Wristen: Common themes emerge when analyzing annual athletics department rankings

July 22, 2010

At first glance, few things seem different about the results of this year’s Kaw Valley League Athletics Department of the Year rankings.

Mill Valley is at the top for the sixth time in seven years, while rival Lansing is in traditional territory as a close second place.

The two Class 5A schools have been the powerhouses of the KVL throughout the seven years that The World Company newspapers have been keeping track. Class 4A Tonganoxie also has been in the mix.

Another theme has emerged this year, however, and it applies to both Basehor-Linwood and Bonner Springs. That theme is progress.

Both schools made jumps in the rankings this year. BLHS bumped Tonganoxie out of the upper echelon of schools when the Bobcats climbed one spot from a fourth-place finish in 2007, 2008 and 2009 to a third-place finish this year. Meanwhile, BSHS moved up two spots in the overall rankings to sixth place this year.

This is a noteworthy accomplishment for both schools. The improvement didn’t happen easily. Even better, it also may be an indication of what’s to come for both BLHS and BSHS.

The sports where Basehor-Linwood excelled the most — football, softball, boys basketball and girls basketball — all should remain strengths in the year ahead. Meanwhile, the Bobcats return plenty of talent from boys and girls soccer teams that finished their seasons strong. They also have a small but strong core of wrestlers, including state champion Symon Seaton, who will be back, and the track and cross country programs are on the rise.

It was a great time to be a Bobcat in ’09-’10, and that doesn’t look to change in the year ahead.

At Bonner Springs, there is equal cause for optimism. The Braves’ strongest program last year — a wrestling team that placed third in the KVL — was loaded with talented underclassmen. Three returners medaled at state last year, including Jonathan Blackwell who ended his freshman campaign in the state finals. The groundwork already is in place for coach Brandon Jobe’s squad to be a league championship contender for years to come.

In addition, the football and boys basketball teams are poised to have breakout seasons with a slew of athletic underclassmen. The boys soccer, track and cross country teams also should contend for spots among the league’s best. It also would be foolish to forget the progress that the softball program has made under coach Kara Wardlow. All but two players will return from this year’s breakthrough season, and the potential is in place for BSHS to be on the hunt for a top-three finish next year.

No trophies are awarded for the annual athletics department rankings. No plaques are presented. To some extent, the award is about bragging rights.

At the same time, the value of the rankings should be found not necessarily in finishing No. 1 but instead in seeing a school become a part of one of the common themes we find when compiling the results each year. For schools like Mill Valley and Lansing, the common theme of finishing at the top is an indication that they — sport by sport — are doing a lot of things right.

For Basehor-Linwood and Bonner Springs, the common theme of progress is an indication that they too are doing a lot of things right, but also that they are beginning to reap the rewards of their hard work.

That’s certainly the case for BLHS, which spent the past four years building to this point. A big senior class played a major role, however, so now it’s up to the next generation of Bobcats to keep climbing the charts. As for BSHS, progress has been made but there is still work to do. The Braves will spend the next year building on recent successes.

Then, at this time next year, we’ll take another measurement to see if the common theme of progress will continue.

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