A first state championship in softball, an individual championship in state track and a second consecutive state championship in volleyball and one of the best seasons ever in football highlighted another strong year for Hillsboro High School athletics.
At the other extreme, the beating death of Tabor College football player Brandon?Brown, allegedly by two former McPherson College football players, cast a pall over the fall sports season and generated national media coverage?both to the crime as well as to the broader issue of athletic recruiting at Kansas small colleges.
Following are highlights from the 2012 calendar year.
Hillsboro?s basketball girls achieved a preseason goal by knocking off defending league champion Pratt, 48-37, to remain undefeated at 8-0. Pratt dropped to 4-2.
The Hillsboro boys won the Trojan Classic for the first time since 2005 with a 57-44 win over Hesston.
The Marion boys won the Cougar Classic title at Centre for the second year in a row with a 56-44 win over Hope.
Six wrestlers from Marion and two from Hillsboro competed at the Class 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament in Hays. For Marion, Brody Carroll claimed third at 138 pounds and Colten Johnson earned a third at 160. Also competing were Evan Slater, Beretta Janzen, Eric Regnier and Kyle Palic from Marion, and Tanner Jones and Tyrell Thiessen from Hillsboro.
One week after clinching its first Central Kansas League title, the Hillsboro girls? basketball team qualified for state for the fourth year in a row by winning its sub-state tournament. The Hillsboro boys lost in the sub-state finals to finish 18-5.
The Centre girls? basketball team earned a state berth in Class 1A-Division I by defeating Fairfield in the sub-state championship game, 35-32.
The Hillsboro girls capped a standout season with a gutty fourth-quarter rally that carried them to a 42-38 victory over No. 1 seeded Atchison County in the consolation game at the Class 3A tournament in Hutchinson. With the win, Hillsboro earned its second consecutive third-place finish at state and a 23-3 season record.
The Centre girls lost to eventual state champion Hoxie, 71-29, in the first round of the Class 1A-Division 1 state tournament in Emporia for a 14-10 final record.
The Wichita Eagle recognized several Trojans for the Class 3A all-state team. Tena Loewen made the second team while Addie Lackey and Callie Serene received honorable mention. For the boys, Jesse Allen and Brett Weinbrenner received honorable mention.
Tabor freshman Joel Allen from Hillsboro broke the school record in the 10,000-meter run, finishing second in 33 minutes, 31 seconds?nearly a minute faster than his record-setting time the previous week.
Hillsboro freshman Emily Sechrist set a school-record time of 5 minutes, 32.6 seconds in winning the 1,600 meters.
Just days before turning 31, Kodi Panzer of Marion completed a 45-mile race at the Cedro Peak Ultra in Tijeras, N.M.
Tabor?s Dominick Eastman won Male Athlete of the Meet and took gold in the 110-meter hurdles with a KCAC meet record time of 14.17, which ranks second in the NAIA. The old record had stood for 25 years.
Hillsboro tennis players Grant Shewey and Harry Faber parlayed home-court advantage into a pair of state tournament berths during the Class 3A regional at the Sports Complex in Hillsboro. With the top six finishers qualifying for state, Shewey defeated Faber 6-3, 6-1 for fifth and sixth place, respectively.
Faber made his state debut memorable by earning a ninth-place medal at the Class 3-2-1A tournament in Wichita. Shewey, meanwhile, got caught in a tough bracket and just missed earning his second state medal.
Emily Sechrist claimed the only gold medal and lowered her school record in the 3,200 by nearly 10 seconds as the Trojans placed sixth as a team at the Central Kansas League meet. Her time was 11:37.40.
Hillsboro athletes made Memorial Day weekend doubly memorable by claiming two state titles in their respective sports. The softball team defeated Rock Creek 3-2 in the 13th inning to claim the first state championship in the program?s 15-year history. Meanwhile, Emily Sechrist won the 3,200 meters at the state track and field championships with a time of 11:42.36.
Other Trojans earning medals at the state track were Callie Serene, second in the 800 meters; Shaq Thiessen second in the long jump; Mitchell Day fourth in the 100 meters and Tyler Proffitt fifth in pole vault.
Marion athletes placing in state track included the following: Alicia Maloney, tied for second in pole vault; Whitney Gordon, tied for sixth in high jump; Dakin Ledford, third in javelin; Colten Johnson, sixth in javelin and second in pole vault; Jordan Hett, fifth in the 1,600 and 3,200, and the 4×400 team of Johnson, Patrick McCarty, James Jones and Brody Carroll, seventh.
Other area track and field athletes to place at state included Theo Kassebaum, Centre, sixth in the 100-meter hurdles; Wiebe Wiese, Peabody-Burns, seventh in high jump; and Seth Topham, Peabody-Burns, sixth in high jump.
