There weren’t any State or National team champions crowned in the CourierTraveler coverage area in 2019, but the decade didn’t end without fanfare.
A lot of team plaques and individual medals were handed out, with the most notable stories below, as voted by members of the newsroom staff.
Ark City vs. Winfield Part II
As far back as historians can dig, the sometimes on-sometimes off rivalry game between Arkansas City and Winfield that was dubbed the Cowley Cup in (year?) was the only time during football season that the Cowley County schools clashed.
When seedings were set for the KSHSAA Class 4A State playoffs, attention in this area immediately turned to the second-round Regional bracket on Nov. 8.
That’s because the Vikings had a Week 9 playoff game against league foe El Dorado at home — a team Winfield had already decisively defeated earlier in the season — while the Bulldogs had a very winnable game on the road at Ulysses — one of the smaller 4A schools that played a much easier schedule than Ark City’s brutal trek through the Wichita Metro area.
Two Week 9 playoff wins and the bracket was set up perfectly for the arch rivals to meet in the 4A Regionals.
The Vikings captured the Cowley Cup game on Sept. 6 in Week 1 of the regular season, defeating Ark City 20-18 on an 18-yard touchdown pass from KC Crandall to Chance Price at Richard L. Jantz Stadium.
The Cup went to Winfield, but the Regional plaque went to Ark City.
It took nine weeks for the Bulldogs to get their unlikely rematch, but they made the most of it.
Shut out through the first half, Ark City scored 13 unanswered points to stymie the Vikings 13-3 in the Nov. 8 rematch at Jantz Stadium.
Braiden Mattocks provided the go-ahead scored with an 18-yard touchdown run with 4:08 left in the third quarter.
In an odd twist of irony, the run by Mattocks was the same length as the touchdown pass by Crandall to Price that toppled Ark City in Week 1.
Lady Tigers make history
The Lady Tigers had to wait almost a month for the chance to take on No. 13-ranked Butler.
The two teams were locked in a 1-1 tie on Oct. 3 when lightning crashed in Arkansas City. Because the game was suspended two minutes shy of being official, it had to be replayed from the beginning.
Fast-forward to the rescheduled match on Oct. 22 and all of a sudden, the game took on more meaning.
That’s because when the No. 19-ranked Lady Tigers finished a 2-1 victory, it clinched the Jayhawk East title — the first in the young history of the program.
Cowley went on to defeat Dodge City 1-0 in the first round of the Region VI playoffs, and followed it up with a thrilling 2-1 victory against the same Butler Lady Grizzlies on Nov. 1 in Ark City.
The magical run ended a week later in a 5-1 loss to Hill College in the Plains District semifinals in Wichita.
The 14 wins (14-4) were the most ever in a season for the Lady Tigers, who swept the Offensive (Natalia Lima) and Defensive (Harlie Findley) Player of the Year awards. Ruy Vaz was named Jayhawk East Coach of the Year for the second straight year.
Second at State
Ranked No. 2 in Class 4A for most of the regular season, the Winfield High School wrestling team dropped to eighth entering the KSHSAA Class 4A State Championships.
The Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association had it right the first time.
The Vikings continued their surge of prominence under head coach Nick McGrew, taking home the second-place plaque Feb. 23 at the Big Show in Salina.
Winfield finished just 12 1/2 points behind surprising Class 4A State champion Marysville, and eight points ahead of No. 1-ranked Scott City.
The Vikings were led by senior Owen Braungardt, who captured the State title at 182 pounds, and sophomore Braden Ledford, who won State gold at 113 pounds.
Braungardt’s first-round victory against Logan Hall of Fort Scott was victory No. 100 for his high school career.
Olympics in the air
Kelsey Stewart was a standout pitcher and infielder for three years at Arkansas City High School before moving to Maize.
The four-time All-State first-teamer was named Gatorade Player of the Year as a sophomore, and once struck out all 15 batters she faced in a three-inning perfect game in the State playoffs.
Stewart went on to a stellar career at the University of Florida, where she was twice named Southeastern Conference Player of the Year. She went on to win two NCAA D-I National championships (2014 and ’15) as a member of the Lady Gators.
A world trek as a member of the National squad was followed by Stewart signing a professional contract with the USSSA Florida Pride.
Not much left to accomplish as a softball player, huh?
The 2012 Maize High grad and former four-sport Lady Bulldog qualified in October to compete in July for the United States on the 2020 Olympic softball team in Tokyo.
Stan Boggs had some big shoes to fill when he agreed to take over the Winfield High School girls tennis program after head coach Brian Shaw was diagnosed and eventually lost his battle with cancer on Sept. 25, 2018.
The Lady Vikings were there right alongside him.
Winfield qualified the entire varsity team to the KSHSAA Class 4A State Championships on Oct. 18-19.
The Lady Vikings placed 11th at the Big Show, in part because one of their players had to bow out of the tourney with an injury. But that did little to diminish the emotions that flowed through the community and the program.
Boggs was rewarded for his efforts when the Kansas Tennis Coaches Association recognized him as the Class 4A Girls Tennis Coach of the Year for the entire state.
Boggs and Shaw were mainstays of the tennis programs throughout Winfield, through the school system to the Winfield Recreation Commission.
“A lot of the girls had been with (Shaw) through the rec program,” Boggs said the night he was honored in February between basketball games at Ollie Thomas Gymnasium. “They knew Coach — and it was tough. But they knew how his expectations were and how he would have liked for them to handle things, and they did.”
Third on the links
Winfield High School junior Elly Bertholf fired a 90 to capture the Class 4A Regional title Oct. 14 at the Class 4A Regional Championships at Quail Ridge Golf Club in Winfield.
