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Booster Club Awards celebrate NCHS seasons

Kirt Manion
Nebraska City News-Press

High school athletics stopped in the middle of March, just as athletes were gearing up for their spring seasons at Nebraska City High School.

Athletes, coaches and parents recently took a time out of their own to honor the seasons that were and the seasons that could have been during the Nebraska City High School Sports 2019-20 Awards Ceremony.

Coaches thanked the Booster Club for putting on the show, the parents for their support and the athletes for the honor of leading them.

Below is the first of three articles about the 2019-20 athletic seasons at Nebraska City High School.

Scott Kinnison, boys’ and girls’ golf

The Nebraska City girls’  golf team came into the 2019 fall season looking for challenges and then met nearly all of them. Coach Kinnison thanked the administration for helping the Pioneers toughen their schedule.

The season started out with third, fourth and fifth place finishes against mostly Class A competition. Then the ball really got rolling as the Pioneers recorded team placements of second, second, first, third, second, and, finally, seventh at the state tournament.

Kinnison noted that a highlight was 20 individual medals scored during the campaign, possibly the highest such total in the last 20 years.

The biggest highlight might have been the impact that the Pioneers’ success had on everyone.

Kinnison said he remembers seeing a grandmother brought to tears  in watching her granddaughter qualify for state.

“For that grandma to be in tears on the golf course—that was a high light for me because I will always remember that.”

Brynn Bohlen was the winner of the Premier Bank Female Golfer of the Year award.

She scored medals in all eight Pioneer tournaments for the second straight year, posted a low round at districts that helped the team qualify for state and then wrapped up with the low Pioneer score at the state event.

Coach Kinnison said he hopes to see Bohlen sweep the regular season in medals again and cap her career off with a state medal in the fall of 2020.

Although the Pioneer boys’ team didn’t get to have a spring season this year, Coach Kinnison said he definitely saw that the team had potential this year.

Based on 2019 results and 2020 potential, Zach Albrecht was selected for the Premier Bank Male Golfer award.

Albrecht won the 2019 Auburn tourney and the Eastern Midlands Conference tournament. He was the last Pioneer to win an EMC title as Nebraska City is moving to a new conference this fall.

Coach Kinnison said that, with a good showing this season, Albrecht could have made it to the second position for all time career wins for the Pioneers this year.

In addition to talking about his golfers, Kinnison said he really enjoyed coaching the members of this year’s senior class, adding that he coached many of the students in golf, football or basketball.

“This class is really special,” Kinnison said. “They are excellent young men and women and you should be proud of them.”

One of the seniors was paticularly noteworthy for the coach—his son, Sawyer. And Kinnison wanted to note that he appreciated all of the support his son received as Pioneer.

“I want to say thanks ot all the coaches who impacted my child,” he said.

Jason McNeely, boys’ tennis

McNeely opened his portion of the event by addressing Coach Kinnison.

“It’s funny to think we shaped Sawyer. I guarantee, he shaped more of us that we did him,” McNeely said.

Moving on to the tennis team, McNeely talked about each of his four seniors on the team this year—Sawyer Kinnison, Trey Pursel, Zach Albrecht and Adam Dia.

McNeely said Kinnison was a great help to him and was almost a second coach. Albrecht was noteworthy for excellent play. Pursel, a West Point cadet, was dubbed the soldier for his willingness to give a great effort at any task and Dia was noteworthy for his status as a four-year tennis participant.

McNeely said the Pioneers really enjoyed practice visits by Principal Brian Hoover who played with the kids and helped them to improve.

Clay Stovall was named for the Dr. R.C. Weldon Boys Tennis award.

Stovall was the top player for the Pioneers this year, and, as such, McNeely noted that Stovall went up against the No. 1 for every other team,

some of whom had played serious tennis for many years.

Stovall, a two-year player, did not back down from the challenge and battled those top players at every turn. He recorded a .500 season record and won a match at the state tournament.

Ron Schaulis, cross country

The Pioneer coach began with the girls’ team, noting that the Pioneers are still a young squad and that most of the runners would be back this fall.

“It’s been a great group to work with,” Schaulis said, noting that the runners are dedicated to their sport and to their school work as evidenced by a high team GPA.

