Varsity Kansas

Spring success sprouts annually in Maize

Megan True/ Special to the Wichita Eagle
The Maize Eagles dog-pile after winning the Kansas 6A state championship. The Maize Eagles beat Blue Valley West 10-0 at Hoglund Stadium on Saturday May 28, 2011 in Lawrence, Kansas.
Megan True/ Special to the Wichita Eagle The Maize Eagles dog-pile after winning the Kansas 6A state championship. The Maize Eagles beat Blue Valley West 10-0 at Hoglund Stadium on Saturday May 28, 2011 in Lawrence, Kansas. Special to the Eagle

Maize is like most other high schools in that the most buzz generated about its sports teams happens in the fall and winter, when football and basketball are being played.

Unlike other schools, though, Maize features a spring season that rivals that of the more prominent sports.

Thanks mostly to sustained success from its baseball, softball and girls soccer teams, Maize’s excitement about athletics doesn’t stop in March. If anything, the final months of the school year are the most exciting because the Eagles are vying for state championships in several sports.

"It feels like everyone is doing something right now," Maize softball coach Jenny Meirowski said of the sheer volume of participants in the school’s spring sports. "In the classroom and in the halls you can feel that extra energy, extra excitement."

Last year, Maize nearly pulled off an unbeatable accomplishment when the baseball, softball and girls soccer teams reached their Class 6A tournaments with one combined loss.

The baseball team, led by coach Rocky Helm, was getting much of the attention for its national ranking and numerous lopsided wins, but soon the two other undefeated teams were grabbing their share of the spotlight.

"It wasn’t a lot that we talked about," Helm said. "But when we did talk about it, it wasn’t really about us — we talked about the other two programs and how they were doing. We thought that it was pretty cool that we had three programs that were pretty dominant last year. My guys really rooted for them more than we really worried about where we were."

Only the baseball team won a state title — the soccer team lost in the semifinals before winning the third place game and Maize’s softball team fell in the quarterfinals. Their collective record in the three sports was 66-3.

The sudden end to the soccer and softball seasons spoke to the cruelty of one-and-done tournaments and of how quickly the positive feelings of a great season can be erased. But those teams did their best to put their disappointment in perspective.

"Was I surprised that we finished that well? Absolutely," soccer coach Jay Holmes said. "Not in my wildest dreams did I anticipate going 19-0 going into the state tournament. With the turnover (of players) you have every year, I was really proud of those kids for accomplishing that."

Such a run may happen once in a generation for many schools, but at Maize a trifecta of state championships in the spring is usually only a year away. Helm has led Maize to titles in 2011 and 2006; the softball team owns a pair of titles and the soccer team reaches the state semifinals almost annually.

The coaches agree that fluidity at lower levels of their programs and consistent coaching play major roles in keeping the teams successful after players’ four-year cycles are over.

"I find it is extremely important to build a program," Meirowski said. "There is never enough credit given to the (junior varsity) level and the degree of teaching and coaching we do for our younger athletes. The levels under our varsity teams are what bring success year success year after year."

There is also some friendly competition, especially in years like last when none of the teams want to get left behind.

Maize’s boys golf team qualified for state last year and returns several important players. The Eagles’ track teams include several top performers. The baseball, softball and girls soccer teams should all contend for postseason spots yet again.

As Meirwoski said, almost every student is participating in a spring sport at Maize. And most of them are pretty good at it.

"Every day for our morning announcements we get to hear about the success our teams are having," Meirowski said. "It gives you a sense of a pride."

  Comments