Bar raised for KVL in 07-08
With an ever-changing lineup of schools, it's not easy to determine the best sports year ever for the Kaw Valley League, but it definitely is fair to say that 2007-08 ranks among the best.
Looking back, the results were impressive. Looking ahead, it not difficult to predict even better results for the upcoming school year.
The league boasted just one state championship team in '07-'08 - Bishop Ward won an unbelievable sixth straight Class 4A baseball title (Fun fact: the last team to win a 4A title before Ward was Nickerson in 2002). If history has told us anything, it's to expect this trend to continue for a while longer.
The league also produced numerous other state qualifying squads and individual champions and medalists.
The youth-laden Mill Valley girls track team won its eighth straight KVL title and then finished second at the 5A state meet. Two Jaguars in state-placing events were seniors. The rest, including two-time high-jump medalist Jasa DuMontelle, 800-meter sensation Whitney Hartman, triple-jump state champ Katie Bauer and 400-meter relay champion members Brianna Childs, Alaina Fairbanks and Khalila Smith lead a talented crew that will certainly be one of the favorites for a team title in the spring.
It will take a lot to outshine that dynamite running crew, but if anybody can do it it's the Bonner Springs boys. Gone are three members of their five-man wrecking crew that placed second at the 5A state meet. Back are twins Jonathan and Jeremy Walker, who combined to win four individual titles and bring home two additional medals. They also made up half of the state-record-setting 400-meter relay team.
Another state championship contender from the KVL will be the Lansing volleyball team. The Lions finished fourth a year ago and return all of their heavy hitters, including all-staters Brittney Lang and Julia Bates.
In football, the league adjusted to a rebuilding year by traditional power Tonganoxie by sending six teams to the state playoffs. It would've been seven had Bishop Miege not upset St. Thomas Aquinas during the final game of districts and bounced Mill Valley from the postseason picture.
Blessed with youth, depth and size, Lansing and Mill Valley should be expected to remain among the more dominant schools in '08-'09. Also poised to climb is Bonner Springs, which - anchored by the Walkers - showed growth in many areas.
The question marks will be Tonganoxie and Basehor-Linwood, schools that graduated extremely talented senior classes but boast a slew of talented youngsters poised to carry the torch. And then there's Turner, the league's new addition with the largest enrollment. Its impact on the league remains to be seen.
The World Company Newspapers' Athletics Department of the Year rankings that accompany this column sheds one final look back at a memorable year for the KVL. With fall practices now under way, we will find out soon how '08-'09 will stack up.