Preps notebook: Top 10 high school sports moments of 2019

photo by: Carter Gaskins

The Lawrence High girls swim team jumps in the pool as they are announced as the state champions following the 6A state swim meet at Capitol Federal Natatorium.

Finding enough feats for this list was the easy part.

Once again, another successful year in high school sports has come and gone. In 2019, three teams won state titles, with two of those teams defending their crowns. Two more teams made it all the way to the title games, ending the year with runner-up finishes. To top it off, a number of area athletes walked away with individual titles in their respective sports over the last 12 months.

It was almost as much fun taking a trip down memory lane for this story as it was covering these accomplishments this past year. With that, let’s take a look at the top 10 moments from the 2019 high school sports season:

LHS girls swim posts dominant run to state title

Lawrence High’s girls swim team won its first state title since 1994, but the dominance in the pool all year was just as impressive. The Lions won all 11 of their meets in 2019, including nine in the regular season.

LHS won 72 events in the regular season alone, led by 11 first-place finishes from Emily Guo. Madi Heckman, Morgan Jones, Maddie Dean, Marian Frick, Aubrey Fischer, Iris Sherron and Eden Kingery all won multiple events as well. Kent McDonald was named the Class 6A coach of the year after LHS defeated the runner-up by 20 points in the state meet.

FSHS softball defends crown

After netting its first state title in program history, the Firebirds defended their crown with targets on their backs in 2019. Free State went 23-2 on the year, capping things with a 1-0 win over previously unbeaten Washburn Rural in the state championship game. FSHS pitcher Tatum Clopton tossed five shutouts in as many games during the postseason, earning Gatorade Kansas Player of the Year as a sophomore.

Lawrence girls track runs it back

The Lions managed to earn a state title for the second consecutive season in 2019. LHS finished 22 points higher than the runner-up, becoming the first back-to-back champion in 6A girls since Free State did so in 2013 and 2014. Hannah Stewart and Evann Seratte earned a medal in all four of their events during their last showing with LHS. Lawrence also placed first at regionals and the Sunflower League meet.

Henry Nelson caps career with big win

Bishop Seabury’s standout runner took home a gold medal in his final state cross-country meet. Nelson beat the runner-up by 26 seconds to claim a Class 2A state title for the Seahawks. He earned medals at six meets this season, winning four of them. Nelson netted first at regionals and state to conclude a stellar cross-country career with BSA.

Area athletes notch track titles

Plenty of area athletes reached the top of the podium in the state track meet last spring. Josie Hickerson (pole vault) and Asjah Harris (200 meter) won individual state titles for LHS girls. The 4×100-meter relay unit of Ashley Wildeman, Amaya Harris, Bella Kirkwood and Asjah Harris also won a state title for the second year in a row.

Baldwin’s quartet of Josie Boyle, Natalie Beiter, Isabelle Harvey and Carly Lindenmeyer won Class 4A girls 4×400-meter relay. On the boys side, Shane Quinlan of Perry-Lecompton won the Class 3A boys 400-meter run with a school-record time, and Cole Sample of Tonganoxie was victorious in the Class 4A boys shot put.

Local swimmers claim gold medals at state meet

Though Free State didn’t win a team title in the pool, a pair of swimmers ended the year by climbing to the top of the podium. Reilley Moore won the 100 butterfly and Benjamin Vorthmann won the 100 free in the 6A boys swim meet. Both swimmers are back for more with the Firebirds in 2020.

A trio of first-place finishes in state wrestling

A Tonganoxie tandem made history by winning their respective weight classes at the 4A state wrestling meet. Korbin Riedel became the first state champion in program history when he won the 152-pound weight class, finishing his senior year with a 42-0 record. Connor Searcy, Riedel’s teammate, then joined him by winning the 195-pound weight class to end his junior campaign with a 28-2 clip. Free State’s Elijah Jacobs secured a crown in the 145-pound weight class in Class 6A to end his career on a strong note.

A memorable year on the hardwood

It’s no surprise that Lawrence is home to a strong high school basketball scene, but last year was something else. Free State, Lawrence High, Bishop Seabury, Veritas and Perry-Lecompton all made it to the state tournament on the boys side. Veritas finished as a runner-up and PLHS placed third in Class 3A. LHS netted a Sunflower League title and won a pair of midseason tournaments as well.

On the girls side, Baldwin notched third in Class 4A after winning a state title the previous season. Eudora earned its first trip to the state tournament in 10 years, falling in the opening round in Class 4A.

FSHS baseball nets a runner-up finish

It might not have ended the way they wanted, but the Firebirds had a special season on the baseball diamond. Free State went 21-4, which included a 14-game winning streak at one point, before ending the year with a walk-off loss in the state championship game. FSHS also won its ninth league title in program history and first since 2013. Ethan Bradford, who is now pitching at Nebraska, anchored a dominant rotation to help carry the Firebirds all year.

Perry-Lecompton secures second in 3A football

Perry-Lecompton’s football team finished as a runner-up in Class 3A, falling to unbeaten Andale in the championship game. It was the first time in 11 years that the Kaws advanced that far in the postseason, when they also lost in the title game. PLHS, which started the year with one win through the first three weeks, finished the season with a 9-4 clip. Running back Thad Metcalfe accumulated 1,241 yards and 12 scores on 215 carries to lead the way in his junior campaign.

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