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.
EDITOR'S NOTE: TopSports.news writer Rick Peterson recently sat down with highly-successful high school and college softball coach Brenda Holaday to discuss the far-reaching benefits of Title IX, which was signed into law 50 years ago, on June 23, 1972. Holaday talked about how far women's sports have come and how far they can go in the future.
By RICK PETERSON
Brenda Holaday has had a bird's eye view of what Title IX legislation has meant to female athletes not only in Kansas, but across the United States.
Holaday has been a highly-successful softball coach at the high school and NCAA Division II level for more than four decades as well as a high school and college athlete.
And while the current Washburn University and former Washburn Rural coach is immensely proud of how far women's sports have progressed over the past 50 years, she knows there's still progress that can be made in years to come.
"It's come a long ways,'' Holaday said. "It's got a ways to go for sure, but I think first and foremost what happened along with Title IX, is those opportunities allowed female athletes to get better. When it started out, female athletes weren't in the weight room, they didn't have the best coaches, they weren't doing anything offseason, whereas a lot of the men's sports were.
"Then all of a sudden, they started letting females in the weight room or some semblance of a weight room for them and we started realizing these female athletes were much more capable than we thought they were and at the same time they were getting more opportunities.''
After playing softball three seasons at Kansas State, Holaday started her coaching career at Wabaunsee, then led Washburn Rural to multilple Class 6A state championships before leading Washburn University's softball program to multiple MIAA regular-season titles and NCAA Tournament appearances over her first six seasons with the Ichabods.
But Holaday's first experiences with the impact of Title IX came in the mid-1970s as a student-athlete at Jackson Heights High School.
"I remember when I was at Jackson Heights we got our first male coach,'' Holaday said. "Kenny Thomas became the women's basketball coach and I can remember I was a freshman coming in and we won state and Grand State with him. He'd always coached boys and I can remember the reaction of the boys in our school and parents to how hard he was on females and I think my memory of that is that it was kind of that aha moment for everybody to go, 'You know what, these girls can be coached just as hard as boys, these girls can be worked just as hard as boys, they can train just as hard, they can condition just as hard.'
"And I think that was happening at the same time some other opportunities were being created, so I think some of the explosion during that time was sort of two-fold.''
By RICK PETERSON
Last summer Highland Park grads Kyle Weems and Mike Wilhoite were back in Topeka to be inducted into the Topeka Shawnee County Sports Hall of Fame.
On July 7 the local sports icons will return home to host the Darting Basketball Academy Youth Foundation's Big Kev's Community Give Back Dual Basketball/Football Camp at Shawnee Heights.
Weems was the Missouri Valley Player of the Year before putting together a long and continuing pro basketball career overseas while Wilhoite played seven years in the NFL with the 49ers and Seahawks, including a Super Bowl appearance, and is currently the linebackers coach for the Chargers.
Weems said it was only a matter of time until the close friends did a camp together in the town they love while honoring the memory of Kyle's late father, Kevin, a former Washburn basketball player who had a big influence on both Kyle and Mike's careers.
"It was kind of the best of both worlds,'' Weems said. "I've been talking with Kerry (Darting) for a while now, just about a basketball (camp) and I know that Mike has already done his own camp up at Washburn some years back. My dad, one thing that he always made sure to voice to us is that he thought it would be great if we could do a camp sometime in the future for the city of Topeka.
"Our schedules kind of butted heads for a little bit between his active playing days, my playing days still going on and then obviously the pandemic kind of slowed some things down, but it also got our minds flowing a little bit so I'm excited to finally be able to do this. We're getting to do it together, we're getting to do it with Kerry, who we're really close with, and obviously with coach (Ken) Darting and for the city of Topeka in honor of my dad, so it's a beautiful thing.''
By RICK PETERSON
Former Topeka High star NiJaree Canady and Hayden product Tanner Newkirk were named the TopSports.news Topeka Shawnee County Athletes of the Year Wednesday night in ceremonies at Washburn University.
Canady has helped lead Topeka High to back-to-back Class 6A state softball championships, the first two state softball titles in school history, while being named the Gatorade Kansas Softball Player of the Year both seasons.
