Sabetha High School celebrates multiple State Championships, athletically and academically.
“Every successful high school program has many stakeholders. Everyone has a role to play and when they embrace that role, the whole is strengthened.” – Scott Burger, Coach and SHS Athletic Director
The 2017-18 year Sabetha High School is one for the history books after many students and athletes have claimed multiple state titles in various programs including football, wrestling, golf, baseball, track and field and FFA.
The Bluejay football, golf and baseball teams each brought home team titles, while wrestling crowned one champion – junior 285-pound Elliott Strahm. The girls’ 4×800-meter relay team took the crown in track and field. The team consisted of juniors Skylar McAfee and Hunter Lowdermilk, sophomore Nikole Kuenzi and freshman Hattie Lukert. The Sabetha FFA team crowned six of its members – Brandon Brownlee, Kamden Brownlee, Rebecca Craig, Morganne Kruse, Hunter Lowdermilk and Cody Meyer – who were named the All-Class State Champion FFA Ritual Demonstrations team.
“To say that this is a historical year for our school would be a huge understatement,” said Chris Bauerle, Sabetha High School FFA advisor. “The accomplishments that the high school students have received this year is unimaginable in regards to the diversity of achievements, which I feel is a great compliment to the staff members of Sabetha schools and more importantly the amazing community support that is shown.”
Although the year has been filled with many successes, many of Sabetha’s coaches agree that these successes were not achieved overnight, but because these students have shown compassion, leadership and focus throughout the entire year.
“We had a group of athletes that were selfless,” said Head Baseball Coach Aaron Frey. “In baseball, our motto was ‘We Greater Than Me’ and the other sports that won championships this year had the same mentality. A lot of teams have talent, but if you don’t have the selfless attitude and put the team ahead of yourself, you won’t achieve the kind of success that you could achieve.”
Head Track and Field Coach Dave Remmers agreed, saying in order to win championships, the kids have to care about their teammates.
“In my past experiences with teams that have won championships, the one common denominator is that the kids truly care about their teammates, and want to work, play hard and succeed for them, as much as they do for themselves,” he said.
“This was possible by having a senior class that had great leadership and allowed others to lead, players really loving one another, being very coachable and executing the game plans to the best of their abilities,” said Head Football Coach Garrett Michael.
In regards to the athletic championships, the athletes obviously had a huge impact on the team’s success, but behind the scenes, the coaches put a tremendous amount of work into working with the Sabetha athletes and teaching them that winning isn’t everything.
“I think the coaches do a great job of keeping things in perspective and keeping priorities in order,” said Head Wrestling Coach Ricky Creek. “When the only focus is on winning, it becomes devastating to accrue a loss. None of our state champions had undefeated seasons, so their foundation had to be on something bigger than wins and losses.”
The coaches also noted that success in one program, carries over to other programs.
“In Sabetha, one of the greatest attributes is a coaching staff that encourages three sport athletes,” said Scott Burger, head coach for boys’ basketball and golf and SHS Athletic Director. “We realize that when one program succeeds, everyone benefits.”
Remmers and Michael agreed, saying success is contagious and allows confidence to grow.
“I believe a competitive and winning mentality can be contagious, and carries over to other sports,” Remmers said. “Good athletes, which Sabetha has been blessed with, are certainly helpful, but the mentality and caring for teammates are what separates winning and winning championships.”
“Having other sports have this success allows the confidence to grow and have the attitude, that they have already done this on the biggest stage,” Michael said.
Creek said that these exact statements proved true with the transition from football to wrestling.
“After winning the football state title, the wrestlers came in hungry to improve,” he said. “Motivation was at an all-time high, and they were ready to work hard. While we were delayed two weeks on practice due to football season, it made the season go faster and prevented kids from getting burnt out by February.”
Frey said the success the football team experienced even carried over to the baseball season.
“The previous championships profoundly affected the baseball team,” he said. “We had many players that played football. They knew how to win from the experiences they had and they knew how to win the right way.”
The extreme success of all these programs mean a lot for Sabetha High School, Sabetha athletics and academics and the Sabetha community. S. Burger said that there have to be multiple factors in place in order to be successful.
“To start with, you must have dedicated and talented athletes,” he said. “Many of these student athletes have been competing in their sport since they were young. This requires the support of their parents and families who are willing to give up their time, invest money, and volunteer to coach them at a young age. Next, you must have dedicated coaches who are willing to put in the extra time to bring out the best in these athletes. Every coach puts in hours outside of practice to scout opponents and plan game strategies. Coaching today is a year-long responsibility and to succeed at the state level, they must coach during the summer.”
S. Burger said that a supportive community also plays a huge role in Sabetha’s success.
“Our young athletes are blessed to live in a community where countless people are willing to support them. Included in that group are extended family, volunteers and our local booster club. Throughout the years, all these factors have combined to create an expectation of excellence in our student athletes. They have learned by example to set the bar high and accept nothing less.”
Bauerle agreed, saying the FFA could not have succeeded without the support from the parents and community.
“We are extremely humbled and excited to receive these awards and cannot thank the community and parents enough for your continued support of the agriculture education program,” Bauerle said.
With the multiple championships this year, the coaches and advisors hope that the success has set the foundation for all of Sabetha’s programs in the future.
“We hope that this success will continue to excite and grow our chapter, as well as give us more opportunities to give back to our community by representing Sabetha at events on both the state and national levels,” Bauerle said.
Michael said that the success achieved this year will be an example for Sabetha’s future athletes.
