Lions look to keep things rolling during winter sports season
photo by: Nick Krug
The winter sports season kicked off Wednesday, which gives Lawrence High a chance to add to its recent success.
Lawrence’s girls track and field team captured a 6A state title this past spring and then the volleyball team took care of business by winning a state championship in the fall. LHS has a chance to keep the momentum going, as a pair of teams are ranked ahead of the 2018-19 campaign.
Here is a look at all of the Lions’ winter sports programs:
The Lions have made four consecutive trips to the state tournament, and have a pair of runner-up finishes to show for it.
But LHS might be even more loaded this year with a good balance of depth and athleticism across the board. Lawrence is ranked No. 2 in Class 6A via the preseason poll by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association, trailing only defending champs Blue Valley Northwest.
“I don’t put too much into (preseason rankings) at all,” said Mike Lewis, who is in his 10th season at the helm. “I think you have to play four or five games before you can really get it right.”
Senior Trey Quartlebaum, who is signed to play basketball at St. Francis Brooklyn, is back to direct a talented offense at point guard. Seniors Savonni Shazor, Clarence King, Brett Chapple and Eric Galbreath return for one more season. Sophomore Zeke Mayo is back after a strong rookie season.
LHS finished with a 13-10 record last year, including 8-5 in the Sunflower League.
“I like our guys, I like our balance and I like our depth,” Lewis said. “There are a lot of things I like about our team.”
LHS will have a tough test in the season opener, as it takes on Park Hill South at 5 p.m. during the 810 Varsity Tipoff Classic at Liberty (Mo.) High School.
After going 35-10 in the last two seasons, the Lions bring back a strong core of seniors hoping to go out on a strong note.
Hannah Stewart and Chisom Ajekwu, a Kansas signee, have started in each of the first three seasons. Seniors Leslie Ostronic, Sammy Williams and Evann Seratte are back for one final run on the hardwood. Juniors Sophie DeWitt and Ella Stewart are also key returners for the Lions.
Lawrence, which went 17-5 (10-3 Sunflower League) last year, is ranked No. 9 in Class 6A via the preseason coaches poll. The Lions, who fell in the sub-state championship last season, have a chance of getting back to the state tournament.
“We obviously have one of the top players in the state in Chisom,” fifth-year coach Jeff Dickson said. “Hannah Stewart is one of the best guards in the Sunflower League. That senior class has been to the state tournament, all of them have been a part of a state championship since they have been here in track or volleyball. They know what it takes to win.”
To start the season, Lawrence plays host to Topeka High at 7 p.m. Friday.
“I think the seniors set the mood for how the team is going to be run,” Seratte said. “I think we are doing a good job of setting the tone this year.”
Despite returning several athletes from last year, Lawrence will still have a youthful wrestling team this winter. Pat Naughton has 40 wrestlers on his team, including 18 freshmen, in his 13th season at the helm.
“It is going to be pretty exciting,” Naughton said. “Everything else is still the same. We will wrestle in Kansas City and we will wrestle in the Sunflower League, which is one of the tougher leagues in the state. It is going to be pretty interesting.”
Entering the season, LHS has three wrestlers ranked in Class 6A. Freshman Kevin Honas is No. 6 in the 106-pound weight class, while sophomore Logan Farrell is ranked No. 6 in the 113-pound weight class. Senior E.J. Jewsome is also listed at No. 6 in the 285-pound weight class.
Senior AJ Powell, who is competing in the 182-pound weight class, is also a key returner for LHS.
“We should be young, but we should have enough leadership to guide us through the entire season,” Naughton said.
LHS will compete in the Leavenworth tournament at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The Lions will have the tough task of replacing a pair of record holders after losing them to graduation.
LHS, which finished 11th at the 6A state swim meet, claimed five different top-three finishes last season. This year’s team will feature plenty of new faces, though seniors Braden Augustine, Tyler Jones and Giovani Lule-Paredes are ready to embrace larger roles.
“I’d say we are rebuilding, except we have a large senior class,” 13th-year head coach Kent McDonald said.
McDonald admitted the team is smaller this year with 25 swimmers compared to last year’s mark of 40.
“Being a senior, I have to be a team leader now,” Augustine said. “I have to set a good example for the younger kids, so that maybe they will stay.”
Lawrence returns to action for a quadrangular at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Kansas State University.