Canady has earned All-City, All-Centennial League and All-State softball honors all three of her high school seasons and also earned All-State honors and played in three state tournaments in basketball, scoring more than 1,000 points, before bypassing her senior season to concentrate on softball.
"Nija is the true definition of a student-athlete,'' Topeka High softball coach Shane Miles said. "Any kid who can further their education at Stanford University is doing something right in the classroom and on the field. When Nija chose Stanford she was not looking at the next four years, but the next 40 years.''
Newkirk, who won three Class 4A track championships as a senior distance runner at Hayden and four titles overall, was selected as the Topeka Shawnee County Spring Male Athlete of the Year Wednesday night at Washburn University.
Newkirk capped his high school track and field career with a record-setting perormance in the 2022 Kansas state track meet at Wichita State's Cessna Stadium, winning three events and setting two Class 4A state meet records.
Newkirk won the 3,200 meters in 8:58.88, No. 5 all-time in Kansas, won the 1,600 in 4:12.25 and the 800 in 1:55.0.
The Hayden star added a fourth state medal in the 4 x 800 relay, helping the Wildcats finish fifth in that event.
Newkirk was a four-time state medalist in 4A cross country, with a state title and three top-three finishes.
"Tanner Newkirk is a one of a kind athlete,'' Hayden track and cross country coach DeJuan Gardenhire said. "What makes Tanner so special is his ability to want to get better.''
Newkirk will run track and cross country at the University of Kansas.
By RICK PETERSON
Former Rossville star Corey Catron was named the Topeka Shawnee County Most Inspirational Male Wednesday night at Washburn University.
Despite having to deal with the death of his mother, Vickey, eight years ago, Corey Catron went on to an outstanding athlete career at Rossville, helping lead the Bulldawgs to back to back Class 2A undefeated state football titles as a junior and senior.
"Being a young child Corey was faced with many challenges as he adjusted to life without a mother,'' Rossville coach Derick Hammes said. "Success isn't guaranteed in these type of situations, but Corey began to develop into a leader and successful athlete.
"With the help of his family, friends and surrounding communities, Corey turned a tragic situation into his inspiration.''
Catron's leadership came to the forefront Week 7 of the 2021 season when quarterback Torrey Horak went down with an injury and Catron moved from running back to quarterback to fill in.
Catron, who will play at Bethel College, led the Bulldawgs for the next three games as Rossville went on to claim its fifth state title.
"Corey was an inspiration to us all as he led our team when we needed him the most,'' Hammes said.
Catron compiled a 3.60 grade point average.
AIDAN BOLINE | Washburn Rural
PARENT: Darin and Sonya Boline
SPORT: Wrestling | GPA: 3.35
Boline overcame a string of injuries to post a 38-6 record as a senior, winning the Class 6A 160-pound state title and helpind lead Washburn Rural to its second straight state team championship. "Aidan sets an outstanding example of what one can attain through perseverance and dedication,'' Rural coach Josh Hogan said. Boline suffered an ACL injury as a freshman and a broken arm the summer before his junior season before suffering a second ACL injury late in the year. Boline was allowed to wrestle in the 2021 state tournament and posted a fifth-place finish while helping the Junior Blues win their first state championship. Boline had ACL surgery right after his junior season and worked his way back into position for his big senior campaign, going through the entire season without being pinned. Boline will wrestle at Lindenwood University.
RICHARD CARTER | Topeka High
PARENTS: Richard and Margaret Carter
SPORT: Swimming | GPA: NA
Carter was a leader for the Topeka High boys swimming program, particularly as a senior. Carter was a varsity swimmer all four seasons at Topeka High, earning second-team All-City recognition two times. Carter competed in the Class 6A state tournament as a senior in the 400-yard free relay. Carter scored a total of 582 points during his swimming career for the Trojans. Carter competed primarily in the 50-yard freestyle, the 100 free, the 200 free and and the 100 butterfly. Carter plans to attend Grove City College, located in Grove City, Pa.