The Lady Vikings earned four top-10 medals, and every member of the team finished in the top 20.
That, of course, was paramount to success at the Big Show.
The Vikings qualified the entire team to the KSHSAA Class 4A State Championships, and that led to a third-place finish.
Bertholf finished in sixth place in the two-day meet, firing rounds of 87 and 89 for a 176.
Sophomore Chaney Littell tied for ninth, while Kenzie Graham (32nd), Savanna Nickum (33) and Dalin Bartel (38) also placed in the top 40. Celine Mendoza wasn’t far behind in 44th.
What better way to reach a milestone than with a playoff victory against an arch rivals.
Udall High School softball head coach Jack Kistler recorded victory No. 400 in his 19-year career May 13 when the Lady Eagles defeated arch rival Oxford 5-2 in the semifinals of the Class 2-1A Regional Tournament.
Udall began a softball program in 1991, and Kistler became an assistant coach in 1999. Two years later he took over the program.
The Lady Eagles’ State tournament appearance in 2003 was the first of six consecutive trips to the Big Show.
Upset of the season
The Southwestern College men’s basketball team advanced to the championship game at the KCAC Tournament. But for the No. 8-ranked Moundbuilders to win the title, they would have to get past the No. 1 team in the nation.
Southwestern stunned to-seeded and No. 1 Oklahoma Wesleyan 78-75 for the title Feb. 25 at Hartman Arena.
Cameron Hunt had a 29-point, 12-rebound double-double and eventually earned KCAC Player of the Year honors after leading the circuit with 31.7 points per game, second in the NAIA. He was NIAA National Player of the Week twice.
Second place again
Arkansas City has been synonymous with high school wrestling success for many decades.
For the Bulldogs, a second-place finish Feb. 23 at the KSHSAA Class 5A State Championships in Wichita might be a bit of a letdown. However, new nemesis and AV-CTL D-II foe Goddard reeled off four consecutive 5A State titles, leaving the Bulldogs with three straight second-place plaques.
Runner-up at the Big Show is still a huge achievement, regardless the history or the sport. And in taking home second, the Bulldogs also brought home their customary individual State medals.
Two of those were 5A State champions — and one of them three-peated.
Senior Montez Robinson ended his illustrious high school career with his third State title, while senior Gabe Buckbee also repeated as a State champion.
Robinson captured the gold medal at 152 pounds. Buckbee took home the title at 132 in a thrilling 2-1 ultimate tiebreaker against No. 1-ranked Aidan Campbell of Maize.
Cowley College volleyball head coach Steven Gream entered the 2019 season just two wins shy of No. 100 in his Lady Tigers tenure.
He wasted little time reaching the milestone.
The No. 8-ranked Lady Tigers opened the season Aug. 28 with a home triangular at W.S. Scott Auditorium.
Cowley had no trouble sweeping the Southwestern College junior varsity 25-8, 25-19, 25-14 for victory No. 99. A 28-26, 25-22, 25-11 sweep of Jayhawk East foe Independence quickly followed.
Gream led the Lady Tigers to a share of the conference title in his first season at the helm. Cowley captured the District N title and reached 40 wins in a season for the first time since 1979 in his second year.
Gream’s Lady Tigers won 33 more games in his third season, in 2018, and he entered this past season with a 98-23 career record at Cowley.
The Lady Tigers finished the season with a 31-6 record — their 19th straight winning season that included a 26-match winning streak — and ended with a 20-win season for the 41st time in 44 years of volleyball.
• Doubles trouble
Arkansas City High School senior Jacey Arnett, a reigning Class 5A State doubles champion, ended her high school tennis career with a third-place medal alongside junior Ellie Messenger at the KSHSAA Class 5A State Championships.
The Lady Bulldog tandem entered the Big Show as Class 5A Regional champions and advanced to the championship semifinals before falling 6-4, 6-4 to Molly Book and Madi Biondo of St. James. However, the ACHS duo bounced back with a 6-3, 6-2 triumph against the Bishop Carroll team of Hope Lubbers and Heidi Lubbers for the third-place medals.
• All-State accolades
Udall High School senior Madison Loos ended her high school career with selection to the Class 2-1A All-State first team.
Teammate Emma Enderud was named to the 2-1A All-State second team.
Arkansas City High grad Kelsey Daniel earned second-team honors on the Class 5A All-State team, and Winfield pitcher Aleigha Gale was selected to the second-team All-State in Class 4A.
• More All-State honors
Arkansas City High School grad Garrett VanDeventer was named to the first-team All-State in Class 5A baseball.
VanDeventer compiled a 4-3 record and 1.54 ERA just one year after going 8-0 with a 1.17 ERA in helping to lead the Bulldogs to the KSHSAA Class 4A State title.
Winfield High junior Conner Woods was named to the second-team All-State in Class 4A. Teammate KC Crandall earned honorable mention All-State.
Cedar Vale/Dexter senior Braden Snyder and junior Devin Catlin both were named to the second-team All-State in Class 2-1A.
Southwestern College senior Kari Blattner and sophomore Bryce Grahn captured All-American honors at the three-day NAIA National Track & Field Championships.
Grahn was National runner-up in the steeplechase, while Blattner placed eighth in the same event.
• Most valuable
Cowley College sophomore Ashton Friend, who led the Lady Tigers in nearly every offensive category, was named the KJCCC D-II Most Valuable Player.
Friend batted .473 with 13 home runs and 51 RBI while splitting time between right field and the pitcher’s circle.
• Simply golden
Southwestern College sophomore outfielder Cassidy Schubert earned a Gold Glove award in voting by KCAC softball coaches.
The conference selected just one player at each position for the prestigious honor.
The right fielder recorded 43 putouts and two assists, without committing an error.