Readers vote Shockers’ Final Four trip as top sports story of 2013

01/05/2014 8:50 AM

01/05/2014 9:02 AM

Was there ever any doubt as to what Eagle readers picked as the area’s “One Shining Moment”?

Predictably, 80 percent of voters on Kansas.com chose the Wichita State Shockers’ run to the Final Four as the top Wichita and Kansas sports story of 2013.

“Final Four for the Shockers is a no-brainer. They captivated a nation, the state of Kansas and the hearts of Wichita during their prolific run to Atlanta with players you had never heard of but who are now household names,” Bobby Gandu wrote.

The program’s second Final Four was arguably the biggest moment in Wichita sports history. Eagle readers voted the Final Four trip as No. 1 all time by a 2-to-1 margin over the 1989 College World Series title in a poll we conducted in March.

“I will never forget the thrill of watching the Shocks defy the talking heads and take down team after team on the way to the Final Four. (Gregg) Marshall became a Shocker legend over a few days in March and April,” reader David Goodwin wrote.

Each of our other 29 nominees each got at least one vote for the top story, but none topped the 2-percent mark for first-place votes.

With second- and third-place votes counted, four stories easily rose above the field to round out the top five.

In order, they were:

2. Shockers fire Gene Stephenson – In most years this would have been the biggest news story by far, considering what Stephenson meant to WSU baseball and the athletics department in general. Even the first NCAA Tournament appearance in four years couldn’t save the second-winningest coach in college baseball history.

“Stephenson is a national college sports icon and there was no easy way for a transition, as long as Gene wasn’t going to go on his own,” Alan Cobb wrote.

3. Wichita State’s record start to the 2013-14 basketball season – The afterglow of WSU’s Final Four hasn’t dissipated yet, as the Shockers’ perfect start extended into 2014, tying the school record for most consecutive wins heading into Sunday’s game.

4. Kansas City Chiefs’ turnaround from 2-14 – Plenty of Chiefs fans would have been happy with any improvement from the disastrous 2012 season. But to start 9-0? That energized the fanbase.

“My dad and I have had Chiefs season tickets for 37 years! We've seen some really good football throughout the years and some really bad football. Getting into the playoffs the very next year is a huge feat!” Rob Bennett wrote.

5. K-State loses the Fiesta Bowl but claims three Big 12 titles – Many readers said we should have had the Big 12 title trifecta as its own category. And yes, we agree. We had thought those votes would go to K-State’s baseball title, but we should have been more clear in the instructions. Of the three Wildcat categories, the Fiesta Bowl led the way. Adding in the basketball and baseball votes put K-State in the top 5.

“As a K-State alum, it was very special to live through a year of unprecedented athletic success like 2013,” Marco Temple wrote.

The next five stories were Andrew Wiggins coming to KU; the Royals posting a winning season; KU, K-State and WSU all being ranked simultaneously; Shocker women making their first NCAA basketball appearance; and Sporting KC winning the MLS Cup.

Even though they didn’t win our vote, there were some passionate voices in favor of the other options.

“The purest of sports and a NCAA championship,” Randall Hinde wrote of the KU women’s outdoor track and field title. “If there's no bias with one's vote this is a no-brainer!”

And the Major League Soccer team that plays in Kansas City, Kan.?

“Sporting KC winning MLS Cup is the Kansas sports moment of the year because it put a championship team back in Kansas City pro sports, as well as a crowning achievement for the re-branded organization that has captured not only the attention of the city and state, but of the nation.”

Voters didn’t think we missed too much, but there were some great write-ins including: Buhler’s football title; two high-profile deer poaching cases; WSU’s Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton’s 13 career All-America honors in track and cross country; Shocker volleyball winning the Valley and returning to the NCAAs; and Xavier McDaniel’s induction into the College Basketball Hall of Fame.

And two stories that might show up in the 2014 countdown: Joel Embiid’s emergence as a dominant collegiate basketball player and the story/non-story of the Shockers and Jayhawks not playing each other in basketball.

Thank you for voting and sending us your feedback.

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