girls volleyball team takes third at state and finishes 36-8.
• McPherson High's girls basketball team again qualifies for state.
• MHS' boys soccer team, despite just one senior and in a total reconstruction job, advances to the Elite Eight at state.
• Treg Fawl continues his domination of the McPherson local golfing scene by winning his fourth straight McPherson City championship. He also combines with his father, Tony, to repeat as the two-man champions.
• McPherson College football coach Steve Fox resigns and is replaced by Paul Mierkiewicz.