The year 2017 was another outstanding one for area teams, as two teams won state titles and several others celebrated high finishes.
It also was a time of change in athletics at Bethel College, highlighting the year’s headlines.
Here is a look back at some of the top stories in the area in 2017:
• The Newton High School girls’ track team won its second Class 5A state title.
The Railers outpaced St. James Academy 84-70 for the state title. Individual state titles went to Kalli Anderson in the 100-meter dash and Savannah Simmons in the 200-meter dash. Newton also won the 4x100-meter relay, setting an all-time state record of 46.86 seconds in the prelims.
• Halstead boys regain cross county title.
The Halstead High School boys’ cross country team edged Central Heights by two points to win the Class 3A state title for the third time in four years. Junior Andrew O’Brien finished in 13th to lead the Dragons.
• Bethel shake-up.
Roughly three-quarters of the head coaching positions at Bethel College changed hands during the year, as many of the coaches left for other positions.
It started with men’s basketball coach Tony Hoops becoming the athletic director, replacing Kent Allshouse. Softball coach Stacy Middleton took over for Scott Weston as volleyball coach, while her husband David Middleton took her place as the head softball coach.
Drew Johnson was named women’s basketball coach, replacing Adam Esses, who left to become an assistant at NCAA Division I Texas-San Antonio. Johnson, a former coach at Valley Center, Derby and Clay Center, brought along his wife as an assistant — former K-State and WNBA standout Nicole (Ohlde) Johnson.
In addition, Victor Garcia-Bebek replaced Mario Felix as men’s soccer coach and Alex Hagan replaced Anthony Turini as women’s soccer coach.
At the end of the season, football coach Morris Lolar resigned and was replaced by Wichita Heights head coach Terry Harrison.
• Newton grads pace Wichita State to NCAA tourney.
Newton High School graduates Emily Hiebert and Abbie Lehman, both seniors at Wichita State, led the Shockers to a 29-4 season, winning the American Athletic Conference at 20-0. The Shockers fell to Missouri in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Lehman was named the AAC player of the year and an honorable mention All-American. Hiebert received all-region honors. Both were All-AAC.
• Bethel cheer finishes 10th nationally.
The Bethel College competitive cheerleading team, in just its third season, won the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference title for the second straight year and finished 10th at the first fully sanctioned NAIA National Championships. Bethel qualified for nationals the previous year, but the nationals were classified by the NAIA as an emerging sport national invitational.
• Hesston College women place at nationals.
Under retiring head coach Gerry Sieber, the Hesston College women’s cross country team finished 22nd at the National Junior College Athletic Association national championships.
• Hesston tennis team takes second at state.
The Hesston High School girls’ tennis team placed second at the Class 3-2-1A state tournament behind Kansas City Christian. The doubles team of Makaiya Russell and Ashley Hubbard downed teammates Kylie and Michaela Martin in the finals.
• Hesston golfers take second at state.
The Hesston High School boys’ golf team finished one stroke shy of a state title, finishing second in the Class 3A state tournament. Hesston was led by sophomore Grant Brenneman, who finished fourth.
• Goessel volleyball team takes second at state.
Moving up a class to 2A, the Goessel High School volleyball team placed second, falling in two sets to defending Class 2A champion Heritage Christian. The loss in the finals was the sole loss of the year to the Bluebirds, which continued its unbeaten streak in Wheat State League play.
• Hesston spikers third at state.
The Hesston High School volleyball team placed third at Class 3A state, falling to Thomas More Prep-Marian in the semifinals.
• Berean Academy runners third at state.
The Berean Academy girls’ cross country team finished third at the Class 2A state meet, missing second by a point. Junior Erin Topham finished fifth to lead the Warriors.
• Newton girls’ basketball returns to state.
The Newton High School girls’ basketball team opened the year with a 10-0 start, finishing the season 17-5 and falling to Leavenworth at the state tournament.
• Newton volleyball team wins league, reaches state.
The Newton High School volleyball team won the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division I title and won a Class 5A regional title to reach the state tournament.
• Newton wrestlers finish seventh at state.
The Newton High School wrestling team finished seventh at the Class 5A state tourney. Wyatt Hendrickson finished second at 182 pounds. He would later finish third nationally in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. Logan Treaster, now wrestling for the U.S. Naval Academy, finished third at 120 pounds.
• Newton gymnasts seventh at state.
The Newton High School gymnastics team finished seventh at state. Kaylee Anderson finished third in the vault for a medal.
• Newton netters third at state.
The Newton High School girls’ tennis team finished seventh at state. The team of Rae Normai and Quinn Rhodes finished third, the highest state finish in years for a Newton state entry.
• Hesston football team makes state run.
For the second straight year, the Hesston High School football team overcame a slow start to reach the Class 3A state playoffs. The Swathers fell to Phillipsburg in the quarterfinals. Halstead (Class 3A) and Sedgwick (Class 2-1A) also made the playoffs.
• Newton boys’ basketball reach sub-state finals.
For the first time in years, the Newton High School boys’ basketball team reached the Class 5A sub-state finals, falling to Salina Central. Newton posted a winning record in AV-CTL I play. Coach Andy Hill was named league coach of the year.
• Newton grad Taylor Stahly set both the Hutchinson Community College and Jayhawk Conference career 3-point shooting record, leading the Blue Dragons to the national tournament. She later signed with Louisiana Tech.
• Berean girls’ basketball reaches state.
The Berean Academy girls’ basketball team won a Class 2A sub-state title and advanced to state.
• Bethel softball team sets record for winning streak.
The Bethel College softball team set a school record for wins at 17 and had a school-record eight-game winning streak. The Threshers also set a record for conference wins at eight. Bethel missed the KCAC playoffs by one game.
• Bethel netters reach KCAC tourney.
• Newton boys’ and girls’ soccer teams win regional titles before bowing out in the state quarterfinals. Newton’s Brookelynn Entz went on to play at Kansas State, scoring five goals with an assist. She led the Wildcats in goals this season.
The Bethel College women’s tennis team finished 6-8, 5-3 in conference play, reaching the KCAC post-season tournament.
• Newton boys’ cross country takes 10th at state.
• Railer girls’ swimming team takes 11th at state.
Area Coaches of the year
Prep girls — Tad Remsberg, Newton track
Prep boys — Curtis Vermillion, Halstead cross country
College — Gerry Sieber, Hesston College cross country; Joseph Gogus, Bethel competitive cheer
Area Athletes of the year
Prep girls — Taylor Antonowich, Newton High School track, volleyball, basketball
Prep boys - Wyatt Hendrickson, Newton High School wrestling
College women — Emily Hiebert and Abbie Lehman (both NHS grads), Wichita State volleyball
College men — Julio Martines, Bethel College cross country