Alumni get off to strong start in 2016
Over the Christmas break, high school athletes have been hard at work looking to come back strong in the second half of the basketball and wrestling seasons. Meanwhile, their counterparts at the collegiate level have been doing the same while still in competition and several athletes with local ties have turned in stellar performances to help their squads along.
In women’s basketball, several former Holton players are carving out their roles with some top teams at the NAIA and NCAA Division II levels.
For third-ranked Emporia State (11-2), HHS alum Kyrstie Miller provides a spark off the bench and does a little bit of everything for the Lady Hornets, with her recent performance in a 101-76 victory over Lincoln (Mo.) University being a prime example.
Miller played 21 minutes in the contest and finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, three blocks, two steals and one assist. She is averaging 6.1 points and 4.5 rebounds in 19.2 minutes per game this season.
At Baker University, Miller’s former teammate Macy Wallisch, meanwhile, has been a rock in the post for the Wildcats (10-2), who sit just outside the top 25 rankings in NAIA Division I.
For her efforts in a recent 81-49 victory over Southwestern College, Wallisch earned player of the week honors in the Heart of America Athletic Conference. She was a force on the court, nearly recording a triple-double in the game, scoring 19 points and finishing with seven rebounds and eight blocks.
Wallisch has lived up to her name and is part of the reason Baker leads NAIA Division I in blocks. Individually, she is second in Division I with 40 total blocks and third with 3.33 blocks per game. The senior also averages 9.3 points per game and a team-high 7.6 rebounds per game.
At the NCAA Division I level, Holton alum Ryann Bowser has also maintained her style of play while contributing for the Texas Tech Red Raiders (9-4).
While the Raiders have struggled at the start of Big 12 competition, Bowser showcased her versatility in the final non-conference game of the season, an 84-40 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The senior guard poured in eight points, six assists, five steals and two rebounds for Tech in the winning effort.
In an elevated role in her final season, Bowser has showcased her defensive tenacity and really filled the stat sheet for Texas Tech as she is averaging 6.1 points, 2.2 rebounds and 3.38 assists (second on the team) per game for the Raiders.
Another player excelling at the Division II level, like Miller, is HHS grad Jayna Smith, who is becoming a strong inside presence for the Washburn women’s basketball team (9-4) this season.
Particularly, Smith has had a knack for cleaning up on the glass this season as she leads the team with 9.4 rebounds per game. Like her former teammates, she can do a bit of everything and also leads the Ichabods with 2.9 assists per game while tallying 5.6 points per game.
Washburn’s first game of the new year highlighted Smith’s rebounding skills, as the senior finished with 15 boards, seven points, three assists and two steals in an 81-74 victory over Lindenwood University. She followed that up with six points and 10 boards against Lincoln (Mo.) University, her third straight game recording double digit rebounds.
Elsewhere in NAIA competition, RVHS alum Chelsea Hodison, Holton grad Connor Strader and former Wetmore Cardinal Nichole Boden are all seeing some playing time for Ottawa University (5-9) this winter.
Strader has been starting and taken to a role as facilitator, ranking second on the team with nearly two assists per game and an average of 3.5 points, while Hodison has been strong off the bench with 4.5 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. Boden, meanwhile, is averaging 1.6 points per game.
The trio faced another Jackson County alum, former Panther Sylana Levier, in the Braves’ most recent game against Haskell Indian Nations University. Hodison tallied two points, one rebound, one assist and one block in the contest, while Strader added two points, three rebounds and four assists in the 80-67 loss.
On the court in men’s action, area alumni have seen some more limited roles as former Wildcats Trey Tanking and Garett Beecher have made a few appearances for Tabor College and the University of Saint Mary, respectively, in NAIA competition. Royal Valley grads Pete Popkess (Sterling) and Joe Cullen (Bethany) are also on rosters in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.
RVHS alum Skyler Link, meanwhile, has been competing for the JV team at Washburn this winter and in their last game in December he chipped in eight points and 11 rebounds in a 92-70 victory over Ottawa University’s JV team.
Jackson County athletes have also made their mark on the mat this winter as former Panthers Tanner and Chance Ogden are both competing for Baker University, along with HHS grad Mason Baum.
Tanner Ogden (165 lbs.) recently went 2-2 and did not place at the Viking Warrior Open tournament hosted by Midland University in Fremont, Neb.
Chance Ogden and Baum also had similar results in recent competition, as Baum competed but did not place at the Bob Smith Open in Hays, while Ogden competed but did not place at the Holiday Inn Open in Kearney, Neb.
Wyoming wrestler and fellow Holton grad Lucas Lovvorn was also competing with Baum at the Bob Smith open and while Lovvorn had a strong day, finishing with three wins and two losses, he also did not place in the tournament.
With the turn of the calendar, the indoor track season is also getting started and former Panther Elizabeth Blevins turned in some strong early performances for Emporia State University recently.
At the Crimson and Gold Invite hosted by Pittsburg State University, Blevins finished second in the 600m run, was part of the third-place 4x400m relay team and took 16th in the long jump.
Some athletes who competed in the fall were also recently recognized for their strong seasons, including Holton alum Tanner Clark. Clark completed his senior season at Baker University this fall, helping the team make the second round of the national championship playoffs, and for his achievements both on and off the field he was recognized as an NAIA scholar-athlete.
Clark was one of 13 scholar athletes for Baker University, which was the second most of any NAIA school.
Another former Wildcat, Keri Tanking, earned similar honors while competing for the Ottawa University volleyball team this fall. Tanking was second on the team in kills with 351 total and earned honorable mention All-Conference honors in the KCAC.
Tanking was also recently named a CoSida second team Academic All-American and helped the Braves (34-7) reach the NAIA National Championship tournament.
HHS grad Kylie Miller also wrapped up her collegiate volleyball career at South Dakota School of Mines with a banner achievement as Miller’s 445 digs for the season were the eighth most in a single season in school history.
With 2015 now in the history books, Jackson County athletes have already turned their eyes to 2016 with some strong early performances that may signal even more success for local athletes in the coming year.