Finley: BSHS athletic award marks golden anniversary in May
In May, Bonner Springs High School will celebrate the golden anniversary of the Bonner Springs High School Athlete of the Year Award.
This marks 50 years for boy athletes to receive the award. Girls sports didn't start until 1976 so it will be the 32nd selection for the girls.
The Athlete of the Year started in 1958 when Richard Goodseal won the award.
The award started because the coaches had concerns with getting their high school athletes involved in two or more sports and they wanted more athletes to participate.
Meeting with the coaches, I suggested a trophy for the athlete of the year that competed in multiple sports. The award would remain in the school.
The coaches agreed with the proposal. I took the proposal to the high school principal, James J Whitehead, and he requested approval from the Kansas State High School Activities Association. The award was approved and is possibly the oldest award at the high school.
The format for the award has changed since 1958. In naming an Athlete of the Year, the athletes were nominated by their respective coaches with the main requirement that the athlete competes in two or more sports. After the nominations were in, a committee of 10 patrons in the district named the Athlete of the Year. As in any proposal there are sometimes flaws in the selection. And the format was changed early in the 1960's when a point system was devised that selected nominees for the award after a controversy in the nomination process.
Larry Cohen was one of the better athletes at Bonner Springs High School and excelled in three sports that included an All-State selection in basketball. Back in those early days the seniors always made a trip following graduation.
The high school seniors had to pay their way and that year the class was going to New Orleans. Cohen, being an All-State selection in basketball, All-League in football, and the only Brave on the track team to qualify for state was told by his coach if he went on the class trip instead of attending the state track meet - which was scheduled at the same time - he would not nominate him for the Athlete of the Year.
After conferring with his parents, Cohen decided to make the trip with his class to New Orleans and was not nominated for the award.
Over the years, I think for the most part the committee has done a good job with its selection. There are many outstanding athletes on the trophy, but there have been a few glitches.
The main requirement for an athlete is to compete in two or more sports. I can think of a few that never made in on the board largely due to not participating in two sports. Cohen for one was one of the best three sport athletes in Bonner Springs' history. Many of these recipients of the award continued their education in college. Another outstanding athlete not eligible for the award was two-time state wrestling champion Frank Gonzales. I think Frank could have played football.
Another athlete, David Jaynes was not eligible, competing in football only. He played both basketball and football until his senior year when he passed up basketball because of all the time spent seeking a college scholarship. He was busy on the telephone talking to many coaches.
In girls competition, Viesta Suffren - who excelled in track winning many gold medals and still holds the school record in the 100-, 200-, 400-, and 800-meter runs - was not eligible. Brenda DeGroot was the first recipient of the girls Athlete of the Year in 1976, and in fact she was nominated in 1975 for the award and received votes by the committee. One of the recipients, Mike Mcgraw, after college at Pittsburg State was named head football coach at Hayden High School in Topeka where he had much success.
One of the more outstanding Athletes of the Year was Eddie Neely who was All-State in basketball and All-League in football. Neely established several records in basketball at Kansas State University and to the best of my knowledge was the only recipient of the award to make it to the NBA where he played for 10 years. Neely is one of the forgotten outstanding Braves athletes and should be recognized somewhere or someplace in Bonner Springs High School. It was an honor for me when the high school named the Athlete of the Year Award in my name.