|
|
The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Five being inducted into NHS Athletic Hall of Fame

    • email print
  • Five athletes will be inducted into the Newton High School Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday.

    The list includes Clay Anderson, Brent Coffman, Phil Scott, Alisa (Ferrell) Suarez and David “Corky” Wright.

    Here are their stories:

    Clay Anderson

    When Clay Anderson’s photo is placed in the Newton High School Hall of Fame, it’s almost a shame the file folder the selection committee used won’t be placed next to it for hall visitors to peruse.

    “When you look at his file, it speaks for itself,” said Ron Capps, former cross country coach at Newton High School. “His times were amazing. His senior year he placed in the Top 10 of all nine meets he ran in, and that includes regional and state. That is simply outstanding.”

    Anderson was a stand-out runner — a four year letter winner, top 10 state finisher and has run the second fastest two mile time in NHS history at 9 minutes and 36 seconds. He was manager of the basketball team. But athletics hardly tell the whole story.

    He was also the student body president his senior year and developed the first student handbook at NHS. After NHS he went to Emporia State, where he served as a school ambassador.

    He later returned to Newton and opened Anderson Medical Supply on Main Street.

    He was successful, and driven — and that was evident in high school.

    “He was thoroughly a joy to be around,” said Don Cameron, basketball coach at NHS. “He is one of those young people that has influenced me.”

    Cameron said having Anderson as team manger/athletic trainer was a unique experience. When Anderson signed up for the position, Cameron had a meeting to discuss the duties and responsibilities of the team manager.

    It was the last time Cameron had to talk about those duties with his manager.

    “We went over responsibilities and that was it,” Cameron said. “After that he just ran with it. He was organized, and energized. ... During the game if something happened, he’d get the ice and get a player iced down. I could coach because he took care of things.”

    And he was a team leader — even though he was not on the floor to hit a key bucket when needed, Cameron said Anderson was important to the team’s success.

    “Everyday he came to practice, and to a game, he had an energy about him, which I loved, because it affected everyone else,” Cameron said.

    Anderson was also a leader on the cross country team — but not only because he was one of the strongest runners the team had.

    Capps said Anderson served as an inspirational leader for the team — recalling one night in particular.

    Newton was favored to win their home meet at Newton Public Golf course, but was upset by rival McPherson.

    The team was crestfallen after losing on their home course — and concerned about the regional meet coming up.

    “That night I was writing up the results, and the doorbell rang,” Capps said. “Here came Clay and the top six runners with a plant. We sat in the living room, shed some tears and we talked about what we wanted to do at the regional meet.”

    Those goals included beating McPherson and qualifying for state.

    The team beat the Bulldogs at the regional, and did it again at the state championships.

    “Stories like that remind me of the dedication of that group, and Clay was the inspirational leader within that group,” Capps said. “He was one of those types of people who did what you asked and was dedicated. He was a fantastic young man.”

    Anderson’s successes didn’t end in high school. While at Emporia State, he not only served as school ambassador but helped with the promotion and operation of state basketball tournaments at the school.

    Following his 1985 graduation from ESU, he completed the Leadership Emporia training and served as president of the Emporia State Alumni Association from 1993 to 1994.

    Anderson, like Hall of Fame classmate Corky Wright, died young. On Jan. 1, 1996, Clay Anderson died of a brain aneurysm.

    But Anderson wasn’t done making his mark on Newton just yet — the 1996 Chisholm Trail Festival was dedicated to Anderson, and a memorial established in his name gave birth to the Hall of Fame he is now being inducted into.

    “The lord must have needed a wonderful leader and a man who would do just what he is asked,” Capps said. “He was one of those people that doesn’t come along very often. He was very dedicated and did what you ask of him.”

    Brent Coffman

    In 1970, Brent Coffman set a record in the 1/2 mile at Chisholm Junior High School with a time of 2 minutes, 7.4 seconds. It was a record which stood until 2006, and the precursor of things to come.

    Coffman still holds Newton’s two-mile record at 9:31 and the mile at 4:27. And he’s adding an accolade this fall, induction into the Newton High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

    “It’s a great honor to go into the hall with the people already in the Hall of Fame,” Coffman said.

    Coffman has not been able to run for several years, due in part to his running at a near addiction level for many years.

    During high school and college Coffman ran 10 miles a day — he says now it was too much, but it was that commitment that opened the door to success.

    “It paved the way for me to have a successful college career,” Coffman said.

