By Mike Mendez
Railer soccer targeting a spot in the final four
As the Newton High School girls soccer team was busy preparing for the season, they were short one valuable member, senior goalkeeper Megan Akers who was busy playing basketball. And after the season came to an end with a loss to Leavenworth in the state basketball quarterfinals, the soccer coaching staff offered her some time off to recover.
Akers’ answer was a simple no.
“I was like, ‘Nope, we have got to get back into soccer, because we have a game,’” Akers said. “I have got to get back into it and get ready. No day off.”
It has almost been a year since the Railers came a game short of the state semifinals with a shootout loss to Kapaun. And though the team had to physically come off the pitch last May, mentally, they never really left.
“It has bugged me,” senior Bekah Tonn said. “I still haven’t watched the film. I don’t need to watch the film. I know what happened and what our mistakes were. Coming into this season, we know how we need to improve and what we need to work on to get to the final four. And I think that at practice and the people we have coming in as freshman can definitely help us. It feels like it was yesterday, and it still stings when it gets brought up.”
Newton is returning nearly the entire lineup from a year ago. And they are loaded with talent. Kansas State signee Brokelynn Entz is back for one more run in a high school career that has tested the strength of goal nets across the state. Along with Entz, Akers and Tonn, the team is returning senior Aylin Torres, juniors Abby Edson and Izzy Saenz, and sophomore Aspen Olson. They will also be strong with junior back Kenzie Parsons and sophomores Aurora Castillo and Legacy Victorio-Coto.
In the season opener, a 10-0 mercy-rule rout of Rose Hill, Entz scored four goals and Tonn made the switch from being a defender a year ago to scoring a hat trick with three goals of her own, showing flashes of what could be an even more potent offense than the team had a year ago.
If the team needed any more motivation to make it to state, this year it will be held at Bethel College, which promises a big home crowd after the swell of support the team saw in last year’s postseason.
“We are trying really hard to get more of the community involved in the sport and in our team,” Tonn said. “It pumps us up more when we have such big crowds in such big games. And with state being at home, if we can get to the final four and have that home crowd, that is just going to be a whole new atmosphere that we haven’t even seen before. So we are really wanting to get there.”
Heavy is the crown: Railers prepare for a title defense
Newton Track and Field
The 5A state track and field meet last year was a competition for second place, with the Newton High School girls dominating their way to a state title. This year, though the Railers lost one of the greatest athletes in school history in Payton Roberts, there is a horde of girls returning who want another trophy.
Headlining the many highlights for the Railers last year was the 4×100-meter relay team of Taylor Antonowich, Kalli Anderson, Jen Andres and Savannah Simmons, which broke the 5A state record. All four of them are back and will try to improve upon their record time.
What made the relay the best to ever run at Cessna Stadium was that each of the girls is incredible individually. Anderson, Simmons and Andres went second, third and fourth, respectively in the 200 and second, third and fifth in the 100. Antonowich medaled with a seventh place finish in the 400 as an individual.
And while the 4×100 relay was the highlight, a state title in the 4×400 was an exclamation point on the team title in the final event of the meet. Maggie Remsberg helped Andres, Antonowich and Simmons get a second relay title in the 4×400, giving the trio an athlete who finished second in the 300 hurdles, third in the 100 high hurdles and fifth in long jump.
In the field, Newton returns Kailey Harris, who took third in the triple jump, and Nicole Engelken, who medaled with an eighth place finish in the javelin. Brooke Lachenmayr is a returning state qualifier in the shot put.
Meagan Bartell and Nancy Gonzales are both back from a 4×800 team that qualified for state, along with state shot put qualifier Brooke Lachenmayr. Alaina Stucky is coming off a strong finish at state cross country and will try to get back to state in the 3200.
The Newton boys were hurt at state last year with an injury to 2015 state champion in both the 100 and 200 and Air Force football signee Kade Remsberg. And they still took fifth place. This year, on top of gaining a healthy Remsberg, they return a bunch of state medalists who will try to make a push to the top of the team standings in 2017.
In the field, Newton will have Kansas State football signee Aiden Mills, who finished second in the shot put only behind then senior teammate Josh Fulmer. Newton will also have Jackson Forest, who finished seventh in the event last year.
Landon Moore is back after a fifth place finish in the triple jump.
On the track, along with the strength, Remsberg will bring in the sprints, and the Railers will have opportunities for points in the distance races. Garrett Mick is back after taking seventh in the 800 and was on the fifth place 4×800 relay team. Javier Moreno gives Newton two returners from the 4×800 relay.
Newton has a bunch of returning qualifiers who will be looking to get on the podium this season. From the state qualifying 4×100 relay, Zach and Connor Garcia, Kelby Lawrence and Jerik Ochoa all return. Zach Garcia was a state qualifier in the high jump, while Lawrence made it to state in both the 110 high hurdles and the 300 hurdles. Nathan Ahrens qualified for state in the discus.
Newton baseball prepares to take the diamond
Coach: Mark George
Key Returners: Jacob Lindenmeyer, Sr.; Clay Nye, Sr.; Aydan Rolph, Sr.; Tanner Arellano, Sr.; Christian Malcolm, Jr.; Alex Kern, Jr.; Warren Dietz, Jr.; Brian Cusick, Jr.; Hunter Mapes, Jr.; Sport Tegethoff, Jr.
Key Newcomers: Matt Seier, So.; Colton Davis, So.
