By Mike Mendez
Bethel College opens Esau Golf Training Facility
Bethel College senior golfer Jaden Schmidt is practicing his fade as head coach Gregg Dick watches. As Schmidt fires a ball, Dick lets him know that the shot was a little lacking in side-spin. Dick isn’t assuming based on how the swing or the shot looked. He can see exactly how many RPMs of spin the ball had. Instant feedback was available because the shot was taken in the newly opened Esau Golf Training Facility, an indoor golf simulator Schmidt conceptualized during an internship with Dick.
“If I have an hour between classes, I can leave my clubs here, walk out here and hit for 20 or 30 minutes, get a good workout in, get a good practice time in and still make it to my class on time,” Schmidt said. “It is so convenient.”
Schmidt came up with the idea when he noticed his game suffered from a lack of activity during the winter. In a sport that requires a ton of feel that only comes from repetition, time had to be spent trying to get back what was lost during the cold months.
During a fall internship, he shared the idea of an indoor simulator to Dick. Dick loved the idea, and Schmidt got busy researching how to build one and started drawing up floor plans. They took the idea to Athletic Director Kent Allshouse, who gave the project a green light.
With funding in large part by the Rex and Connie Esau family, the group got to work with the goal of opening the facility before Feb. 1.
“As a senior, I wanted to be able to use it,” Schmidt said. “I didn’t just want to build it and have it done by May when I leave.”
Finding lumber from Moundridge Lumber Company with gifts like the door from Kropf Lumber in Hesston, the team got busy taking a corner of the equipment shed by the football field into a fully functioning golf simulator.
The simulator itself is pretty simple at face value. An overhead projector displays a virtual driving range on a white tarp. On the ground, there is a practice mat with balls and the simulator itself. It looks like an external hard drive sitting on the ground and projects a red laser dot on the mat. A ball is placed on the dot and a golfer can fire it into the tarp. The simulator relays information back to a computer wirelessly and gives instant feedback on ball spin, both back spin and side-to-side rotation, how square the club head is on contact, trajectory and distance. The projector shows where the ball would have gone and how it would have gotten there.
The software can be upgraded with greens, wind, and even full courses that can be played completely in the simulator.
With the technology still very new to Dick and the team, it is only starting to dawn on them what exactly it is that they have and how they can use it to get better.
“Did it go right because you cut across it?” Dick said. “Or did it go right because your club was open when you came through. Once it brings everything up you can see. The answer is right there. So that is how you fix it. That is how I use it and that is how I want the guys to use it, too.”
Schmidt is studying business administration with an emphasis in marketing and management. He has already been hired by a company in Kansas City pending his graduation in May. With the vision and dedication he put into the Bethel practice facility, it isn’t hard to see why he would be viewed as a valuable asset.
“Throughout my years here, I kind of wanted to leave my mark in some way,” Schmidt said. “I know I am a large part of the golf team, and I look at myself as a leader of the golf team, being a senior. But I wanted to leave my mark and help out Gregg as well as the golf program any way that I could. I feel like this is the perfect way to do that. Not only because I did it, but I feel like it is going to be a huge helping tool for many years to come for a lot of incoming players. That is the perfect way for me to leave this place.”
Bethel Softball raking its way to a strong season
Coach: Stacy Middleton (sixth season as a head coach).
Returners: Trista Rich, Sr.; Kayla Sparkman, Sr.; Autumn Lerback, Jr.; Kiera Broehl, Jr.; Alyssa Sullivan, Jr.; Jeni Reichenberger, Jr.; Madison McDowell, So.; Michelle Schrag, So.; Leisle Hoffman, So.; Krystin McKelpin, So.; Rylie Scudder, So.; Alexis Wilson, So.
Newcomers: Katie Schrag, Jr.; Charley Carver, Fr.; Kerrigan Simons, Fr.; Georgia Anderson, Fr.; Sydney Bollinger, Fr.; Abbie Hutton, Fr.; Samantha Karten, Fr.; Lucy McCleary, Fr.
Last season, the Threshers set a school record for wins with 11. This year they are looking to break that record on the strength of their bats and some strong pitching. Bethel is already up to nine wins, with a school record eight-game winning streak from Feb. 23 to March 8. With a team batting average through the roof at .345, the Threshers are currently ranked No. 18 in the NAIA.
