Boys’ cross country looks for another league title; volleyball wants to switch fortunes
After starting practice a week ago Monday with mild weather, temperatures are heating up as Tonganoxie teams practice with hopes of continuing traditions or starting new ones.
The boys' cross country team is looking for its sixth consecutive Kaw Valley League title this year. The squad took third at Regionals last year as well. The girls' team finished third in the league.
Boys' soccer will look to tack on another strong season after finishing 11-7-1 and reaching the 4A quarterfinal game.
Tonganoxie football finished with a winning record for the first time in five years last year, but will return with a much younger team this year.
The volleyball team will be the one program looking to catch up with its fall counterparts.
THS finished last year 9-24, but will start this season with first-year coach Tiffany Parker.
BOYS' CROSS COUNTRY
Some things in sports are a given. Nebraska will go to a bowl every year in football, Duke will more than likely go to the Final Four, and the Tonganoxie boys' cross country team will win the KVL Meet.
The last constant might be premature, but the team has won five straight conference championships and lost one senior in Matt Needham. The Chieftains return six of their top seven runners, including junior Alan Davis, who finished eighth at state last year at Wamego.
Cross country coach Phil Williams said that on paper the team looks great. It doesn't look too bad on the field either.
"The boys are where I thought they'd be," Williams said. "They've been working hard all summer."
Williams said Davis is a great leader by example, as is Bryan Gurss. He was also pleasantly surprised by freshman Levi Huseman in practice.
"He looked real good," Williams said. "I don't know if he'll make the varsity team, but he looked real good."
Tonganoxie starts its season a week from tomorrow at the Tonganoxie Quadrangular. Basehor, Kansas City Christian and Lansing will also compete at the meet slated for 4 p.m. Aug. 30.
GIRLS' CROSS COUNTRY
Tonganoxie took third at last year's KVL Meet, but the Chieftains couldn't repeat its high placing at Regionals. The team lost two seniors last year, but has a large group returning also, including four seniors.
Junior Laura Korb is the team's frontrunner. Korb finished 24th at State last year and should lead the pack again this year.
"We have a good nucleus returning," Williams said. "We have to get closer to her (Korb) as a team."
The closeness Williams was referring to involves other runners finishing closer to the top of the meet.
The Chieftains also start the season at the Tonganoxie Quadrangular at 4 p.m. on Aug. 30 in Tonganoxie.
If first-year coach Tiffany Parker constructed a Tonganoxie volleyball record book, it would probably be pretty bare.
"I really don't focus on the past," Parker said. "This isn't the past. We're starting new things."
The Chieftains went 9-24 with first-year coach Kelly Alexander last year, but Parker, who was an assistant at Lawrence High before coming to Tonganoxie, is excited about this season.
"They've been putting a lot of effort into practice," Parker said about her team. "They've been a lot of fun and really productive."
A strong senior class of Kerilyn Walker, Andrea Korb, Aimee Eisman, Nance Milleret and Cassie Coffin have led the team well, Parker said, but no positions are guaranteed this year.
"I'm the new kid on the block," Parker said. "Everyone's fighting for position. No one's guaranteed a spot."
The Chieftains will have an addition in mid-September when junior Christie Menhusen is expected to return to action. Menhusen broke her foot playing volleyball at a camp this summer.
The team will have a Red-White Scrimmage at 5 p.m. Friday at the high school. The freshman will take on the red squad and junior varsity in separate matches and the scrimmages will end with the junior varsity taking on the varsity.
Last year's 5-4 season was welcomed with open arms after four losing seasons, but consecutive winning seasons are in the hands of a younger team.
The Chieftains lose nine seniors, but Elston said the smaller team is faster.
The decent weather has been good for the team. Elston said the younger team has been able to focus more. Still, the second-year THS coach had his share of frustrations mixed with some satisfaction.
"Friday's first practice was probably the worst I've been associated with at Tonganoxie," Elston said. "Then you flip it and the second practice is the best this year and last year."
The football team, along with the other fall teams, has been ultimately injury free in its opening practices.
"We have the normal bumps and bruises," Elston said.
THS will play in the Red-White Scrimmage on Friday before opening the season at 7 p.m. Aug. 31 against Perry-Lecompton in Perry.
Chieftain Park was home to last year's 4A State Championship, but Tonganoxie couldn't find quite find the path to its own back yard.
The Chieftains stormed into the Quarterfinals before losing to Mill Valley 3-0. Tonganoxie finished the season 11-7-1, two games shy of the state final.
This year's squad will try to get back to State, but the Chieftains lost 16 seniors from last year's squad.
Tonganoxie coach Harold Pittman said this year's team doesn't have as much varsity experience, but they still have played together.
"A lot of them played together on the JV team, so there's team atmosphere there."
The Chieftains will compete in the Red-White Scrimmage at 6 p.m. tomorrow at Chieftain Park.
The intrasquad scrimmage will cap off preseason practice that Pittman said has been going well.
"There's been some excitement," Pittman said. "We also have a really good freshman class. We're seeing what they have to offer.
Pittman also looks for senior forward Kevin Colon and senior sweeper Dustin Schultz tolead the team.
Tonganoxie will open the regular season against Free State with junior varsity starting at 4:30 p.m. and varsity at 6 p.m. on Aug. 30 at Chieftain Park.
The Chieftains have one major injury, but it didn't happen on the field. Ben Pitts broke his collarbone in a bicycle accident and will miss the season.