The Wichita State Shockers chasing history, the end of a 29-year playoff drought for the Kansas City Royals and a northwest Kansas farmer competing in the Sochi Olympics were just some of the biggest local sports stories of the year.
The past 12 months have given Kansas and Wichita sports fans some memories to last a lifetime. We’d like your opinion of which moments were the biggest in 2014.
Instead of just choosing one top moment, we’re asking Eagle readers to rank their top three selections at Kansas.com/sports. We want to find out why you selected the stories you did and what you’ll remember the most.
Leave a comment in the form online and we’ll run some of the best ones in a later story. Did we miss a big moment? Let us know that as well.
Here are the nominees in chronological order:
Chiefs lose to Colts in playoff game – On their way to their first playoff win since Joe Montana played, the Kansas City Chiefs couldn’t hold off the Indianapolis Colts’ wild comeback. Surrendering a 28-point lead, the Chiefs lost 45-44, providing a sour end to a season in which they rebounded from the league’s worst record in 2012.
Kansas farmer Katie Uhlaender competes in Olympics — The daughter of former MLB player Ted Uhlaender wore his 1972 NL pennant ring around her neck and a fan-chosen bald eagle helmet when she slid headfirst down the skeleton track in Sochi. Competing in her third Olympics, she spent the offseason raising cattle on her late father’s ranch in Atwood. Four-hundreths of a second kept her from a bronze medal. She’ll try to make the 2016 Rio Games in weightlifting.
Wichita State makes the Sports Illustrated cover — The Shockers had been on the cover of SI before, for runs in the 2006 and 2013 NCAA Tournaments, but never as the subject of a feature, as they were in with the cover blaring “Go Ahead, Try to Jinx Us.” It kicked off a banner year for local athletes on SI as the Royals, Pitt State’s John Brown, K-State’s Jordy Nelson and the Shockers again all had the print spotlight in 2014.
Kansas wins 10th straight Big 12 title — The Jayhawks became the fifth team to ever win 10 or more consecutive league titles and the first from a power conference since the UCLA dynasty won 13 Pac-8 or Pac-10 titles in the 1960s and 70s. KU won the league by two games over runner-up Oklahoma.
Joe Mitchell leads Friends to NAIA quarterfinals — The Wichita native and Friends turned out to be the perfect fit after stops at Ohio and WSU. Mitchell was chosen the NAIA Division II player of the year while leading the country in scoring at 32.3 points per game. The Falcons upset two ranked opponents in the national tournament before falling in the quarterfinals — the first NAIA Tournament wins in school history.
Undefeated Shockers (34-0) earn No. 1 seed — Throughout the season many stories compared WSU to the 2004 St. Joseph’s team that went through the regular season undefeated. The Shockers one-upped that mark, winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament for the first time since 1987 to become the first undefeated team in the NCAA Tournament since 1991 UNLV. The season-long debate over what the Shockers’ seed might be was largely moot on Selection Sunday — the program earned its first No. 1 seed with relative ease, according to the committee.
All three Kansas teams head to St. Louis for NCAA Tournament — With KU and WSU likely to grab protected seeds, it appeared a St. Louis meetup was on the horizon for the two fanbases. The committee liked that idea (as KU grabbed a No. 2 seed in another region) and upped the Sunflower State ante, adding K-State as the No. 9 seed in the Midwest Region opposite WSU. The event led to a rare photo opportunity to catch Gregg Marshall, Bill Self and Bruce Weber in the same arena. All three teams lost in St. Louis, however, ending the state’s postseason run.
Shocker women make second straight NCAA — Winning the MVC regular season and tournament titles brought the Shockers to the NCAA women’s tournament as a double-digit seed for the second straight year, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy coach Jody Adams. “This is going to be a tradition at some point in time down the road here for Wichita State,” she said before the game against Penn State. The Shockers fell to the No. 3-seed Lions 62-56 after being within a basket with less than a minute remaining.
