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Murdock, Tilford, Nelson among top at-large Best of Best candidates

By RICK PETERSON

TopSports.news

EDITOR'S NOTE: Over the coming weeks, TopSports.news will recognize hundreds of Shawnee County's all-time greats in 25 sports/categories as part of our Best of the Best project. Readers will have the opportunity to vote through July, with the Top 25 in all categories announced in August. To cast a vote for the Best of the Best, click on: https://linkto.run/p/0TG9IJG3Email votes/nominations will also be accepted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Over the past couple of weeks TopSports.news has published ballots for its Best of the Best project in all of the Kansas State High School Activities Association-sanctioned sports that Shawnee County High Schools currently compete in.

But some of the top athletes in county history performed in athletic endeavors outside that realm.

Hayden product Margaret Thompson Murdock was a silver medalist in the 1976 Olympic Games as a shooter while Tom Bunger (Washburn Rural) and Caitlin Morrisey (Topeka West) also excelled in that sport.

Margaret MurdockMargaret Murdock

Steve TilfordSteve Tilford

The late Steve Tilford, a Topeka High product, was a word-class cyclist while Dan Cnossen (Shawnee Heights) was a multi-event medalist in the Paralympics, Chuck Nelson (Topeka High) a member of the United States men's volleyball team for the 1964 Olympics, Bruce Hill (Shawnee Heights) the 1975 NASCAR Rookie of the Year, Austin Hanson (Seaman) a world-ranked boccia champ, Jack Bybee (Washburn Rural) a star in polo, Max Gaither (Topeka High) a star in handball and Todd Payne (Topeka West) an accomplished mountain-climber.

The county was also a hotbed for men's fast-pitch softball, with Joe Douglas (Topeka High) and Milo Mitchell (Topeka High) among the best while Damon Reed (Seaman) and Andy Sample (Highland Park) carved out successful boxing careers, with Reed fighting for a world heavyweight championship and Sample starring at the amateur level before embarking on a pro career.

Younger readers may not even realize that Topeka schools once competed in high school gymnastics, but local athletes excelled in that sport as well.

In fact, Highland Park grad Kelly Dirks won two events in both 1977 and '78 and won the All-Around championship in '77 while leading the Scots to the state team championship.

Other top gymnasts included Shawnee Heights product Cassie Wassenberg, the girls All-Around champ in '92, and Topeka High's Dan Copeland, who was the boys' All-Around winner in '74. 

There are 25 candidates listed to pick from at https://linkto.run/p/0TG9IJG3 while readers are encouraged to write in the names of their favorites.

Vote as many times as you wish, with the only requirement that eligible candidates must have grown up in Shawnee County or attended one of the county's 10 high schools.

Final selections will be based on reader vote as well as input from TSN contributors and current and past local sports media professionals.   

Votes will be accepted through July 31 before TSN publishes our Best of the Best lists in August.

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