Highlights for the 2019 season included a third place finish and second place finishes at both Platteview and at home. Nebraska City increased its overall medals and improved their times.

Coach Schaulis said the boys have a young and talented roster.

Nebraska City’s boys also recorded a third place team finish to go along with second place at Platteview and at home.

Nebraska City won the Auburn Invite and recorded the best individual medal total the program has had in the last 20 years.

The Jaycee’s Outstanding Cross Country Athlete awards went to James Kearney and Chloe Schaulis.

Kearney was second at Nebraska City, and second at Platteview to go along with first place at Auburn, D.C. West and Bennington.

He medaled in every meet this year, is a four-year runner for the program and is a three time state qualifier.

“We’ll miss him greatly. He has been a great leader and a great person,” said Schaulis.

Chloe Schaulis had a lot of highlights this year. she was third at Auburn, third at D.C. West, second at Platteview and first at the home meet.

She also medaled at every meet and is a three time state qualifier.

Dan Hempel, football

The 2019 football season was a very special one for the Nebraska City Pioneers as the team recorded its first winning season since 2004 with a dramatic come-from-behind win in the team’s final game of the regular season.

Lincoln Christian scored at the 6:30 mark of the fourth quarter to take a 10-point lead.

Nebraska City responded with 20 straight points to win the game.

Jordan Williams who finished second in Class C1 for passing yards, threw the ball to Eli Southard, who finished second in Class C1 for receiving yards, on a 60-yard bomb that got the come back going.

Alfredo Valquier ran the ball into the end zone. And, after a successful onside kick by Jonny Partida was recovered by Jaren Johansen, Landon Adams scored a rushing touchdown to give the Nebraska City team the lead for good.

Coach Hempel said the season went smoothly since all the players had bought in and everyone was on the same page.

“It was just seamless and easy to coach. The results were there because of that,” Coach Hempel said.

The Optimist’s Bob Schneider Memorial Football Lineman award went to Valquier and the Elk’s Most Valuable Player award went to Eli Southard.

Coach Hempel said Valquier was imposing with a blend of power and quickness. In addition, the coach said his lineman was simply a fun kid to be around.

As for Southard, who set a school record for receiving yards in a game in 2019, Coach Hempel called his pass catcher a clutch performer who made plays, not just on offense, but also in his role with the defensive unit.

All of the success would not have been possible without contributions from everyone.

“It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our parents and really the Nebraska City community,” said Hempel.

Amy VonFeldt, softball

Nebraska City’s softball coach read a note from assistant Nick Schmitz, who has coached this senior class of athletes since they were nine years old.

Schmitz dubbed the senior class “the great eight.”

“There is no way I could thank you guys for all the commitment and the dedication you gave me as a coach and gave to our softball family,” Schmitz said in the note.

Schmitz went on to say that the contributions of this class would have a long lasting effect on Nebraska City softball.

The “great eight” seniors are Abby Balfour, Selena Balquier, Lindsey Booth, Mara Davis, Ramsee Henderson, Elizabeth Hodges, Taylor Nicolay and Patricia Trice.

Balfour, Nicolay and Trice are going to continue playing softball at the college level. Davis is planning a college career in basketball.

The senior class guided a resurgence as they improved from a junior year record of 6-18 to a 13-13 senior mark.

Trice was named as the Nebraska City Softball Association MVP. She started all varsity games for Nebraska City from her freshman year to her senior year and improved her stats every year with a dedication to hitting and fielding and also to building a strong physical presence with weight room work.

In her final season, Trice recorded a .611 batting average with 23 singles, five doubles, two triples and eight home runs. She was first team all Eastern Midlands Conference and honorable mention all state.

Adam Kuntz, volleyball

The Pioneer head coach was not able to make it to the award show. Assistant Coach Victoria Ward spoke on the coach’s behalf.

The Nebraska City team’s highlights came late as the Pioneers won three matches in the last week of the season including two against foes who had beaten the Pioneers previously. Ward said the season was a roller coaster ride that ended in the best position possible.

Varsity awards which were given at season’s end included, for varsity: Alexis Hoover, MVP; Offense: Rachel Russell; and Defense, Izzy Denniston.

Denniston was also named as the Rotary’s Outstanding Volleyball Player.