Archive for Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Smith: Bidding Tonganoxie Farewell

November 8, 2011

Back in February of 2008, I got my first assignment as sports editor at The Mirror. It was covering the Tonganoxie High wrestling team at a regional tournament in Perry. The Chieftains had a pretty eventful weekend, qualifying Matt Brock, Cameron Adcox, Travis Adcox, Kevin Hamm, Wyatt Coffin and Steve Davis for state.

On Oct. 25, just a couple weeks back, I completed my final assignment at The Mirror. It was a 3-0 first-round playoff victory for the THS boys soccer team. Matt Saathoff scored two goals, Joe Parrino netted another, and the Tonganoxie defense and goalkeeper Keaton Truesdell got their seventh shutout of the season.

It seems fitting that my three-plus years in Tonganoxie were bookended by such exciting and noteworthy moments, because I thoroughly enjoyed my time here covering the Chieftains.

As many already know, I've left The Mirror to join the sports department at the Lawrence Journal-World, where I will continue covering high school athletics. Instead of Chieftains and McLouth Bulldogs, I'll be writing about Lions and Firebirds and Seahawks and Eagles (Insert obligatory "Oh my" here.).

It was an easy decision to accept the promotion, but I can honestly say I will miss the Tonganoxie beat and all the outstanding coaches and players I got to encounter while working here.

The other day, I packed an 18-inch high stack of newspapers into a box and bid the old Fourth Street office adieu. The papers, one of each edition from my tenure at The Mirror, were more weathered than one would think — is 44 months really all that long?

I flipped through the sports sections to reminisce, working my way from past to present. The first thing I noticed was the photos weren't that great back in the day (Good thing former Mirror reporter Estuardo Garcia taught me some tricks of the camera trade).

The second thing I took away from the trip down newspaper lane was just how enjoyable it was to be a minuscule part of the sports scene the past few years. In the more than 180 weeks between my first and last stories at The Mirror, there were countless games, matches, meets and tournaments. And they all will take up residence in my memory as I move on from "T-Town."

There were some pretty significant athletic achievements for me to cover in my time here, thanks to some ultra-talented young athletes. Remarkably, the relatively small Class 4A track program at THS captured five individual state championships from 2008-11. Roxi Grizzle rocked the javelin. Jeremy Carlisle, David Powell, Bret Koch and DJ Lindsay sprinted to a 4x400 title. Andie Jeannin ran the race of her life for an 800-meter championship. DJ Lindsay was a blur en route to a 200-meter crown. And Jenny Whitledge used her inherent spring and determination to become high jump champ.

I consider myself lucky to have been able to write about each feat.

And, really, I'll remember pretty much everything I covered in the same fashion. There aren't too many places where you can watch a basketball coach, such as Randy Kraft, win his 300th game; or see a program, such as Tonganoxie golf, rise to new heights with the play of a Colby Yates; or meet a young man so incredibly equipped to deal with losing part of his leg, such as Trevor Roberts; or cover the bizarre suspension and resignation of a varsity football coach, Mark Elston, just two days before the season opener.

I'll miss the conversations and friendly relationships I had with the THS coaches and athletes. I'll miss sharing in the misery of being too cold, too wet or both at a game with athletic trainer Mark Padfield. And I'l miss athletics director Brandon Parker inexplicably making fun of my Celtics apparel, Nikes, etc., when I ran into him at a game.

But, truthfully, the only regrets I have about moving on is the timing of it all. I didn't get to see Brian "Coach K" Kroll’s soccer team win a regional championship. I won't get to follow the THS girls basketball team through what I expect will be a very successful season. I won't get to watch All-Kaw Valley League center Dane Erickson in his senior season for the Chieftains. And I won't get to write about Colby Yates and Tonganoxie golf as they chase after a state championship.

Thankfully, I will have tonganoxiemirror.com to keep me in the loop (shameless plug, I know).

On that note, I’d like to thank everyone involved with Tonganoxie and McLouth athletics for their time and dedication. And for making my job so easy.

Farewell, Tonganoxie. You will be missed.

— Keep up with Benton Smith via Facebook (facebook.com/bentonasmith) or Twitter (@BentonASmith), or by emailing him (basmith@ljworld.com).

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