    But during his running years, there are plenty of notables, for example, even though he had graduated already he ran with Newton High School cross country teams as an Alumnus — running side by side with another 2008 inductee, Clay Anderson.

    “Clay was a real leader, and he started traditions at Newton High School that live on today,” Coffman said. “The ceremony for the change of leadership on the cross country team, he started that.”

    Coffman isn’t sure he belongs in the hall — pointing to all-class state wrestling champions, hall of fame coaches and others.

    But he’s no slouch. In cross country Coffman not only set the two mile record, but as a senior in 1973 he set the best average time in school history and was named to the first-team All Ark Valley League Team. In addition he placed eighth at state and was named a second-team all state runner.

    In track, his credentials are just as strong — setting a school record for the mile run and placing fourth in the state his senior year. He was first team AVL in the mile and the half mile that season.

    “I know I got in because of my records,” Coffman said. “One stood for 30 years, and I know the board thought those were special, that makes me feel good.”

    Coffman wasn’t only a track star, he also played on the school basketball team, earning second team AVL honors his senior year and finishing the season ranked eighth in rebounding and 10th in scoring in the league.

    Following high school, Coffman went on to Butler Community College, helping the school win league and regional championships in cross country his sophomore year. The team finished fifth nationally that fall, and in the spring Coffman ran on an undefeated two-mile relay team that picked up All-American honors. He also competed on a distance medley team that recorded the top time in the nation that year.

    That kind of junior college success gets attention, and Coffman transferred to Wichita State. As a Shocker, he trained and competed in the steeplechase under Herm Wilson.

    “I ran the steeplechase under an Olympic coach,” Coffman said. “I was one of five all conference runners from Wichita State in the steeplechase.”

    Steeplechase fit him well at the NCAA Div. I level. He twice picked up all-conference honors in the Missouri Valley.

    “I ran so many miles I was a strong runner,” Coffman said. “I wasn’t a fast runner, and the steeplechase slowed people down.”

    He competed in the marathon as a Shocker, setting a record time that stood for 19 years, in addition to being part of the cross country team.

    After graduating from Wichita State, Coffman “migrated” to Newton.

    “I graduated from Newton, went off to college and migrated back because I love this town,” Coffman said. “It’s really special to be inducted into the hall of fame here.”

    He’s been involved with athletics as a booster and served on the city recreation commission for eight years. He was on the Hall of Fame selection committee for three years.

    His love of Newton shines through when asked about his career as an athlete. The highlight he picks isn’t earning All-American honors or running for national titles.

    “I was selected with Bill Charleson to be captain of the basketball team for the last game in Lindley Hall,” Coffman said. “We were very honored to play the final game there. It was a special experience to play in Lindley Hall, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I still dream of those days — to play in Lindley Hall is just indescribable.”

    Phil Scott

    The numbers are impressive — 13 consecutive regional championships, four top four state finishes, 28 seasons of coaching and now two hall of fame inductions.

    Phil Scott, who was inducted into the Kansas Tennis Hall of Fame in 2001, will be inducted into the Newton High School Hall of Fame Friday night during a ceremony at Fischer Field.

    “This is an honor that would have humbled him,” said Grant Scott, Phil Scott’s son. “He was very humbled by his induction into the Kansas Tennis Hall of Fame.”

    Phil Scott, who taught psychology and government classes at Newton High School, became the first tennis coach at NHS when the program was born and coached the team for 28 years.

    The tennis courts at the high school have been named in his honor, and his name has become one uttered in the same sentence as Newton coaching greats Frank Lindley, John Ravenscroft and Curtis Fischer.

    “He had such passion and intensity and smarts for the game,” said Susan Schultz Huxman, a player from 1974 to 1978. “I thought through the years how remarkable it was that Newton High School had a Phil Scott. You don’t see that level of coaching much at the college level or at country clubs. ... There are a lot of good tennis coaches out there, but not a lot of great ones.”

    Phil Scott coached five NHS hall of fame members: Jodi Schmidt, David Piehler, Kent Franz, Jay Franz and Todd Christian.

    One of them, Piehler, wrote multiple letters in support of Scott’s induction.

    Now a basketball coach in Plano, Texas, Piehler credits his career choices to Scott’s influence.

    “The main reason I am a teacher and a coach today is the positive impact and influence of such a quality coach and individual,” Piehler wrote.

