From volleyball to soccer to everything in between, a host of Cass County teams and athletes enjoyed success in 2017.
Two teams played in state final fours. Another one got an all-expenses-paid trip to Tennessee. Two wrestlers and a record-smashing high jumper collected gold medals.
Here’s a look back at some of the highlights in Cass County sports in 2017:
Chicks retool and return
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Pleasant Hill had a volleyball season beyond compare in 2016, which was why Chicks coach George Creason didn’t dare compare this year’s team with that one.
The Chicks finished 34-3-1 last year and reached the Class 3 state final, the best finished in Pleasant Hill volleyball history.
It seemed downright unfair to compare these Chicks, who lost five starters, to last season’s squad.
But when Pleasant Hill made a return trip to the Class 3 state tourney in Cape Girardeau in late October, the comparison suddenly became valid.
Pleasant Hill didn’t make the championship match this time, but the Chicks did claim third place with a 25-22, 28-26 victory against Incarnate Word Academy at the Show Me Center. That win capped a 30-8-1 season for the Chicks.
It also ended a remarkable run for Pleasant Hill’s seniors, who played in three straight state semifinals, won four district championships and compiled a 40-0 record in winning four straight Missouri River Valley Conference West titles.
“This group of seniors has done some great things,” Creason said.
Queen of the high jump
Ever since she was a freshman, one high jump goal had kept eluding Carlie Queen, and it had made the Summit Christian Academy senior’s trips to the Missouri state track meet less than satisfying, almost disappointing: the all-class record of 5 feet, 9 inches that had stood since 2000.
On May 27, in the shadows of a darkened Jefferson City High School stadium and nearly five hours after she was supposed to compete, Queen claimed that record — and then some.
Queen broke with a leap of 5-9 1/4 then embellished it with a personal-best 5-11.
“It was great to finally get that record,” said Queen, who lives in Pleasant Hill. “I’ve been chasing it since my freshman year.”
Queen set the all-Class 2 record of 5-7 3/4 as freshman when she won the first of her four state titles, but she never matched it as a sophomore or a junior as she battled injuries.
When severe weather shut down the meet after 12:30 p.m. and kept it from resuming until after 6:00, she feared this would be another disappointing day, but it ended with a goal that had long eluded her.
“I’ve just never since that day had a good day at state, whether it was for injuries or not just on,” said Queen, who is now competing at Arkansas. “And I kind of thought it was going to start out the same way today.”
A football and fútbol town
High school football has always been king in Harrisonville, where the Wildcats have five state championships to their credit.
But Harrisonville was both a football and a futbol town on Nov. 10 — when the Wildcats hosted Webb City in a Class 4 football state quarterfinal on the same day the Wildcats’ boys soccer team made its first appearance in the Class 3 state tournament.
For the soccer team, which had never advanced past sectionals before, it was thrilling to share in the excitement.
Harrisonville met Washington in a semifinal at noon in suburban St. Louis, which gave Wildcats fans ample time to see both teams. Classes were canceled for the day, and the school had buses set up to get students to both games.
“We’re trying to make it a community of successful activities,” Harrisonville soccer coach Dan Coleman said. “We want to support each other and help everyone be successful.”
Harrisonville lost to Washington 4-3 in overtime and fell to Republic 3-2 the next day in the third-place game, but the Wildcats still took pride in a 25-5 season that included a 19-match winning streak.
“Coming down here, it’s a blessing, a privilege,” Harrisonville forward Seth Wiebusch said. “I’m just proud of the boys, proud of the team for what they did.”
No title repeat for Wildcats
When Harrisonville won the 2016 Class 4 state football championship, the Wildcats overcame an early three-game losing streak and long-time postseason nemesis Webb City.
One year later, Harrisonville righted itself after a 3-3 start and made it all the way to the Class 4 quarterfinals and another clash with Webb City.
This time, though, the Wildcats would commit five turnovers and manage only 52 total yards of offense as its title defense ended with a 24-0 loss at Memorial Stadium.
Harrisonville (9-4) won 27-21 last year at Webb City for its first and only victory against the Cardinals, who went on to win their 17th state title this year.
“Not the way we wanted to end, but, being one of the eight teams still playing tonight, that’s still not too shabby,” Harrisonville coach Brent Maxwell said. “Most teams would take that.”
Belton brings home the gold
With only four qualifiers, Belton didn’t have the biggest contingent at the Class 3 state wrestling tournament Feb. 16-18 at Mizzou Arena.
But the Pirates certainly made the most out of what they had.
All four Pirates brought home medals, including two state championships, as their four-man team finished in sixth place overall. That’s down from last year when the Pirates tied for fourth — the best finish in school history — but Belton coach Cody Newman was hardly disappointed.
“That’s a huge accomplishment there,” he said. “We beat two teams that were with us competing for a state trophy (last year) and we beat them with only four qualifiers.”
Belton’s state champions were Braden Bradley and Robert Weber, both of whom were state medalists the previous season.
Bradley, a sophomore last season, won the 106-pound division championship with a 9-3 decision versus Kearney’s James Freitag in the final.
Weber won the 152-pound title with a 5-3 decision against Grain Valley’s Tristan Lineberry in the final.
Midway hits the road
In his 30-plus years as head football coach at Midway, Larry Burchett had never opened a season like this before.
Burchett found himself without a season opener when Osceola dropped 11-man football, which sent him on a last-minute search for an opponent. He found one — in the middle of Tennessee.
“Initially we thought there would be no way because we couldn’t afford to drive to Tennessee, but first thing you know they offered to pay our way down there,” Burchett said.
So on Aug. 18, Midway kicked off its season against Middle Tennessee Christian, a nine-hour bus ride away in Murfreesboro, Tenn. — and the trip didn’t cost the school a dime.
Middle Tennessee Christian picked up all the expenses with a local businessman chipping in to rent the Vikings a full-fledged charter bus.
Middle Tennessee Christian let Midway’s players and coaches sleep in their fieldhouse and Jim Fellers, a 1981 Midway graduate and former caterer who lives in Murfreesboro, fixed a barbecue meal for the team after the game.
Even though Midway lost the game 44-6, Burchett said it was still a good experience for the Vikings.
“Overall, the trip itself was kind of a neat deal,” he said. “I’d do it again.”