“It will show athletes for years to come that being unselfish — putting the team first before yourself — putting in the extremely hard work and good kids doing the right things are champions!” he said.
Remmers agreed saying, “I think winning all these championships is a direct reflection on the work ethic and mental approach to competition we as coaches have come to appreciate from the kids we work with. Winning is contagious, and kids like to be a part of something successful, so hopefully this translates to more kids participating in various sports in the future.”
Creek hopes that with this year’s success, people will remember who Sabetha is.
“I think this was what Sabetha needed to put them on the map,” he said. “It seems like we never get respect in rankings, seeding or in general discussions. We are constantly the “underdogs” despite having outstanding seasons. Good, bad, or otherwise I think all of 3A will remember Sabetha after this year!”
Frey said he believes the success has been very special to all teams.
“I think it means a lot to them!” he said. “Very few teams get to finish their year with a win and to do it the way we did it was very special.”
With so much success achieved in athletic and academic programs this year, many of the coaches and advisors are excited to have been a part of something so special.
“There are emotions you feel when the kids win that are just hard to describe,” Remmers said. “It is an unbelievable high. You experience tears of joy and excitement for them, but you stand back and let them celebrate with all their friends and teammates. In the end, it is truly an honor and a privilege to work with the kids we have in Sabetha.”
Creek agreed saying so many kids seized the opportunity to do something great.
“As a coach, my desire is for kids to realize their potential and seize the opportunity to do something great, and that is what so many did this year!” he said. “I feel lucky that I get to tell people I coach for Sabetha! Winning is a habit, and I think the best is yet to come!”
Michael said he feels humbled to be a part of the Sabetha community.
“I can’t put into words how humbled I am to be a part of this community, school and this group of players/students,” he said. “It has been special to spend all this time with our coaches, they are great role models and they care tremendously about our kids.”
Frey said he will never forget this year.
“This is something I simply can’t put into words,” he said. “I had never experienced a state championship before this year. I had been close, but never experienced it. It is something that I will never, ever forget. I will cherish the journey we all shared together forever.”
S. Burger said that he has learned to appreciate these types of accomplishments.
“When you’ve coached for many years, you learn to appreciate that special years like this don’t come around often,” he said. “Every successful high school program has many stakeholders. Everyone has a role to play and when they embrace that role, the whole is strengthened.”
The Bluejay Football team clinched the 3A State Football title on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017, after Sabetha intercepted a pass in the red-zone, earning the Bluejays the first of many state championships during the 2017-18 school year. They defeated Marysville 7-6 in the Championship game and finished their season 12-1, with their only loss coming from Nemaha Central.
The Bluejay Wrestling team sent four wrestlers to the 3-2-1A State Wrestling Tournament in Hays on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 23 and 24, and came home with one state champion. Junior 285-pound Elliott Strahm finished first after his championship bout against Avery Hawkins of Smith Center went into overtime. Strahm finished in dramatic fashion and secured a 2-point takedown and a 2-point near fall, which landed him his first State Championship in wrestling.
The Bluejay Golf team captured the 3A State Golf Championship Monday, May 21, in Seneca after waiting 90 minutes for two other teams, with whom they were in medal contention, to complete the course. The team scored 320 for the day, defeating second place finisher Phillipsburg by two strokes (322) and Cimarron by four (324). Besides the State Championship win, Sabetha took first in seven out of eight meets for the season. At the Seaman Invitational, the team placed sixth, but they were competing against mostly 6A schools.
After only two seasons of Sabetha High School Baseball, the Bluejays set the foundation for the program early with a 3A State Championship win on Friday, May 25. The number seven seeded Bluejays advanced through the state bracket, defeating Cherokee-Southeast 12-4 in the opening round, Marion 9-4 in the semi-finals, and Hays-TMP 10-5 in the championship game. The Bluejays finished their season with a 22-3 record.
Track and Field
The Sabetha Bluejay track and field teams sent 19 athletes to the State Track and Field Championships, and came home with one relay team claiming the gold medal. The 4×800-meter girls’ relay team consisting of juniors Skylar McAfee and Hunter Lowdermilk, sophomore Nikole Kuenzi and freshman Hattie Lukert claimed the gold in a come-from-behind fashion finishing the race with a time of 9:56.03 – 18 seconds faster than their best time of the season. The team not only claimed the championship, they also broke a 1998 Sabetha High School record set by Leann Lehman, Kelly Flentie, Catherine Saylor and Rachel Prestwood. The 1998 team had a time of 9:56.90.
The Sabetha FFA team participated in the 90th Kansas FFA State Convention, held May 30 to June 1 on the Kansas State University campus in Manhattan, after the team competed at the district level in the fall in an attempt to qualify for the state event. During the opening ceremony of the state event, is when Sabetha’s team of six – seniors Brandon Brownlee and Rebecca Craig, juniors Hunter Lowdermilk, Kamden Brownlee and Morganne Kruse, and sophomore Cody Meyer – competed in the Rituals Demonstration event. The Sabetha team won the gold in the event defeating teams from larger schools, which have over 200 members and multiple advisors. In the Rituals Demonstration Leadership Development Event, FFA members must demonstrate outstanding delivery and presentation skills for the FFA Opening Ceremony.
Heather Stewart290 Posts
Heather Stewart is a reporter for The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2015. She specializes in court and sports reporting, as well as photography. Heather is a 2011 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in psychology. She lives in Sabetha with her husband.