My editor told me Sunday I needed to do an awards column.
He told me it probably was the most-read story each year by high-school athletes. He told me I should have a catchy name for the awards, something like the Rottsies.
He told me a lot of things.
I can live with an awards column, and I can deal with the pressure of them being as fair and impartial as a panel of one can make them.
But a catchy name? What I am supposed to do with Miller? I'll stick with the tried and true.
So, in honor of my predecessor, Steve Rottinghaus, I give you the Rottsies. May they live forever.¢
Team of the year: Boys cross country. At a school like Lawrence High, every team is saddled with high expectations -- that's the rub with all those state titles. But no team -- not baseball, football or girls basketball -- had the expectations Dick Reamon's boys did. The Lions were merely ranked No. 1 throughout the fall, won six meets, including Sunflower League and Class 6A regionals, and placed eighth at the ridiculously loaded Rim Rock Farm High School Classic. A runner-up finish at state was by seven points to Shawnee Mission Northwest, which has won 12 of the last 14 state titles. That's tough. Other teams only hope to come so close.¢
Coach of year: Kristin Mallory. After nine wins in Mallory's first year, the Lions stormed to a 9-1 mark to start the season. She has talent, sure, but injuries to junior Rachael Klingler and senior Leigh DeBiasse made things tough down the stretch. How do you ignore a coach that leads a team to its most wins in more than 10 years? You don't.¢
Outstanding senior boy: Chris Fulton. The toughest category by far, where strong cases could be made for Tommy Mangino, Aaron Madill, Brandon McAnderson, Dylan McClain and Derrick Newman, but I'll go with the most explosive athlete of them all. Not only did Fulton snag a couple of second-place finishes and a third at the state track and field meet, he's also seventh all-time on the Lions' single-season rushing list with 1,340 yards.¢
Outstanding senior girl: Audrey Pope. Pope missed a state championship in the 300-meter hurdles by less than a foot and added a pair of fourth-place medals from the 4x100 and 4x400 relays. She started every basketball game this season as the Lions' best defender and most athletic player. Pope will continue running track next year at Jackson State University.¢
Outstanding junior boy: Carl Lisher. Lisher began the football season as the starting center, but ended up playing both ways as he and McAnderson patrolled the field at middle linebacker. Lisher was one of the best hitters on the diamond, too. He came through with game-winning RBIs twice, capping four-run deficits.¢
Outstanding junior girl: Cherrale Ricks. A close call over Josie Polk, who led the girls basketball team in scoring, and Rachael Klingler, another hoops starter and state qualifier in the high jump. But I'll go with Ricks because there's nobody tougher underneath the boards and nobody who plays bigger down low with a 5-foot-8 frame.¢
Outstanding sophomore boy: David Freeman. He started the final nine games for the boys basketball squad, leading it in scoring in four of them, and garnered Sunflower League sophomore-of-the-year honors. If not for the baseball team's pitching depth this season, he likely would have earned a spot in the rotation -- but that'll come next year.¢
Outstanding sophomore girl: Whitney Juneau. A second-team All-Sunflower League selection for softball, Juneau was unquestionably the Lions' ace this season. She pitched all 10 innings in a 2-1 win against Shawnee Mission Northwest (more on that later) and nearly did the same in the regional final against Manhattan. For good measure, Juneau consistently was the Lions' second-best golfer.¢
Outstanding freshman boy: Chris Cates. One of four standout freshman wrestlers, Cates placed second at the Sunflower League tournament and at regionals. The 103-pound Cates went 20-7, winning a match at the state tournament.¢
Outstanding freshman girl: Sydney Wilson. A two-girl race between Wilson and softball's Drew Huff, Wilson gets the nod because of her poise in big situations. She was third in the Sunflower League golf tournament, second at regionals and 21st at state, just missing all-state honors.¢
Scholar-athlete: Brian Seymour. A three-sport standout, Seymour is just as good in the classroom. He carries a 3.95 GPA and thought about playing Ivy League football next year before sticking around Lawrence to be a preferred walk-on at Kansas University.¢
Comeback of the year: LHS baseball 8, St. Louis (Mo.) Chaminade Prep 7. The Lions mounted a four-run comeback a week earlier, but this one was more impressive because they had been playing poorly. Down 7-4 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, LHS had a double, a walk, an RBI double, a two-RBI single, a single and, finally, Lisher's game-winning rope down the left-field line.¢
Play of the year: McAnderson. In the Lions' 40-21 playoff victory over Blue Valley North, his touchdown in the second quarter was a marvel of twisting, turning and bulling his way through three tackles, rolling over Seymour and keeping his legs moving. I still can't believe it when I see the replay as he rumbles 59 yards for the score.¢
Game of the year: LHS softball beats Shawnee Mission Northwest. Not many teams did this season, since the Cougars won the Class 6A state title, but the Lions won a classic in the last week of the regular season, 2-1 in 10 innings. LHS had lost the first game, 2-0 in 11 innings, three days earlier when rain postponed the nightcap. When Huff drilled a grounder that scored Jenny Narcomey, the Lions handed SMNW its second loss of the season.¢
Game of the year, part two: LHS boys basketball 84, Olathe East 62. Junior Taylor Parker scored 25 points, Freeman added 16, and McAnderson scored 15 as the Lions dismantled what had been the league's No. 2 team. Amazing game from a team that had averaged just 50 points a game.¢
Dominating performance: The Lions' offensive line against Shawnee Mission East. LHS had more yards and scored more touchdowns in other games, but this one was sick. At the time, the Lancers ranked second among Sunflower League defenses, but LHS rolled up 355 yards in the 21-7 win -- not counting another 145 yards nullified because of penalties. Those big fellas that opened holes? Newman, Kenny Poeverlein, Lisher, Clayton Kellerman, Bobby Brubaker, Josh Lawrence, Nathan Lindsay and Tywnnin Brown.¢
Breakthrough of the year: Amy Magnuson. The freshman qualified for the state track-and-field meet in the 100 hurdles and long jump, surprising most of her competitors in the process. She didn't join the Lions until the Shawnee Mission North Relays May 9, the last meet before Sunflower League. For her only three meets -- league, regionals and state -- she finished second, third and third in the 100 hurdles.