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Kevin Haskin: Mid-month musings for August

By KEVIN HASKIN

TopSports.news

Kevin Haskin headshotKevin Haskin

Musings at the mid-month:

-- Since I punched the keyboard a month ago, some developments have surfaced on the college front.

-- Conference realignment is rarely a refreshing topic in these parts, and this latest round has been no different.

-- Kansas fans tend to express confidence while Kansas State fans tend to admit uneasiness as the two sides have a hot topic to quibble about on social media.

-- Thanks, Texas and Oklahoma for dousing Twitter with all things flammable after peddling your Red River spoils as a package deal to the SEC.

-- The latest realignment possibility, a vengeful three-way that could enable the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 to get even with the SEC, is potentially bothersome.

-- Will opportunities arise for Big 12 members to go power-fouring to another conference if a scheduling arrangement pans out for the three leagues saying up yours to the SEC?

-- Will the Big 12 find the right additives to remain legit, and can it collect rights fees from movers still considered shakers by more powerful conferences?

-- Will KU’s basketball heritage provide the boost it needs to land in a prime league, despite woeful football?

-- Will a solid football pedigree in the Big 12 matter for K-State as it battles perceived shortcomings?

-- Tout whatever you can, but it won’t be the value of our in-state series, which has been lopsided for a quarter-century or more.

-- K-State has bogarted the sunflowers in football, and KU has done the same in hoops.

-- I once enjoyed watching them clash, but the rivalry is best contested now on digital platforms.

-- If the programs split into separate leagues, well, so be it.

-- As for non-revenue sports, KU and K-State would still play out of convenience.

-- But conference realignment is never about convenience.

-- It’s not even about competitive gains (checking in on you, Nebraska).

-- Just money … driven by greed.

-- Applaud MLB for moving heaven and corn and getting life to imitate art in rural Iowa.

-- Easy to enjoy the entire made-for-TV moment. For a few magical hours, we could even tolerate Joe Buck.

-- Moving forward, staging MLB games in some minor league communities it abandoned would be a nice gesture if those places would have it.

-- Where would be the best place in Kansas to stage a Field of Dreams game?

-- Easy for me. I’d pick Blue Rapids, site of an October 1913 exhibition matchup between the New York Giants and Chicago White Sox.

-- Sadly, I doubt there’s enough corn, wheat, sorghum or sunflowers to replicate the mystical proportions generated by the theatrical splash in Iowa.

-- MLB halted its slump in popularity with a majestic home run.

-- One highlight from the Chiefs’ first exhibition game stood out: Chris Jones coaxed into performing his favorite yoga move.

-- That’s one more highlight than I usually take from a preseason game.

-- Good to see Byron Pringle snag a TD reception, too, while wondering if the Chiefs could be better off rotating wideouts not named Tyreek Hill.

-- The Chiefs offensive line, however, better keep Mahomes from shifting into reverse.

-- Stories shared about Willie Nicklin can be told for days.

-- Stories Willie shared with you last forever.

-- I know. Once after the Topeka High legend coached the Trojans to a Topeka Invitational crown, a couple of us saw daybreak leaving Willie’s home.

-- Oh, and we made trips to the horse track, where few studied a form quite like Willie, and trips to the casino, where few played third base at the blackjack table with such precision.

-- Also enjoyed many a night when I spotted Willie out with his incredible partner, Leslie Miller.

-- Everyone knew the man – boosters and rivals, coaches and players, business owners and mayors. Even those who didn’t know him struck up conversations as if they did.

-- To get to know Willie in a different capacity, as a young sportswriter, provided sensational insight, as much about life as basketball.

-- Those he befriended and impacted spoke Saturday at a celebration for Willie staged on his namesake court.

-- “It’s not a dungeon,” Willie would insist when speaking of the fabled Troy gym. “You ever go up steps to sit in a dungeon?”

-- Many memories ran through my mind as I sat behind the bench where Willie orchestrated his teams.

-- And, above the locker room where he offered his colorful commentary, but only after he assessed points per possession, long before the stat became conventional.

-- Ed Whitlock remembered crying while sitting in the stands and watching the TIT after Willie suspended him one season.

-- Before Willie reinstated High’s 1973 state championship standout, Whitlock remembered his coach asking three questions.

-- “Will you be a better teammate?” “Will you be a better student?” “Will you be a better son?”

-- For Whitlock, those words shaped his life … and could have for any of us.

Former Heights, WU star Mainz tops TSN women's soccer list

Rick Peterson

 By RICK PETERSON

TopSports.news

Narrowing down candidates for the TopSports.news Shawnee County Best of the Best women's soccer list was a tough chore.

Picking the Top 25 was even tougher, but in the end former Shawnee Heights and Washburn University star Jessica Mainz got the nod as No. 1 at the top of a a talent-heavy group of athletes.

Mainz scored 97 goals and dished out 44 assists for Shawnee Heights, helping lead the T-Birds to a state team championship in 2004 and a runner-up finish in '05, before going on to become an All-American and a two-time MIAA player of the year while setting 14 career records and 15 single-season records.

Jessica MainzJessica Mainz [Washburn Athletics]

Also a basketball standout for WU, Mainz was the first Washburn soccer player to be inducted into the school's Hall of Fame.

Another former T-Bird, Leea Murphy, sits No. 2 on the Top 25 after starring for Heights and helping North Carolina win the '03 NCAA national championship, while perennial city, Centennial League and Class 6A state power Washburn Rural earned the next five positions and earned 11 spots overall, led by No. 3 Kaira Houser, No. 4 Darby Hirsch and No. 5 Kelly Lemke.

More than 4,200 votes were cast in Readers Choice Awards balloting, with two athletes receiving more than 1,400 votes and five receiving more than 100 votes.

KellyLemkeKelly Lemke [Twitter]

Lemke ended up No. 1 in the Readers Choice voting with nearly 1,900 votes while Washburn Rural alum Kate Schroeder was No. 2 and former Seaman standout Chelsea Hopkins third.

Here's a look at the Top 25 and Readers Choice Awards:

TSN TOP 25 BEST OF THE BEST WOMEN'S SOCCER PLAYERS

Read more ...