Much to Ryan Wood's dismay, this writer has no problem bucking tradition.
After much debate over some new, cute name for the annual "Rottsies," named after former Journal-World prep writer Steve Rottinghaus, I thought it only was fitting that the paper's last great prep guru be honored. So, without further ado, here are the 2004-05 Lawrence High "Woodsies."
¢ Team of the Year: It would be tough to overlook the LHS gymnastics squad, which captured the state title in November. The most exciting part, though, is that practically the entire team will be back. Freshman sensation Mallory West won the individual all-around state title, and she pretty much dominated every event she was in all year. Combined with older sister, junior Meredith West, and sophomore Kara Kellison, and the Lions will have a good shot at back-to-back titles next fall. Honorable mention: Volleyball (state runner-up), boys' basketball (15-8 overall, state berth).
¢ Male Athlete of the Year: It'll be awfully tough for junior Nolan Kellerman to do much better in 2005-06 than he did this season. Kellerman played a vital role in the backfield for the LHS football squad, totaling 430 yards on 99 carries with seven scores, and lettered in track as well. But most impressive on his resume this year was becoming the Lions' first individual state wrestling champion in 26 years, when he cleaned up in the 160-pound class. Kellerman did it with an unblemished 43-0 mark. Next season he'll have a shot at a repeat title, plus he'll be the motor in the backfield for a darned good football team. Honorable mention: senior Jeff Colter (football), senior Ian Handshy (football, basketball), junior Brian Heere (baseball, football), senior Pharouk Hussein (wrestling, soccer), senior Brennan Bechard (basketball).
¢ Female Athlete of the Year: Junior Sydney Wilson focused on golf after playing golf and volleyball in the past and contributed in basketball. Aside from taking the Sunflower League and regional titles on the links, Wilson became Lawrence High's very own "Downtown" Terry Brown. As a senior, Wilson will go for the elusive state golf title that she just missed in the past two years and will play a big role for a basketball squad that returns three starters. Honorable mention: senior Whitney Juneau (softball, golf), freshman Mallory West (gymnastics, diving), senior Bobi Riley (volleyball), senior Chelsey Ornburn (track, gymnastics).
¢ Male Newcomer of the Year: This one is a tie between two freshmen in the same sport : shoot, the same events even. Alex Boyer and Zach Henderson, a pair of rookie swimmers, both qualified for state this year in the 200 free and 500 free. They could help shift some of the swimming focus across town the next few years.
¢ Female Newcomer of the Year: Not much of a surprise here. It'd be silly to give this award to anyone other than Mallory West, who established herself as one of the state's elite gymnasts as just a freshman. She rarely struggled, and it wouldn't shock anyone if she repeated next year.
¢ Coach of the Year: Jo Huntsinger resigned as the LHS volleyball coach in January after 25 years with the program, both playing and coaching. Before she hung up the clipboard, she led her team on a storybook ride through the Class 6A state tournament. The Lions, who entered as the No. 8 seed, knocked off Free State in a five-game emotional marathon, then upset second-seeded Overland Park Aquinas in the semis, only to fall to No. 1 Washburn Rural in the title match. It was a magical run to cap a great coaching career.
¢ Game of the Year: As if it wasn't enough of a reach to say the Lawrence High boys basketball team could douse red-hot, top-ranked Free State in early February, there also was the fact that the Lions were thrashed by 27 points at Shawnee Mission South the night before. But somehow, some way, the Lions squeaked by the Firebirds, 44-42, which doubled as a catalyst for their late-season run. And the Lions BARELY got away with this one, as Free State's Sam Buhler missed a three-point heave at the buzzer. Bechard scored 18 points in the contest, and from that point on was the Lions' top offensive threat. After pulling off the year's biggest upset, LHS went 6-2 to earn a trip to Emporia for the state tournament.
¢ Performance of the Year: You knew bowling was going to show up at some point on this list, and where better than right here for Lawrence High freshman Tiffany Demaline. True, high school bowling in Kansas is in its infant stages, but Demaline had not one, but two stellar performances this year. First was her perfect 300 game Feb. 21, which she rolled while battling a cold. She followed it up two weeks later by becoming the first Kansas state bowling champion. Not bad, huh? (P.S. Bowling IS a sport).
¢ Team to Watch in 2005-06: Of course, Lawrence High football could be looking at a good fall, but under the radar, watch out for the girls basketball team. Coach Kristin Mallory loses the bulk of her post production in senior Megan Klingler, but the Lions could be really fun to watch on the perimeter. Three key pieces already are in place with junior court general Drew Huff, junior inside/outside threat Kayla Nolte and the aforementioned Wilson. If a few of last season's underclassmen step up to complement a strong senior class, the Lions could be pretty exciting.
¢ Names to Know for Next Year: junior Tyler Knight (basketball, baseball), sophomore John Novotny (baseball, basketball), junior Scott Penny (track, football), sophomore Abby Vestal (basketball, soccer), junior Drew Huff (basketball, softball), freshman Kelly Renfro (cross country, soccer).