BY MIKE MARZOLF
Summer is in its final push. It may not seem like it with temperatures topping out over 100 degrees. But school is less than one month away. Two of the three-month retrieve from school for our youth is gone.
Enrollment has already begun at the high school. Panther Cards have been handed out and high school athletes are peddling them around town. It’s a good buy, by the way. If you need one, I can hook you up. Let me know.
Summer has always has gone fast. It’s like the dessert to the meal. There never seems to be enough.
The optimist in me, however, says there is still a month left. One month to accomplish those task you had on your list but haven’t checked off yet.
Summer baseball has swept through the area. Successful summer baseball at that. Both the Great Bend AAA Legion team and the A Legion team will be hosting the state tournament over the next 10 days or so.
Just 25 miles to the West, the Larned AA Legion team is on track for a spot at the AA State Tournament in Fort Scott.
Add the state title by the Great Bend Bombers 8-under team and the softball state title by the Quicksilver 14-under team recently and baseball/softball in the Golden Belt has proven to be some of the best in the state. That is pretty cool.
Former athlete/coach update
We have touched quite a bit on the former track and field stars from Barton that will be participating in the 2016 Rio Olympics. There will be seven in total including three women in the 200m field.
Let’s take this space to congratulate Antanas Kavaliauskas on his selection to the Lithuanian men’s basketball team. It will be his second Olympics. At the 2012 London games, Antanas averaged 4.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.
I remember when Antanas showed up on campus, barely speaking English and learning how to function in his new environment. He struggled that first year then flourished in his second year. He has just gotten better and better since that time.
There are times in your life when you realize you are experiencing something pretty cool but do not realize until later just how special it was.
As the Olympics near, I find myself think back to a day in May some 14 years ago. A day in Odessa, Texas. It was my first NJCAA National Track and Field Championship.
The first thing I noticed was how awesome the high school football stadium in Odessa was. I knew it was iconic after the release of Friday Night Lights.
But it was not just what happened inside that stadium that day, but who was making it happen that made it turn out to be special.
On that day seven Barton track and field athletes competed that would eventually compete in Olympic competition. Four of them would earn Olympic individual medals and two more would win relay medals.
Think about that for a minute. Six future Olympic medalist on one junior college track team from right here in Great Bend. Amazing stuff.
Just how talented was that team? Three of them will be heading to Olympics again this year – some 14 years later.
This year will more than likely be the final Olympic chapter for that unbelievable team.
Veronica Campbell-Brown was a freshman, winning both the 100m and 200m and 4x100m. Campbell’s 200m time of 22.39 is still a Championship record today. She has won a total of eight Olympic medals including back-to-back gold medals in the 200m in 2004 and 2008.
This will be her fifth Olympics. She will run the 200m again this year. That year she beat LaShauntea Moore, who later ran the 200m for the United States in the 2008 Olympics.
Also setting a Championship record that day was Leevan Sands in the triple jump. In the greatest jumping competition in NJCAA history, Sands beat teammates and future Olympians John Moffitt and LeJuan Simon. Sands jumped 57-5.5 for gold and an NJCAA record that still stands.
Sands would win bronze at the 2008 Olympics and finish fifth in 2012 before an injury sidelined him for two years and appeared to end his career. He is back and will jump in his fourth Olympics. Moffitt would go on to win silver in the 2004 Olympics in long jump.
Another Championship record set that day was by Hyleas Fountain in the Heptathlon. Her score of 5673 still stands today as well. Fountain would win a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics.
The 4x100m relay team for the women also set a record that afternoon that still stands – 43.84. Campbell and Moore were part of that team.
Another freshman for the Cougars that day was Tyson Gay – the US record holder in the 100m with a 9.69. He would win the 100m title that afternoon. He has a silver medal in the 4x100m from the 2012 Olympics. Gay will be in the relay pool for the US this year.
For Campbell-Brown, Sands, and Gay this is probably their final Olympics. Three of the greatest athletes to walk across the Barton campus. Good Luck to all.