Success marked sports year

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Local sports fans had a lot to cheer about during 2002. Their high school and college teams achieved considerable success in their respective sports over the past 12 months.

As usual, hoops grabbed the spotlight early in the calendar year.

After two disappointing seasons, boys’ basketball at Hillsboro High School returned to form with a 20-4 record, a Trojan Classic championship and a trip to the Class 3A state tournament in Hutchinson.

The Trojan girls, meanwhile, missed a state tournament berth for only the second time in 10 years, but finished with an impressive 18-5 record and brought coach Becky Carlson to within three career wins of 300.

On the college scene, the Tabor Bluejay men lost a KCAC championship and a winning season record with a late-season swoon, but still qualified for a berth in the NAIA Division II national tournament when Ottawa won both the regular-season and conference-tournament titles.

The Bluejay women showed promise for the future under first-year coach Rusty Allen, finishing with a 13-16 record overall and a 9-9 finish in the KCAC.

Wrestling may still hold a lower profile in Hillsboro during winter, but the success of Trojan wrestlers rivaled anything accomplished on a basketball court in 2002.

The Trojans won the MCAA league meet, then captured their first regional title in program history while qualifying a record eight athletes for the state tournament in Hays.

In spring, the Trojan baseball and softball teams sported winning records of 17-6 and 15-7, respectively, and each came within one victory of earning a berth at state. Ironically, the hometown Trojans both lost in the regional finals to Trojan teams from Southeast of Saline.

The Trojan track team, meanwhile, sent a record 23 athletes to the state track meet in Wichita-including five of its six relay teams. All five teams scored points at state.

Sheldon Funk cleared 14-0 in the pole vault to win the school’s only gold medal there, but the boys’ 4×800 relay team of Daniel Yoder, Matt Unger, Peter Richert and Aaron Yoder smashed the school record by 11 seconds and very nearly broke the state record while finishing second in a time of 8 minutes 35.06 seconds.

Funk set a new school record in the pole vault earlier in the season by clearing 14-7, and Alan Yoder bolstered his claim to being the fastest Trojan ever by setting a new mark of 10.8 seconds in the 100 meters.

This fall, Tabor teams set an enviable standard for success. Cross country and women’s tennis each fielded competitive teams, but the men’s and women’s soccer teams each went undefeated in the KCAC regular season, and the volleyball team claimed its own conference title as well.

All that success, however, was overshadowed by the accomplishments of the Bluejay football, which finished with a 6-4 record to give the college its first winning season in 23 years and only the second one in the 35-year history of the program.

The HHS football team had its share of highs and lows, too. After winning the season opener, the Trojans lost their next three games by a total of five points. To their credit, they did not give up and finished with a 6-5 mark, including a dramatic win over Riley County to win a bi-district championship.

The Trojan cross country team finished fifth at this year’s state meet in Wamego. Aaron Yoder placed fifth individually and brother Daniel placed 10th to take home individual medals.

Following the loss of last year’s large and talented senior class, the relatively inexperienced Trojan volleyball team struggled to a 6-20 record this fall, the first losing season in coach Collette Burton’s four years at the helm.

Youth also limited the success of the girls’ tennis and golf teams this fall.

The 2002 calendar year ended again as it started-with the focus back on basketball and wrestling.

The HHS boys’ basketball team compiled a 3-1 mark and a state ranking during the pre-holiday portion of the schedule, while a young girls’ team showed promise with an early 2-2 mark.

The wrestling team features four returning state qualifiers and an early 4-2 record in dual meets.

At the college, the Tabor men, a basketball team with great potential, is struggling to find its stride and has a 4-7 record, while the women have looked strong while posting a 6-5 mark.

Following are some individual highlights from the past year:

– In January, Tabor’s Tyson Ratzlaff and Jason Phelps were honorable-mention picks for the named 2001 NAIA All-America team.

– Joe Kleinsasser was awarded a certificate in January for being the “National Federation of Officials Association Girls’ Basketball Official of the Year” for 2001.

– Marion wrestlers Thad Looper, Steven Boone, Evan Sharp, Chris Freeby, Chelsea Arnhold, Jake Adkins qualified for the 2002 state wrestling tournament.

-Trojan senior Adam Woods set a state record of 325 pounds in the power-clean event at the Class 3A State Power Lifting Championship held in Marion.

– Dylan Pohlman’s dream of playing professional football came semi-true April 27 when he kicked for the Wichita Stealth semi-professional team. He was a perfect 4-for-4 in extra points and kicked one field goal in a 31-27 win over the Hawaiian Islanders.

– Hillsboro’s Brandon Ratzlaff placed seventh in state tennis.

– The Marion baseball team earned a state playoff berth for the first time in program history.

– Marie Wiens, 80, broke the Kansas state record in the 80-plus age group at the Hillsboro Family Festival in May with a time of 25:02.

– Braxton Skiles of Marion won his third consecutive state title in the triple jump.

– The Trojans placed two athletes in summer all-star games. Woods was picked for the Shrine Bowl football game and Shannon Kroeker played in the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association’s annual game for girls.

– Dean Suderman won his third Marion County Demolition Derby in a 1976 Monte Carlo.

– Hillsboro’s Scott O’Hare was named “Assistant Coach of the Year” by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association, which then led to a national award from the AFLAC insurance company.

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