So far, the Threshers have four players batting over .400, with Moundridge native Michelle Schrag leading the team at .471. Leisle Hoffman is at .446, Samantha Karten at .417 and Madison McDowell is batting .409. Schrag and Jeni Reichenberger are leading the team with 12 RBIs each, and Katie Schrag has 11.
With the offense smashing the ball, the pitching staff led by Rylie Scudder is shutting the door on the opposition. Through 14 games, Scudder has an ERA of 2.87, with Abbie Hutton providing a solid alternative with an ERA of 3.43.
Bethel track ready to take it outside
Coach: Jeff Hoskisson (second season).
Key Returners: Justin Halfich, Sr.; Marquis Jackson, Sr.; Gary Jolivet, Jr.; Miles Steed, Jr.; Heath Goertzen, So.; Justin Wright, So.
Key Newcomers: Julio Martinez, Jr.; Demetrius Heath, Jr.; Kyle Wilson, Jr.; Montero DuBose, Jr.; Axle Bradley, Fr.; Bruce Rosario, Fr.; Deyone Miller, Fr.; Jalal Gondal, Fr.; Jaylen Randle, Fr.; Joseph Winfield, Fr.; Miracle Broussard, Fr.; Morgan Murphy, Fr.; Tahj Davidson, Fr.; Tyree Bostick, Fr.
It was a successful indoor season for the Threshers, who saw some records fall. Demetrius Heath was .08 seconds away from qualifying for nationals in the 60-meter hurdles. Distance runner Julio Martinez will be one to watch for. After transferring from Hutchinson Community College, Martinez made an instant impact on the cross country team, becoming the first ever Bethel mens runner to qualify for nationals in the fall.
Bethel also has a multitude of football players who can burn up a track, with receivers Marquis Jackson, Gary Jolivet and Montero DuBose as well as defensive backs Miles Steed and Jaylen Randle.
Key Returners: Rashe’ Boynton, Sr.; Kim Carbonell, Sr.; Katelyn Fatten, Sr.; Rachel Green, Sr.; Bryna Rietcheck, Sr.; Sami Strauss, Sr.; Veronica Ziegler, Sr.; Kendra Samuels, Jr.; Kiley Varney, Jr.; Alyjah Kennedy, So.; Bethany Montoya, So.; Sky’La O’Neal, So.
Key Newcomers: Brittany Sutton, Fr.; Makenna Price, Fr.; Rachael Hamel, Fr.
The Bethel women will not be short on leadership and experience. The team will have seven returning seniors to steer the ship with the team.
The Threshers will have quite a few local athletes, with Kiley Varney and Veronica Ziegler both coming from Hesston High School as well as six other Kansas kids filling out the roster.
Thresher tennis opens Richard Southern era
Bethel Mens Tennis
Coach: Richard Southern (first year as a head coach).
Returners: Preston Gapter, Sr.; Tyler Shima, Jr.; Grant Bellar, So.; Gabe Johnson, So.; Connick Roe, So.
Newcomers: Shawn Bontrager, Fr; Ryan LaCombe, Fr.
The 2017 Bethel mens tennis team is young. And they are starting the season with a new head coach as well. While their may be some growing pains, a program that practically still has the bubble wrap on it stands to see quite a bit of improvement. While Preston Gapter is the lone senior on the team, he has some upperclassman help with leadership in junior Tyler Shima.
Freshman Shawn Bontrager has made the short trip to North Newton to join the program after a decorated career at Newton High School. Bontrager has already earned a KCAC Player of the Week award.
The Bethel men picked up their first win of the season in a 6-3 dual over Central Christian to move to 1-4 on the year.
Bethel Womens Tennis
Coach: Richard Southern (first year as a head coach).
Returners: Julie Baker, Jr.; Kimberly Buzbee, Jr.; Breanne Rogers, Jr.; Serena Wong, So.
Newcomers: Jennifer Harrison, Fr.; Mallory Meier, Fr.; Kaci Wilson, Fr.
Like the Bethel men, the women are young. The team has three juniors with Julie Baker, Kimberly Buzbee and Breanne Rogers, but they are without a senior. But the women also stand to see a bunch of improvement throughout the season.
Newton’s Serena Wong is the elder underclassman as a sophomore, while Jennifer Harrison, Mallory Meier and Kaci Wilson are all freshman bolstering the roster and helping to take the program into the future. Harrison has a KCAC Player of the Week award under her belt this season.
The team is 1-4 with a 5-4 win over Concordia University on March 4.