Spring sports in full swing
As warm weather continues to become more commonplace, Tonganoxie and McLouth spring sports teams keep progressing toward their first competitions of the season.
In Tonganoxie, expectations are high on the softball team. The Chieftains advanced to their first state tournament in school history a year ago and look to make a repeat appearance.
As usual, the THS track team looks to be one of the top squads in the Kaw Valley League in both boys and girls competition, with several athletes again eyeing a trip to the state track meet in Wichita.
While many teams hope to improve on last year's seasons, one is embarking on a new era.
Tonganoxie will field its inaugural girls soccer squad this spring, joining a host of other KVL schools with girls soccer programs.
In McLouth, softball is the talk of the town as the Bulldogs look to make a second straight state appearance. The Bulldogs, like the Chieftains, made history last season in advancing to the state tournament. THS did so in Class 4A, while McLouth earned a berth in 3A.
Here is a brief team-by-team look at the upcoming season for Tonganoxie and McLouth teams:
Phil Loomis begins his second season as Tonganoxie's baseball coach. Tonganoxie finished with a modest 6-16 record, but upset Kansas City Sumner in Class 4A regional play. The win marked Tonganoxie's first playoff victory since 2000.
And, with just three players-- Phil George, Josh Ova and Joe Park -- lost to graduation, the second season under Loomis could be much brighter for the Chieftains.
THS opens the season March 29 at Bonner Springs.
The Chieftains will be without one of the program's top golfers this fall.
Cody Sims finished 11th at the state golf tournament last year, but Sims graduated last May, so the Chieftains will look to replace him this spring.
Sims was the team's first state qualifier; Tonganoxie's inaugural golf season was in 2002.
Although the program is relatively young, the squad has made strides in its first years and looks to continue under coach Steve Harrell.
Tonganoxie golfers open the season March 31 at the Sunflower Hills Invitational in Bonner Springs.
Tonganoxie girls soccer
Like the boys squad in the fall, the girls team will be the Chieftain program with the earliest season opener. THS opens Tuesday with a home game against Bonner Springs.
The Chieftains, in their first season, will be coached by Ken Lott, who has been the THS boys coach the past two seasons.
Some Tonganoxie players previously were integrated with the boys squad in the fall, but now they will be able to play against other girls squads.
The inaugural schedule includes six home games.
THS is gunning for a second straight state appearance.
Tonganoxie finished last season with a 20-4 record and clinched its first state berth in school history. Tonganoxie lost, 7-4, to Augusta in the quarterfinals of the 4A state tournament. Augusta went on to win the state crown while THS finished its season with an unfortunate first-round exit.
However, the Chieftains graduated no seniors last season, so the squad should be a favorite to return to state in Salina. This season, the team is under the direction of a new head coach. Diane Titterington, who had been a junior varsity coach the past two seasons, moved up to the top varsity spot. Titterington replaced co-coaches Debbie Himpel and Craig Lohman in the offseason.
The season begins March 29 when the Chieftains face Jeff West at home.
Two THS athletes earned silver medals at last year's state track and field championships. One of them graduated, while the other enters her final season at THS.
Sarah Hartshorn placed second at state last season in the discus, but graduated last May.
Ali Pistora, meanwhile, returns after taking second in the javelin last year as a junior. Pistora also finished third as a sophomore.
Several other athletes return for the girls after making state appearances last season.
Roxie Grizzle, who won the Kansas Relays in the javelin and placed fourth at state, is back for her junior campaign, as are fellow juniors Tracie Hileman (long jump, triple jump) and Christy Weller (800, pole vault). Jennifer Wagner, who competed in hurdle events and pole vault at state, returns for her senior year.
THS finished 11th at state last season with 21 points.
The squad also placed second at regionals.
On the boys side, Travis Guthrie finished eighth in javelin as a junior last season at state, while Kent Fleming placed ninth in shot put as a senior. Fleming now plays football at Nebraska-Omaha.
However, two other Chieftains return with state experience -- senior Jeff Hughes and junior Kendrick Whittington return. Hughes competed in the triple jump at state, while Whittington competed in the high jump.
Tonganoxie track teams open their seasons April 3 at the Lansing Invitational.
The MHS baseball team made strides last season with an 8-10 record. The eight victories were the most in one season for any McLouth baseball squad. The final victory was a 15-3 win in the 3A regional quarterfinals against Oskaloosa.
Second-year MHS coach Clay Mayer lost some key seniors last season but also returns several top players from last year's squad.
The Bulldogs open the season Monday at Effingham against Atchison County.
Last season, McLouth finished its season at 15-5. Included in that record were exciting wins against Oskaloosa and powerhouse Silver Lake in regional play.
McLouth had reached the regional finals in the past, only to lose to the Eagles. But this past season, the Bulldogs got over the hump and advanced to the 3A state tourney in Manhattan. The Bulldogs lost, 1-0, to Herington/White City in the quarterfinals. Herington went on to finish second to Salina-Sacred Heart.
MHS lost a few players last season but returns the bulk of its lineup. Coach Ballard Patterson and his troops open the season April 2 against Oskaloosa.
The Bulldogs qualified one athlete last year for state -- Lena Poll -- on the girls side.
Poll became the first MHS athlete to qualify in four individual events for one state meet. Although Poll was a junior, she was an exchange student from Germany and returned over the summer to her native land, so the Bulldogs return no one this season with state experience. However, longtime girls coach Gerard Aligo welcomes back a young team from a year ago that now has another year of experience to its credit.
On the boys side, Gray Freeman enters his first year as the Bulldogs coach. He replaces longtime cross country and track coach George Karn, who retired last spring.
MHS opens its season April 3 at Oskaloosa and will be at its home invitational April 5.