The Railers are coming into 2017 with a strong junior class that will give the team a bunch of options defensively. But there is also an abundance of senior leaders in the dugout as well.
Senior catcher Jacob Lindenmeyer will handle the pitching staff behind the plate. The Railer pitchers will be experienced with seniors Clay Nye, Aydan Rolph and Tanner Arellano providing a bunch of senior options on the mound. Juniors Warren Dietz, Christian Malcolm and Brian Cusick provide even more depth with the pitching staff.
On the infield, juniors Alex Kern and Dietz will cover the middle with Kern on second and Dietz at shortstop. With Cusick on third and Malcolm on first Newton will have a couple of juniors on the corners. Matt Seier is a sophomore who can provide depth with a quality third baseman.
Kern or sophomore Colton Davis give options at short when Dietz is on the mound.
In the outfield, Arellano can cover ground when he is not pitching with juniors Hunter Mapes and Sport Tegethoff in the grass as well. Clay Nye can either be a designated hitter or fill in, in the outfield when Arellano is pitching.
Golfers return top three but are looking for depth
Coach: Joanie Pauls
2016: Newton took two players to the state tournament, with Max Brenneman finishing 26th and Tanner Pauls taking 47th.
Returning starters: Max Brenneman, Sr.; Tanner Pauls, Sr.; Austin Lakey, Sr.; Tanner DeGrado, Jr.; Hunter Lujano, So.
Key Newcomers: Max Willingham, Jr.; Hervey Medina, Jr.; Erick Hernandez, So.; Zach Engelken, Fr.
At the top of the varsity lineup, the Railers will have a bunch of consistency and experience with the top three golfers returning. Max Brenneman and Tanner Pauls will be team leaders in their senior seasons. Both are two-time state qualifiers. Hunter Lujano was the team’s No. 3 last year and will look to fill that role again as the sophomore continues to improve. The bottom three will be a little bit more of an unknown.
“We will not have much depth starting the season,” head coach Joanie Pauls said. “We will need to improve our consistency at the 4-6 positions to be successful as a team.”
Juniors Max Willingham and Hervey Medina, along with sophomore Erick Hernandez and freshman Zach Engelken, will be the ones looking to make the jump up to varsity this season.
Railer softball looks for improvement in 2017
Coach: Danny Parks
Key Returners: Celina Perez, Michaela Regier, Dawsyn Long, Maria McGonigal, Kyndal Bacon, Reagan Treffer, Skylar Botterweck, Emily Peaney.
Key Newcomers: Lexi Marshall, Alex Llamas
The Newton High School softball team struggled last season and will be seeking some wins with players returning this year. The team has a transfer pitcher in Lexi Marshall, who will give the Railers a sophomore in the circle, with Alex Llamas looking for starting varsity time pitching as a freshman.
Michaela Regier will be an experienced target for the pitching staff and will be a solid general on the diamond as a returning catcher. The Railers have the infield filled out with returning experience. Dawsyn Long is back at third base, while the middle infield is locked down with shortstop Emily Peaney and second baseman Skylar Botterweck. Kyndal Bacon is back on first base.
The Newton outfield is loaded with returners as well, with Celina Perez, Maria McGonigal and Reagan Treffer patrolling the grass.
Swimmers regroup after strong state finish last year
Coach: Kim Powell (first year as the girls head coach)
Returning State Qualifiers: Emily Robinson, Sr.; Kailey Naysmith, Sr.; Kara Peaney, Sr.; Erica Beebe, Jr.
The Newton girls swim team will lose quite a few of its state qualifiers from last year’s eighth place finish in Topeka. But they also have some talented swimmers coming back for another run.
Senior Emily Robinson is coming off a stellar state meet last year as a part of the relay teams that took sixth in the 200-yard medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay. She had a strong meet individually, taking seventh in the 100 breaststroke and 16th in the 200 individual medley.
Kailey Naysmith is a two-time state champion on the balance beam and used her gymnastic prowess to finish third in diving last year as a junior and will look to improve on that finish as a senior.
Kara Peaney is back as a senior coming off an 18th place finish with the 200 free relay team, while junior Erica Beebe qualified in both the 200 individual medley and the 500 free.
Tennis regroups after losing a talented senior class
Coach: Nick Sisson.
Returning state qualifier: Jordan Singh (second in doubles with partner Felipe Lene).
The Railer tennis team is losing a lot of key players from a third place finish at state a year ago. The senior doubles team of Shawn Bontrager and Adam Ford provided rock solid play on the court as well as leadership. For most of the season, Felipe Lene was a standout senior exchange student from Brazil, and Tre Kremeier was a state qualifier in the singles draw as well. Bontrager and Ford took fourth at state last year, and Lene helped Jordan Singh form a doubles team that finished second at state.
Now, all but Singh have graduated from one of the best teams in the state. As the Railers try to reload, Singh figures to be a leader on the court who will be hungry to get back into a state championship match after falling a couple of key points short of a state title a year ago.
Singh will have a bunch of senior classmates this season with Max Karst, Cody Murrell and Brandon Murrell.
Jason Wong faced a tough draw as a sophomore in a brutal regional last year, but nearly pulled an upset in the first round. Last season Wong saw a bunch of improvement and head coach Nick Sisson has been looking forward to see what he can do as a junior ever since regionals a year ago.
“He’s becoming a very tough player,” Sisson said after regionals.
Sophomore Seth Bontrager will have an opportunity to step up and help the team as well.