    He also wrote of days when he hand no tennis balls and no cash to buy them.

    “Whenever he need a can of balls, Dad would always have a few for him,” Grant Scott said. “That was the something about my dad — the intense feeling of knowing, no matter if you were his son, the best player or worst player on the team, you knew he cared about you and would go out of his way for you.”

    Grant Scott has an interesting perspective — not only was he Phil Scott’s son, but he both played tennis for him and took over as coach when Phil retired.

    Grant coached for 17 years before handing the mantle to someone else, and he used the lessons he learned from his father to guide the Railers.

    “One of the great lessons I learned from him was the emphasis a coach needs to place on life long characteristics,” Grant Scott said. “Ethics and conduct, he went out of his way with those. Those were life skills used not only on the court.”

    He also taught respect. Grant told the story of a player who was very committed to his Anabaptist faith, choosing not to register for the draft during Vietnam.

    That could land a person in prison and was definitely not in agreement with Phil Scott’s own beliefs after serving in the Air Force between 1949 and 1952.

    “My father volunteered to be a character witness at the trial,” Grant Scott said.

    Phil Scott was known as a demanding coach —but one with a soft side as well.

    He was known as being unique, sometimes jumping onto the court to teach tennis while wearing cowboy boots or in a jacket and tie.

    “He was an intense competitor, and you wanted to win for him,” Schultz-Huxman said. “He knew how to run practices and get you ready for game day. ... He had great demand placed on us. As an educator and administrator now, I see he was of the school that you set the bar high and learn to jump it. That is a life lesson, not just a tennis lesson.”

    Grant said his father also knew when to take a hands-off approach, which fostered a sense of ownership for players.

    But his success on the court, while impressive, was secondary, according to Piehler.

    “I think I can speak for all of Coach Scott’s players and students throughout the years and say that we are better men and women today because of the influence of such a quality coach and individual,” Piehler wrote. “I can only hope and pray that I have half the impact on my students and players he has had on his. If so, I will have lived a successful life.”

    Alisa (Ferrell)

    Suarez

    Alisa (Ferrell) Suarez was one of the best three-point shooters to play basketball at Newton High School — leading the state her senior year with 36 of 60 shooting from the three-point line.

    Years of shooting in the gym paid off — and are again paying off for the guard who graduated in 1988. Suarez is being inducted into the Newton High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

    “I was shocked,” Suarez said. “I was happy, and I had a lot of flashbacks, all at once.”

    Suarez had quite a senior year as a basketball player for NHS, but she also excelled in volleyball and softball.

    Suarez was named to the all-state softball team in 1986 and named a captain of the volleyball team her senior year.

    As a senior on the hardwood, Suarez was selected as a consensus first-team all state player and unanimous first-team All-Ark Valley League player. She was picked as the league’s most valuable player, and she set 10 school records including most three-point goals in a game, most three-point goals in a season, highest three-point goal shooting percentage, most assists in a game, most assists in a season, highest assist average, highest free throw percentage in a season, most passes in a season, highest post pass average of season and highest game grade average for a season.

    Those were all records and accolades she didn’t give a lot of thought to at the time.

    “Now being 38, my mom is putting together a scrapbook,” Suarez said. “Reading some of the articles from 20 years ago, it is overwhelming at times. As a teenager, I didn’t think about how good I was, I just wanted the team to win. ... My oldest daughter will say ‘Wow, mommy, you were really good.’ That feels really good.”

    Suarez was selected to play in three all-star games her senior year — The Kansas Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Game, The Kansas Charity All-Star Classic and the Mid-Kansas All-Star Classic.

    But she excelled in more places than on the hardwood. Suarez was a three-sport athlete, leading the Railers the 1986 state softball title and was named a captain of the volleyball team.

    “Alisa was a coach on the floor,” wrote Bob Grabber in a letter to the hall of fame selection committee. “She took charge of her teams and led them to the success they achieved.”

    Suarez’s high school career was strong enough to attract attention from colleges — in the spring of her senior year, she signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Colorado State.

    While at Colorado State, she hurt her shoulder, later transferring to Cal State Hayward before finishing her college career at Bethel.

    Her athletic career began humbly — her father opening up a gym while it was cold outside so she could practice rebounding.

    “This is really a tribute to my parents and the support that they gave me,” Suarez said. “Being a parent now of a daughter who is in softball, I have a better understanding. They drove me to Wichita twice a week and practices every night.”