Area teams win state basketball titles — The Wichita South girls won their second straight Class 6A title, topping Maize in the championship game. With the Class 4A-Division I title, the McPherson boys returned to the top for the first time in three seasons. The Hesston boys and girls completed a sweep of Class 3A titles.
Kentucky tops Wichita State in Round of 32 — Many people thought the committee had done the Shockers no favor in putting them in a region with three of the four previous Final Four teams. But Kentucky — the preseason No. 1 team — in the 8 seed had people circling the matchup as one to watch. The game lived up to its billing as the teams exchanged blows for 40 minutes before UK ended the Shockers’ perfect season with a 78-76 win. Cleanthony Early scored 31 in his final appearance for the Shockers. The game of the tournament, SI voted the game the greatest game of any sport in 2014.
National Coach of the Year Gregg Marshall stays at WSU — With two consecutive banner seasons in Wichita earning Marshall national accolades, the Shocker coach was one of the first names on every fanbase’s wishlist for filling a vacancy. There did not appear to be much of a chance of him leaving until Missouri’s Frank Haith surprisingly took the Arkansas job. While rumors connected Marshall with the SEC job in Columbia, Marshall never publicly acknowledged any interest in it.
After firing Deb Patterson, K-State refuses Leticia Romero's transfer waiver — Kansas State fired women’s basketball coach Patterson in March, hiring TCU’s Jeff Mittie. Two months later the program gained negative national attention as it refused a transfer waiver for Spanish player Romero. Athletic Director John Currie suggested the former coaching staff had tampered with Romero. K-State granted the release in May and Romero signed with Florida State in June.
Maize graduate Miles Ukaoma wins NCAA 400 hurdles — The Nebraska runner outkicked the field in the final 100 to win the race. Ukaoma, who finished sixth at the NCAA meet a year ago, finished in 49.23 seconds, matching his personal best. Kansas junior Michael Stigler, who had the top qualifying time, was second in 49.90. Ukaoma was a two-time Class 6A champion in the 400, but never won a state championship as a hurdler.
Wichita Wild wins second CPIFL championship, goes up for sale — Trailing by a point in the final minutes, backup quarterback Joe Kassanavoid threw the game-winning touchdown to Rashad Daniels to seal the Wild’s 46-41 win over Sioux City. The second straight CPIFL title was the Wild’s last game as owner Wink Hartman put the team up for sale. A new indoor team — the Wichita Force — will play in a new league and Intrust Bank Arena beginning in March.
NBA drafts Wiggins, Embiid and Early — KU's Andrew Wiggins didn’t have the once-in-a-generation season some predicted in Lawrence, but his potential was good enough to make him the Jayhawks’ first No. 1 overall selection since Danny Manning in 1988. Teammate Joel Embiid went No. 3 shortly after an injury had caused to fall from No. 1 in some projections. The Knicks selected WSU’s Early 34th overall — the first drafted Shocker since 1987.
Jack Sock wins Wimbeldon doubles title — Already owning a grand slam doubles title — the 2011 U.S. Open mixed doubles championship with Melanie Oudin — the Blue Valley North graduate teamed up with Canadian Vasek Pospisil to defeat the nearly invincible Bryan brothers in the championship match. Sock and Pospisil defeated the second, fifth and eighth-seeded teams before facing No. 1 Bob and Mike Bryan, who have won a record 15 men’s doubles titles in Grand Slam events.
Wingnuts win American Association championship — Wichita had fallen short in the previous two AA championship series, before sweeping the Lincoln Saltdogs for the franchise’s first title since joining the league in 2008. It was the first professional baseball title for Wichita since the Wranglers won the 1999 Texas League championhip.
Charlie Weis fired at KU football — With Super Bowl rings on his fingers and the resume of having been the coach a Notre Dame, Weis was hired to much fanfare following the 2011 season. His dismal record of 6-22 at KU turned out to not be much different than his predecessor Turner Gill. Jayhawk lifer Clint Bowen took over the team in the interim, leading KU to more fire in its games, but only one more win during the season. KU turned to Texas A&M’s David Beaty, a former assistant under Mark Mangino, for the 2015 season.
