Red Raiders win four NCKL titles

By Kelly McHugh

It’s been more than a decade since Wamego High School clinched four North Central Kansas League Championships in one fall season, but this year they accomplished just that.

Including football, the boys’ and girls’ cross country teams, and the volleyball team, the Red Raiders can all claim to be the league’s best this year.

It all started on Oct. 5 when the Red Raiders football team beat Clay Center 35-12. The win secured the NCKL title — its first outright title in football in 33 years.

Wamego’s had a share of the league title in 2007, but it was a four-way tie that included Abilene, Chapman and Marysville.

After going 1-8 each of the last two seasons, the Red Raiders football team saw a huge turnaround this year, to say the least — currently sitting at 5-3 overall.

“The key thing is any time you have a turnaround year, the coach has to stick with the players and the players have to stick with the coach,” Wamego head football coach Dale Burkholder said. “And that has happened here — we’ve stuck together.”

Winning the NCKL championship brought an excitement to the school, and carried on to the other athletic teams as well.

“The athletes kind of share that success if they win,” Wamego track and field coach Rick Patton said. “If one team does well, the other teams want to do well —  that’s kind of how it is here.”

But the winning for the Red Raiders continued the following week.

On Oct. 11, the Wamego boys’ and girls’ cross country teams hosted the league’s meet, both finishing first.

While the boys’ cross country team is full of veterans, the girls’ team has only one senior.

“On the girls side,” Patton said, “they’re younger, more freshmen and sophomores who have maybe only run a year at state, tops. They’ve had to overcome a lot, but we’ve done a really good job of improving as this year has come a long.”

Later that evening,  the volleyball team faced Chapman. While the Red Raiders only needed a tie to win the league title, they would travel home with not only a win, but also as NKCL champions.

The volleyball team’s success topped off Wamego’s fall season with the school’s fourth league championship.

Also seeing success, though, was the Wamego girls’ tennis team, as the doubles team of senior Rickki Alderson and junior Kaylee Page placed first in the NCKL for the second year in a row.

After what has been an exciting school year so far, the school’s hallways are full of Red Raider pride.

“This didn’t just happen over night,” Wamego athletic director Mark Stephan said.“The students have bought into it, and it has a lot to do with the leadership of those sports. Having good leaders, coaches in those programs has been another part of that formula.”

The support of those in charge at Wamego has played a key role in the athletic success this year, both Burkholder and Patton said.

“The nice thing is,” Burkholder began, “we’ve got the top three people behind us — the superintendent, the principle and the athletic director. They’re saying, ‘What do you need to get the job done?’ and that’s exciting.

“This school is the neatest school I’ve ever been at, it’s like one big family. “

The Red Raiders football team is currently 5-3 this after a 26-18 loss last Friday to Royal Valley.

The Wamego athletic seasons continue, however, as the football team travels to Topeka to play Hayden this Friday at 7 p.m.

Wamego’s cross country teams are preparing for the state meet this weekend at the Wamego Country Club.

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