    She played softball and basketball growing up, all the while knowing she wanted to wear the black and yellow of the Newton Railers.

    She said she wanted to be in the newspaper, dreaming of being the player featured in a “Meet the Railers” profile each week.

    “But everyone’s goal was to play for Graber on the varsity,” Suarez said. “It is overwhelming to think of the inspiration he gave me, the mentoring, and support. His guidance was unconditional and I knew it. ... He was more than a coach — he is an amazing person.”

    She said she also owes much of her success in basketball to the late Curt Harder.

    “Curt Harder was my freshman coach, and he died of colon cancer this year,” Suarez said. “That hit me pretty hard.”

    She now lives and works in California. Her parents followed her to the sunshine state, as well.

    “I followed a boy,” Suarez said. “Unfortunately, I don’t get back to Newton or Kansas very often. I am anxious to take my three girls back to let them see where I grew up, and the community support that revolves around high school sports. In California, you go to high school sports because your son or daughter plays, but in Newton you go to supper the team and community. I can’t wait for them to see that.”

    David ‘Corky’

    Wright

    David “Corky” Wright, a member of the 2008 Newton Hall of Fame induction class, is remembered as an athlete in Newton, and a coach in Clay Center and Haven.

    A Halstead native, Wright’s family relocated to Newton prior to his sophomore year in high school. He became a member of two teams that played in the state final between 1942 and 1944.

    “He was tenacious. When things were going tough, that was when he was at his best,” said teammate J. Ralph Brown.

    Wright was competitive and demanding of himself on the basketball floor. He also was a player who added a new dimension to the Lindley-coached teams he played on.

    “He improvised, which was different than we were taught by Coach Frank Lindley,” Brown said. “In the Shawnee Mission (state championship) game, I know of two times during the game that I could have passed to him, but that was not what I was taught. I was going back to what we did in practice.”

    Those two opportunities were created by Wright’s improvisation — and to this day Brown believes those missed opportunities were the difference in a close ball game.

    Wright was named to the 1944 All Ark Valley team after leading the team to a 14-0 conference record. He was named to the second team all-conference squad in his junior year.

    Wright also was a football player for the Railers, playing an end and wing in the single-wing offense.

    “Whenever he wanted to do something, he got it done,” Brown said. “He was a wonderful guy to have as a teammate and a great person.”

    After graduating from NHS, Wright served two years in the U.S. Navy. He then went on to Kansas State Teacher’s College, now Emporia State, where he played on the school’s first post-war football team.

    As a Hornet, he lettered in both basketball and football four times, earning all-conference honors in both sports.

    Wright was drafted by the Baltimore Colts, but chose not to sign a contract. Instead, he began his career as a teacher and a coach.

    While he coached at Belleville and Clay Center, he is most well known for his days in Haven, where between 1956 and 1969 his basketball teams won or tied for the league title seven times. The Wildcats also qualified for the state tournament four times, taking third place twice.

    “We were one of the first teams to really do full-court press and fast breaking,” said Bob Smyth, who played for Wright at Haven. “We did that most of the time. We averaged right at 70 points a game because of the fast break and the press.”

    In Smyth’s senior year, the team finished up 25-3, helping Wright to a record of 240-74 at Haven.

    “He worked us really hard,” Smyth said. “He had played for Frank Lindley in Newton, and things had to be done fundamentally. He worked you over and over until you got it right. He didn’t demand winning so much as just playing the game properly.”

    But his teams did win — and not only on the hardwood. Wright also was an assistant coach of football and track during his years at Haven High School.

    Wright was a teacher first and coach second, which Smyth said was a successful mix.

    “He was a committed man to teaching the game and the game of life to his players,” Smyth said. “He demanded that we dress to go to games in a jacket; he demanded that your behavior was as it should be.”

    Smyth knows of that success well — he coached against Wright in basketball.

    “One of the great things about playing for him, then coaching against him, you knew you were in for a tremendous battle no matter what the situations were — he just had command of the game,” Smyth said.

    And Smyth said those battles were friendly — often a chess match until the final horn sounded.

    “I remember walking off the court one night after beating him, and he said ‘I don’t know when I’m happier, when you beat me or when I beat you,’” Smyth said.

    Wright died in 1969 at the age of 44 — playing basketball. He was playing in a charity basketball game at Haven High School.

    He is survived by a wife, Florence, and four children — Claudia, Jeff, Susan and Andy.

      • calendar