Royals rally to win first playoff game in 29 years — After leading the American League Central for much of the second half of the season, Kansas City had to settle for the do-or-die one-game playoff in the Wild Card round against Oakland to make its first postseason appearance since 1985. A generation of Royals fans saw their first playoff game of their lives play out like a microcosm of the season. Questionable decisions by manager Ned Yost and the rookie jitters of Yordano Ventura gave the Athletics an 8-4 lead in the eighth with postseason hero Jon Lester on the mound. But the Royals manufactured a comeback behind a record-tying seven stolen bases to win the game as Salvador Perez singled in Christian Colon in the 12th inning.
Nationally-ranked boxer Tony Losey killed in industrial accident — USA Boxing ranked the 22-year-old Losey third nationally in its elite division of the 152-pound weight class. Before the accident that cost him his life in north Wichita, Losey had been scheduled to compete at a qualifying trial in January, a step on the road to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. In 2013 Losey was selected to compete for Team USA in a tournament in Russia.
Royals come up one run short in Game 7 of World Series — After winning their first eight playoff games in 2014, the Royals came up against the San Francisco Giants in a World Series that settled into a back-and-forth affair. Having already lost to the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner twice before in the Series, the Royals couldn’t break through against the left-hander in five innings of relief in Game 7. Alex Gordon stood on third base, 90 feet from tying the game, as Perez flew out to end the game with a 3-2 Giants’ win, securing their third title in five years.
Wichita gets 2018 NCAA Tournament — Ten years after the sales tax had passed to build Intrust Bank Arena and nearly five years after the doors to Wichita’s downtown arena opened, the NCAA awarded the city first- and second-round games to the 2018 men’s NCAA Tournament. Wichita last hosted the men’s tournament in 1994 at the Kansas Coliseum and the women’s tournament in 2011 at Intrust Bank.
Bishop Carroll, Andale return to top of football landscape — K-State commit Denzel Goolsby led Carroll to a 13-0 record and the Class 5A title. Goolsby was the state’s player of the year as the Eagles outscored opponents by nearly 50 points a game en route to their second championship in three seasons. Andale’s championship, the inaugural Class 4A-Division II title, came seven years after it won consecutive titles.
Conner Frankamp transfers to WSU — The City League’s career scoring leader committed to and signed with KU early in high school, taking much of the drama out of his recruiting. But after an up-and-down freshman season that ended with his breakout performance in the NCAA Tournament, Frankamp left the Jayhawk basketball team in November, looking for more minutes. He chose to stay at home for his next college experience, possibly joining Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet in the backcourt when he becomes eligible in the second semester of the 2015-16 season.
K-State plays for Big 12 football title — A second consecutive road win in Norman against the Sooners had put the Wildcats in position to compete for a conference title after falling short against Auburn in an early-season game. A road loss to TCU made the road more difficult, but K-State went to Baylor for the regular-season finale with a chance to win at least a share of the conference and a remote chance to make the inaugural College Football Playoff. Baylor topped K-State 38-27 in that game, sending the 9-3 Wildcats to the Alamo Bowl to face UCLA on Jan. 2.
Hunter bags 8-point doe in Sedgwick County — North Carolina hunter Chuck Rorie spotted what he thought was an 8-point buck while hunting in western Sedgwick County. After shooting it, he discovered that the antlers belonged to a doe, not a buck. “The last number I heard at a scientific meeting was something like one in about 10,000 will have antlers,” said biologist Grant Woods.
Butler football coach Troy Morrell resigns — The Butler Community College Grizzlies had success on the football field before Troy Morrell became their coach in 2000, but nothing to the sustained level that Morrell kept them at in 15 seasons. Morrell led the Grizzlies to three national titles and 12 Jayhawk Conference crowns while going 154-22. Morrell, who resigned to go into private business, played for the national title seven times in his tenure.