Wristen: Impact athletes to watch in ‘06-‘07
If ESPN's SportsCenter covered Kansas high school sports, Lansing High surely would've had its usual cast of regulars on the program last year.
Instead of professionals such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Pedro Martinez, Diana Taurasi, Peyton Manning or Larry Johnson, the all-star prep cast likely would've included a lot of familiar local faces.
Matt Warner touchdown passes would've been regular sightings from highlights of the Kaw Valley League champion football team.
During a volleyball segment, LHS volleyball great Casey Welch would've been shown pounding kill after kill.
The David Beckham bending ball highlights could've come from any number of LHS soccer stars, most notably senior goal collectors Ty Thackston, Brad Mock and Mike Bayless.
For a Shaquille O'Neal-style shot of a post player muscling in a basket, the easy answer for a highlight was girls basketball all-stater Amanda Radovich.
Want a bone-crushing hit? All-League defensive end Ryan Robbins provided plenty of 'em.
Need the go-to ice-in-the-veins guy? David Kern had that role locked up.
How about a favorite in-game sound byte? The classic Jeff Slater scream was a no-brainer.
All of those athletes are gone now. Some are beginning their college careers, while others chose to focus strictly on academics. With their departure, space has been cleared for new names to make headlines. Who will step forward and fill the vacated positions remains to be seen.
Until the games are played, there's no telling who will rise to the occasion. Still, a few athletes in particular look ready to answer the call. Among them are:
Brittney Lang, sophomore. The hard-throwing right-hander baffled opposing hitters as a freshman when she was the top pitcher in the Kaw Valley League. She'll continue to dominate in softball, but look for her to have a breakout year in her other sports - volleyball and basketball. Somebody will have to fill the void at outside hitter to replace Casey Welch, a four-year varsity player. Lang is a likely candidate to do that. She also played significant varsity minutes in basketball last year. She could start at point guard or in the post for LHS this winter, depending on where the Lions need her more.
Alex Burton, senior. Burton made headlines last year when he logged nine shutouts, allowed just 17 goals in 19 games, earned All-State second-team honors and helped LHS win the KVL title and advance to the Class 5A state quarterfinals. That team scored oodles of goals, however, and its top three scorers graduated. That means Burton will have to be even more solid between the pipes if Lansing wants to match last year's success.
Joe Kohl, senior. Few players in the KVL deserved more and received less respect last year than Kohl. As a junior, he led the Lions with 138 total tackles, five interceptions, four fumble recoveries and a sack while playing linebacker. Kohl never complained about being snubbed for All-League honors, but you can be certain he hasn't forgotten about it.
Christine Cordes, junior. Someone on the LHS girls basketball team will have to fill the void left in the post by Amanda Radovich. Cordes could be the answer. What she lacks in experience, she makes up for with work ethic. Also, she spent her summer working on her post moves with Radovich and with her MAYB club team, KC Swoosh.
Morgan Chiles and Amanda Darrow, juniors. Both played valuable roles for the LHS softball team as starters the past two seasons. As juniors, they're the Lions' most experienced players and the program is in their hands.
Abby Hauver, senior. An All-State defender in soccer, Hauver's real breakthrough could come on the tennis court this fall. She played tennis for the first time last year and earned a varsity letter. A tireless worker and all-around good athlete, LHS tennis coach Rachel Elkins has high expectations for Hauver's senior season.
Mauritz Meyer, sophomore. Meyer earned his way onto the varsity boys tennis team last spring, but he struggled to win matches. He came close numerous times, even against top-tier players. Meyer possesses textbook groundstrokes, but his confidence was understandably shaky as a freshman. Don't let the shy personality fool you, though. If Meyer plays with a chip on his shoulder as a sophomore, look out.
Jeff Jackson, senior. The same five players started every game for the last two years for the LHS boys basketball team. Jackson was the sixth man on those teams. All five starters graduated last spring, though. A slimmer and stronger Jackson is motivated to begin his senior campaign. He should be a go-to player for the Lions, as well as a valuable leader for first-year coach Rod Briggs' club.
Matt McMillin, senior. Although he always has been a talented pitcher, McMillin struggled at the plate last year and never quite found his niche on a senior-laden varsity baseball team. He lost weight, leveled out his swing and turned his weakness into a weapon this summer, though. On a baseball team looking for offensive production, McMillin just might be the solution.
Amanda Mitchell and Ellie McNeill, sophomores. The duo made up half of the 1,600-meter relay team that qualified for the state track meet last spring. As sophomores, they are both the present and future of Lansing track.