Preps Notebook: Stewart ready for new challenge at UMKC; Free State, LHS sending 42 athletes to state

photo by: Conner Becker/Journal-World

Lawrence High senior Cree Stewart is committed to playing college soccer at UMKC next fall. She helped the Lady Lions build on young talent during her final season.

One key soccer storyline this season was Lawrence High senior goalkeeper Cree Stewart. Surpassing 500 saves during her junior season, Stewart’s recruitment exploded last summer and the soon-to-be LHS alumna committed to the University of Missouri-Kansas City last month.

LHS coach Joe Comparato’s second season with LHS (1-14-0) doesn’t quite shine off the page, but it demonstrated a young club’s competitiveness within a tough Sunflower League schedule. Having a senior like Stewart in goal all year long was a major plus.

Comparato, who coached Stewart as an assistant before taking the head coaching job in 2021, knew his keeper was going draw some serious interest across all levels.

“Coaches would email me just to make sure she was still available,” Comparato said. “They would watch her highlight reel and they couldn’t believe there was a senior of her caliber that wasn’t already committed somewhere.”

Ready for the next level, Stewart said the atmosphere was everything when taking her visits across the country. Stewart took visits to Sam Houston State and South Dakota State before signing her letter of intent with the Roos earlier this month.

When asked, Stewart quickly pointed to the raucous environment surrounding the Lady Lions’ 2-1 regular-season victory over rival Free State earlier this month as her favorite memory of playing soccer at LHS.

The Lady Lions fell short against the Lady Firebirds in the regional play-in match last week.

“It definitely hurt a lot more,” Stewart said. “Losing to your city rival in a big stage like that is always just going to sting.”

Stewart doesn’t plan to stray far from her family in Lawrence, or Comparato for that matter. Comparato’s already enlisting his outgoing keeper to return and help with summer workouts.

Keeping substantial contributors like Cree around the team is one chunk of Comparato’s blueprint for success moving forward.

“I’d love to get more our alumni to come back,” Comparato said. “That helps build the culture that we’re trying to create here around the soccer program.”

Free State, LHS track teams sending full load to state

The Free State and Lawrence High track teams are sending 42 combined athletes to the Class 6A state meet on Friday in Wichita. Nine schools were making their case for state at last week’s regional at Wichita Heights.

In the boys’ events, Free State placed third and LHS placed fifth overall. On the girls end, LHS placed third and Free State placed fifth.

It was a banner regional for Free State senior Reese Hulcher, who took home three medals — two gold and one silver. Hulcher placed first in the 100-meter hurdles (00:15.80), first in high jump and second in long jump.

Junior Jake Loos also posted a multi-medal performance, placing first in the 800-meter run (02:00.16) and 1600-meter run (04:34.72). Senior Kenzie Vaughn got a gold medal in the pole vault. The boys 4×800-meter relay team sophomore Grant Lichauer, junior Zach Hansen Terry, junior Cristian Wills and junior Jake Hedges.

Free State’s 4×400 team — Loos, seniors Michael Romito, Elijah Sabatini and junior Roman Jasso — placed second (03:25.17) to earn their state seat. Additionally, Sabatini also placed second in the 110-meter hurdles (00:15.78) and Romito picked up the bronze in the 400-meter dash (00:50.24).

Senior Julia Chapman took the silver in the javelin throw. Her medal and Hulcher’s in long jump marked the two silvers picked up by the Firebirds’ girls team. Also pulling for the girls’ squad, junior Gretchen Weinkauf placed third in the 400-meter dash (00:59.03).

There’ll be no shortage of Chesty Lions at state, either.

Senior Tyrell Reed lit up the 100-meter dash (00:10.84) to take the Lions’ only gold medal.

The girls’ team placed multiple athletes on the winners’ block, with second-place finishes coming from junior Emma Roman Nose in the 1×600-meter run (05:24.25), junior Paige Platt in the high jump and freshman Sidra Besson in the triple jump.

The girls’ 4×800-meter relay team — Roman Nose, freshman Andie Garrett, junior Cyrenity Hardy-Billy, senior Lucy Hardy — added another silver medal to the bag (10:02.14). Additionally, Roman Nose placed third in the 800-meter run (02:25.33).

Leading the boys, senior Lance Bassett (shot put) and junior Harrison Kirkwood (discus) each placed second individually in their respective events. The boys’ 4×100-meter relay team — Riley Howell, Colin Sandefur, Sam Sedo and Reed — added a second-place finish (00:42.27) to the Lions’ resume heading into state.

Full list of state qualifiers:

Free State — Michael Romito (400m, 4x400m relay); Jake Loos (800m, 1600m, 4x400m relay); Ryan Whittlesey (1600m); Blake Wohler (3200m); Zach Hansen Terry (3200m, 4x800m relay); Elijah Sabatini (110mH, 4x400m relay); Jameson Carter (300mH); Thomas Henderson (300mH); Roman Jasso (4x400m relay); Grant Lichauer (4x800m relay); Cristian Wills (4x800m relay); Jake Hedges (4x800m relay); Cooper Stone (pole vault); Cason Cregg (javelin); Gretchen Weinkauf (400m); Cayman Barnes (800m, 4x800m relay); Olivia Goeser (3200m, 4x800m relay); Reese Hulcher (100mH, high jump, long jump); Brylee Burns (4x800m relay); Elle Cormaney (4x800m relay); Kenzie Vaughn (pole vault); and Julia Chapman (javelin).

LHS — Aubrie Magnuson (javelin); Paige Platt (javelin); Jaylen Parks (triple jump); Joseph Lucas (triple jump); Lance Bassett (shot put); Andie Garrett (4x800m relay); Cyrenity Hardy-Billy (4x800m relay); Lucy Hardy (4x800m relay); Emma Roman Nose (800m, 1600m and 4x800m relay); Natalie Kennedy (1600m); Harrison Kirkwood (discus); Tyrell Reed (100m, 4×100 relay); Riley Howell (4100 relay); Colin Sandefur (4x100m relay); Sam Sedo (4x100m relay); Josephine Platt (triple jump); Sidra Besson (4x400m relay, long jump and triple jump); Jaylie Hohman (4x400m relay); Ginny Besson (4x400m relay); Gabby Reed (4x40m relay).

Eudora softball, Baldwin soccer looking to state

The No. 4-seed Eudora softball team will meet No. 5-seed Andale/Garden Plain (15-7) in the Class 4A state quarterfinal on Thursday in Salina. Eudora bested Altamont-Labette County 10-8 at home in last week’s regional championship. First pitch is slated for 7 p.m. on Field A at Salina South High School.

The Cardinals (15-5) will be looking to advance to Friday’s semifinal against the winner of No. 1 Wamego (17-1) and No. 8 St. George-Rock Creek.

The No. 4-seed Baldwin girls soccer team defeated No. 5-seed Olathe-Heritage Christian Academy 3-0 at home in the Class 4-1A regional championship last week. The state bracket has not yet been finalized, but games are slated to begin on Friday.


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