The girls in the Hillsboro High class of 2012 can make one claim no other HHS class can make: For the first time in school history, Trojan teams in each of the three ?live and die as a team? sports?volleyball in fall, basketball in winter and softball in spring?made it to their respective state tournaments all four years. Put another way, the Trojans were a perfect 12-0 in regional or sub-state championship contests during that span.
Rusty Allen of Tabor College was named the Kansas Collegi?ate Athletic Con?ference Ath?letic Director of the Year for 2011-12.
Michael Klaassen, a Hillsboro High School alum and now a junior on the Tabor track and field team, was recognized as the 2011-12 KCAC Champion of Character Male Student-Athlete of the Year.
The Hillsboro volleyball team hit a couple of bumps along the way, but otherwise followed a smooth path to the Central Kansas League preseason tournament title Saturday with a 6-0 record.
Goessel alum Weston Hiebert started his second season as a member of the Kansas State football team.
The Hillsboro volleyball team won the Canton-Galva Invita?tional with a 5-0 sweep of its matches. HHS, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, improved to 23-1 for the season.
In light of the beating death of Tabor football player Brandon Brown and the arrest of two former McPherson College football players, Tabor?s Oct. 20 homecoming football game with McPher?son was canceled. ?The focus of both the McPher?son College and Tabor College communities must be on our students right now,? Tabor Presi?dent Jules Glanzer and McPherson President Michael Schneider said in a joint statement.
Hillsboro sophomore Emily Sechrist lowered her school-record in cross country by finish second in the Sterling Invita?tional in 15:16 seconds. Her previous record was 15:23.
The Hillsboro volleyball team checked off two more team goals by winning its Trojan Invita?tional?the first time since 2006?after nailing down the Central Kansas League regular-season title four days earlier.
Hillsboro sophomore Allison Weber claimed fifth place at the Class 3-2-1A state tennis tournament in Hutchinson. The tournament was delayed by rain midway through her first set and play resumed two days later. It was Weber?s second state medal.
The HHS volleyball team accomplished the difficult goal of winning back-to-back state titles with a two-game sweep of No. 1 seeded Garden Plain in the finals. Adopting the theme ?Rethink Possible? at the start of the season, the Trojans accomplished the possible by going 5-0 for the second straight year in Salina. It was the first time a Trojan team won consecutive state titles in volleyball.
Defending champion Emily Sechrist took second at the Class 3A cross-county meet in Lawrence even though she covered the 4-kilometer course 28 seconds faster than she did last year as the gold medalist. HHS senior Josh Richert placed 16th in the boys? race.
Marion?s Jordan Hett placed sixth at the Class 3A state meet, bettering his 2011 time by 30 seconds. The MHS boys? team placed eighth. Also running for Marion were Patrick McCarty, Timothy Knolla, Jacob Cope, Clark Kroupa, Jared Hague and Quinton Hett.
Hillsboro senior Tena Loe?wen was named 3A Player of the Year in volleyball and coach Sandy Arnold was named 3A Coach of the Year?both for the second straight year. Also selected to the first team were junior Danae Bina and freshman Alex Ratz?laff. Junior Addie Lackey received honorable mention.
In Class 1A Division 1, two players from Goessel received all-state recognition: senior Tia Goertzen was named to the second team while Alex Hiebert received honorable mention.
Marion County?s two state-playoff football teams saw good seasons fall short of a championship ending. The Hillsboro Trojans, who finished the regular season with a 9-0 record under first-year coach Lance Sawyer, defeated Haven 34-13 to win the bi-district championship, then lost to Sedgwick in the regional championship, 38-34, for a 10-1 season record. Marion lost its bi-district game to Garden Plain, 49-14, to finish the season at 4-6.
Despite finishing the KCAC season tied for first in the loss column, Tabor?s turnaround season ended with disappointment as the Bluejays fell short of qualifying for the NAIA playoffs. The cancellation of Tabor?s game with McPherson left the Jays with one less victory than conference champ Ottawa, who had defeated the Blue?jays earlier in the season on a last-second fumble return for a touchdown.
The 14th annual Hillsboro Takedown Tournament drew nearly 250 wrestlers ages 6 to 12 associated with 20 youth clubs from around the state. The Hillsboro club had 30 members competing.
The Hillsboro girls basketball team, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A in a preseason poll of coaches, won the season-opening tournament in Moundridge with a sweep of three games. By the holiday break, the Trojans were 7-0.
The Marion boys? basketball team won Marion Classic tournament with a three-game sweep of Peabody-Burns, Remington and Eureka. By the holiday break, the team stood at 7-0.