By RICK PETERSON
How successful was the 2021-22 sports year for Shawnee County high schools? Good enough that girls and boys individuals/teams deserve their own lists.
First up is TopSports.news' look at the county girls year in review, which will be followed by a look at the boys successes of the past year.
Shawnee County schools claimed three state girls team championships and several others came up just short while 10 county standouts claimed individual titles in four different sports.
While a case can always be made for any number of stories to sit at the top of the list, here's one opinion on the Top 10 Shawnee County girls prep stories of '21-'22:
1. TROJAN RERUN -- After claiming the school's first Class 6A state softball championship in 2021, Topeka High made it two titles in a row last Friday against a familiar foe, with the Trojans edging past city and Centennial League rival Washburn Rural, 2-1, in the championship game. After leading High to a perfect 25-0 record as a junior, Stanford signee NiJaree Canady came up big again in the pitching circle and at the plate last weekend, leading the Trojans to the title.
2. RURAL RULES -- Washburn Rural's girls basketball team celebrated a 6A state championship for the second time since 2019, completing a 23-2 season with a 40-23 romp past Derby in the state final at Wichita State's Koch Arena. And while the basketball crown was the lone title for the Lady Blues in '21-'22, they threatened in sport after sport, finishing second in the state in golf, soccer, wrestling and softball and turning in strong cross country, volleyball and bowling campaigns.
3. CHARGER IN CHARGE -- The only thing that stopped Topeka West swimming star Kadence Jeffries during a dominating high school career was COVID-19. After sweeping the 200-yard freestyle and 500 free Class 5A-1A state titles as a freshman, Jeffries had her sophomore season wiped out by the pandemic beore returning to sweep the same two events as both a junior and senior to complete a six for six performance in state individual events. Seaman sophomore Avery Walz joined Jeffries as a 5A-1A state champ this past season, winning the 100-yard breaststroke and earning four state medals overall as the Vikings finished fourth as a team.
4. PERFECT DUO -- After posting a fourth-place 5A doubles finish in the 2020 state tennis tournament, Seaman's team of senior Grace Unruh and junior Lauren Sweeney dominated from start to finish last fall, sweeping city, Centennial League and regional titles for the second straight season before finishing off their 36-0 perfect season with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Andover Central's Maya Chon and Bryer Geoffroy in the state final.
5. TWO DOWN, TWO TO GO -- Rossville sophomore wrestler Kendra Hurla is halfway home to joining a select group of wrestlers who have won four individual state championships. Hurla won her second state Class 4A-1A 120-pound title with a 3-0 decision over Pratt's Jadyn Thompson in February, capping a 39-0 season for the Bulldawgs.
6. BOWLING FOR TITLES -- Seaman's girls bowling team turned in another dominating season, capped by the Class 5A-1A team championship in February at Northrock Lanes in Wichita. Led by senior individual runner-up Makenzie Millard's 697 series, the Vikings won the title by a 3,173-3,144 margin over Bishop Carroll. Seaman ended up with a 5A-1A sweep, with the Vikings also winning the boys title.
7. RINGING THE BELL -- Only one thing had eluded Shawnee Heights' Maranda Bell during an oustanding girls wrestling career and Bell took care of that her senior season, winning her first Class 6A-5A state championship with a 1:03 pin over Derby's Meya Howell in the 191-pound final. Capping a 27-1 season, Bell pinned all four of her state opponents.
8. MAKING A STATEMENT -- Hayden freshman Ainzley Zulueta burst on the Class 4A state tennis scene with a bang, claiming the state singles title in her first season of high school tennis last fall. Zulueta finished off a 35-5 season with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Bishop Miege freshman Breanna Quigley in the state final, leading the Wildcats to a tie for second in the team standings.
9. TITLE TRIO -- Shawnee County girls track and field athletes made their presence felt throughout last weekend's state track and field championships in Wichita, led by three state champions. Rossville senior Briar Gillum captured the 3A discus title after a runner-up finish in the shot put while Seaman junior Bethany Druse was the 5A state champ in the 800 meters and Highland Park sophomore Victoria Reed won the 5A 400 meters.
10. MAKING HISTORY -- Cair Paravel Latin, still a relative newcomer to the Kansas State High School Activities Association scene, advanced to the 4A-1A state soccer final four for the first time in school history despite having just one senior on its roster The Lions, who posted a 15-5-0 record on the season, dropped a 2-1 semifinal decision to state runner-up Buhler before falling to McPherson in the third-place game, 3-2.