By CONOR NICHOLL
This winter, Hodgeman County girls’ basketball became one of Kansas’ top turnarounds. The Longhorns, with coach Trent Bright, achieved an eight-win improvement, went 20-5 and finished as a Class 1A, Division I final four squad. It marked the best season in school history.
HC has enjoyed depth and balance the last two years. In 2019-20, no one averaged double figures. This year, sophomore Malynn Beil led with 10 points per game, while senior Colette Pelton delivered 9.6 points a contest. Juniors Grace Shiew and Kaylee James delivered 7.4 and 7.2 points per game. Seven players regularly had more than 17 minutes a contest.
HC is known for its athleticism and team speed. The Longhorns delivered 62.1 possessions a contest, a high rate, and permitted just .57 points per possession, a state championship caliber statistical defense. In the state semifinals, HC lost 38-21 to eventual titlist Olpe. The Longhorns held Olpe to easily its lowest point total this winter.
The depth could yield a big jump in girls’ track this spring, too.
Hodgeman County was one of 11 teams in the season-opening La Crosse Invitational last Thursday. It marked the first track meet for those teams in two years because of the coronavirus shutdown last spring. Hodgeman County finished fourth with 63 points. Ellis won with 87. Plainville took second at 79, and Larned third with 73. Victoria collected fifth with 60.
The squads included Ellis, Larned, Victoria, and Central Plains, all likely contenders in Classes 1-3A. Hodgeman County delivered a solid showing and had top finishes from a variety of girls. Like basketball, the Longhorns are built on underclassmen. At La Crosse, HC had one senior compete in an individual event. Jaiden Borger finished in 18th in the discus.
At Class 1A state in 2019, James was seeded fifth after regionals, but finished last in the 100 hurdles as a freshman. She posted 15.62 at regionals and 17.16 at state. The 400 relay earned 12th in 52.44 with James, Pelton and Shiew as all non-seniors. Lacy Woods was the only other HC girl to qualify when she took ninth in the shot put as a senior.
At La Crosse, James finished third in the 100-meter dash in 13.58. Beil took fourth in the 400 at 1:08.49.
James finished second in the 100 hurdles in 19.04 and captured the 300-meter hurdle title in 50.58. The 1,600-meter relay was second in 4:40.98. The 3,200 relay also finished second in 11:33.27.
Sophomore Kaylee Hendrickson collected fourth in the high jump at 4-4, and freshman Alexis Bradshaw finished fourth in the long jump at 15-4.50. It marked the first-ever high school track meet for Beil, Hendrickson and Bradshaw.
Junior Hayleigh Burke was fourth in the shot put at 30-9, sixth in the discus at 91-10 and sixth in the javelin at 78-1.
Overall, the day’s top performances belonged to Larned sophomore Jayme Hagerman and Victoria sophomore Macy Hammerschmidt. In the triple jump, Hagerman went 37 feet, 11 inches. Entering April 1, no one had jumped further in Kansas, according to historian Carol Swenson. She won the event by more than four and a half feet over Osborne sophomore Trinity Lutters (33-1.75).
Hagerman captured the 100 dash in 13.25, ahead of Hammerschmidt (13.55) and James. In the 200, Hammerschmidt won in 28.60, ahead of Ellis sophomore Emily Eck (28.71).
Hammerschmidt finished second in the 400 at 1:06.24, which Eck won in 1:03.62. Ellis sophomore Madi Russell, a two-time all-state cross country runner, performed well at her first high school track meet when she captured the 3,200 in 13:29.90.
Central Plains sophomore Brynna Hammeke cleared 5-2 in the high jump. She was a consensus first team all-state player on CP’s Class 1A, Division II girls’ basketball state title squad this winter.
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