By RICK PETERSON
Last summer TopSports.news took on the task of honoring hundreds of Shawnee County's all-time great athletes in more than 20 sports as part of our Best of the Best project.
As rewarding as that project was, however, there was something missing -- the high school coaches, both head coaches and assistants past and present -- who have helped hundreds if not thousands of county athletes achieve athletic greatness.
This summer we will try to correct that ommision, with TopSports.news planning to publish Best of the Best coaches lists in 14 different sports.
As was the case a year ago, TSN will rely heavily on our readers for their input in rating the best coaches in the history of the county.
A coach like retiring Silver Lake legend C.J. Hamilton, the winningest high school football coach in Kansas history who also coached three state championship teams in baseball, is likely to receive a lot of support from former players and fans, as is former Hayden coach Ben Meseke, who coached a total of 12 state championship teams in boys basketball and cross country, as well as former Seaman baseball coach Steve Bushnell and current Washburn Rural volleyball and girls basketball coach Kevin Bordewick, who both have nine state championships to their credit.
Silver Lake's Alan Cunningham coached the Eagles to a dominating streak in baseball, with Lake earning seven state titles from 1996 through 2011.
And then there's local basketball coaching legends like the late Willie Nicklin (Topeka High), Ken Bueltel (Hayden) and Silver Lake, Highland Park and current Shawnee Heights coach Ken Darting, a five-time state winner, as well as current Seaman basketball coach Craig Cox, who has coached a total of five state championship teams in boys basketball and baseball.
In football, Washburn Rural legend Ron Bowen, a three-time state champ, has to be near the top of the list while current Rossville coach Derick Hammes has certainly made his mark with five state championships over the past eight seasons and former Hayden coach Tom Stringer led the Wildcats to a pair of undefeated state titles.
In track and field and cross country, former Topeka West coach Joe Schrag was one of the most successul coaches in state history while retiring Washburn Rural coach Kevin Hedberg is a Kansas giant in tennis and current Rural golf coach Jared Goehring has already coached multiple girls and boys championship teams while his father, Mike, coached a pair of state championship teams and a state runner-up in girls basketball at West.
Former Hayden golf coach Dan Key also coached multiple state championship teams, including four state girls titles from '09 to '18, while former Silver Lake coach Loren Zeigler coached the Eagles to five state girls basketball coach over a span from '82 to '16.
Bill Annan coached Washburn Rural to three 6A girls basketball titles before going on to a continuing Division I coaching career.
There's also the husband and wife tandem of Rick and Kathy Strecker, who combined for 11 state titles at Hayden in the sports of girls basketball, cross country and track before moving on to other coaching opportunities.
Geoff Poston and Bob Benoit coached Seaman to both boys and girls state bowling championships as did Mike Thompson at Topeka West.
Hayden coach Klaus Kreutzer and Washburn Rural's Brian Hensyel have coached multiple state soccer championship teams in long-running careers while four coaches have led Silver Lake to state softball titles and Lee Schmidt (Hayden), Tara Griffith (Shawnee Heights), former Washburn Rural and current Washburn University coach Brenda Holaday and current Topeka High coach Shane Miles have all coached multiple state softball championship teams, with Miles coaching back-to-back state champs the past two seasons.
Damon Parker has coached Washburn Rural to a pair of girls state wrestling championships as well as a boys crown while Josh Hogan added another Rural boys state title this past season.
Former Seaman swimming coach and current Kansas State High School Activities Association administrator Rod Garman led the Vikings to the Class 5A-1A team championship, the first by a city school, in 2018.
As far as other candidates, the possibilities are too numerous to mention, so you tell us.
You can vote as many times as you wish, with the only requirement that eligible candidates must have coached as a head coach or assistant at one of Shawnee County's 10 high schools.
Over the coming days/weeks we will post a poll for each of our categories and list some of the top candidates to pick from while also giving readers the option of writing in their favorites.
TSN plans to publish Best of the Best lists in baseball, boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, cross country, football, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball and wrestling.
Final selections will be based on reader vote as well as input from TopSports.news contributors and current and past local sports media professionals.
We will accept votes through late June and much of July before publishing our Best of the Best lists in July and August.
So, who you got? We want to know.
FIRST UP: Baseball (ballot will be published on TopSports.news next week).