Honoring the Lake area’s best of the 2019 spring season

The Lake area has done it again.

With the spring sports season reaching its conclusion, there are athletes, teams and coaches who made it worth noting as a state title was defended, others were amongst the best in the state, school records were broken and a 30-year drought came to an end. As per tradition, the Lake Sun will recognize the accomplishments of those individuals and teams who represented the Lake quite well.

TOP ATHLETES

Camdenton senior Gabe Kurtz, Track and Field

The defending Class 4 javelin state champion was back to defend his throne. Kurtz, who set a Class 4 record last season while earning his first state title in the throwing event, went a little further in 2019 with a throw of 191 feet and 4 inches that temporarily stood as the All-Class record until a Class 5 thrower in Joplin’s Zach Westmoreland broke it with a throw of 194-06. The best part of all may be that the senior did it while attempting just one single throw in the finals. Kurtz, who also came home with two other state medals (fifth in pole vault and eighth in 4x100 relay), hit a throw of 187 feet in the preliminary round that was still standing as the best throw so he went to go compete in the pole vault and scratched his first two finals throws. Apparently, he did not need them and being a two-time state champion is not a bad way to wrap up a career.

Eldon freshman Caroline Beckmann, Track and Field

The sky may very well be the limit for Beckmann. Her first track and field season in the high school ranks concluded with four medals at the Class 3 state meet, which is the maximum amount of events an athlete can compete in, and three of them came from jumping events. She soared to a third place finish in the long jump, sixth place finish in the triple jump, eighth place finish in the high jump and also helped the 4x400 relay team finish with the sixth best time in the state and a new school record. She did this all in a single day and Beckmann also owns the school’s triple jump record, which used to belong to her aunt. Time will soon tell how much this young Mustang has yet to accomplish, but one thing for sure is that she is clearly not afraid to fly.

TOP TEAMS

Camdenton baseball

Another drought is done at Camdenton. Just a few months after the boys’ basketball team won its first district title since 1982, the baseball team decided to follow suit and win its first district title since 1982, the baseball team decided to follow suit and win its first district title since 1989. The Lakers, who entered the postseason as the fifth seed in the Class 5 District 9 Tournament, knocked off No. 4 Smith-Cotton in the first round, top-seeded Jefferson City in the semifinals and No. 3 Rolla in the championship game to get it done. The season wrapped up with a loss to Glendale in sectionals, but by that point the Lakers (17-10) were among the top 16 teams left in the state and had won 13 of its final 18 games after a four-game losing streak midway through the year. Camdenton coach Bryce Durnin credited the leadership of a senior class that also helped the team win 17 games the previous year and said it was a group that just went out and had fun, enjoying the game.

Osage Girls’ Track and Field

It was a pretty nice postseason for School of the Osage. The Indians just missed out on earning a second conference title since 2017, but the team was more than happy to win a district title for the first time since 2004 and go on to clam a sectional title as well. Winning any meet as a team, let alone districts or sectionals, usually requires contributions across the board and not just from a handful of skilled athletes. Osage proved it had what it took to do just that as the team sent 13 different Indians to the Class 3 state meet in Columbia. Osage may not have gotten quite as many state medals as the program would have liked, but senior Cecilia Verslues finished All-State in the 100-meter dash for a second straight year as she took eighth while Loren Melton placed fourth in the long jump and Sara Wolf captured sixth in the 800-meter run.

TOP COACHES

Matt Frey, Eldon Boys’ Golf

Some fairly nice hardware from the links came back to Eldon this school year under the leadership of Frey. He led the girls’ program to its first district title in school history this past fall while Kassidy Hull claimed the individual title and became the first ever All-State Mustang girl by placing seventh in the state tournament. The momentum did not end there, though. Frey led the boys’ team to a 26-1 record in match play in the spring, its first Tri-County Conference championship since 2004, a district championship and a fourth place finish at state that brought a state trophy back home for the first time since the program won two straight state championships in 2000 and 2001. The coach pointed to the efforts to grow the game at the youth level in Eldon and said it is clearly paying off. With Frey at the helm, it seems those efforts will not be in vain.

Tobby Eldridge, Eldon Girls’ track and field

A coach likely never imagines what it takes to prepare his team for any event, much less the Class 3 state track and field meet, when a tornado ravages through their hometown. Well, it seems Eldridge was up to the challenge at Eldon as his Mustangs put together the program’s highest ever finish at state, finishing fifth out of 70 Class 3 teams and one spot away from a team trophy. The foundation had always been there under Eldridge who led his team to a fifth Tri-County Conference title in the past six years while also nearly capturing a fifth straight district championship. However, going to compete at state just three days after a natural disaster was something new and Eldridge and his staff had the task of balancing the desire of his athletes to help those affected while also preparing to take on the best in Missouri. Well, mission accomplished and when some teammates describe each other as “family” it seems there is some good leadership at the top.

HONORABLE MENTION ATHLETES

Versailles senior Ori Bartlett, Boys’ Golf

Bartlett had a pretty nice finish to his senior season with the Tigers. The returning All-State golfer (top 15 in the state), Versailles’ first since 2006, finished as an individual conference champion and 10th in the Class 2 state tournament to earn All-State honors once again.

Camdenton junior Aeryn Kennedy, Girls’ Soccer

Kennedy has a knack for finding the back of the net and 2019 was no different as she racked up 29 total goals and was named the Class 5 District 10 Tournament’s Offensive Player of the Year while helping the Lakers reach the district championship game.

HONORABLE MENTION TEAMS

Macks’ Creek Baseball

Macks Creek finished the year with a respectable 12-7 record that included a second straight run to the district championship game before the year came to an end. The Pirates won five of their last six games and it was the third time in four years the club played for a district title.

Versailles Girls’ Track and Field Relay Team

A solid core featuring senior Allison Taylor and juniors Keely Gustafson, Gracie Hamrick and Lauryn Shewmaker gave Tiger fans something to be excited about over the past few years including 2019 after a girls’ program that had just a handful of state qualifiers saw the four athletes become 17-time state qualifiers that won five state medals together. Time will tell what the returning trio has in store for one final run.

HONORABLE MENTION COACHES

L.J. Weeks, Osage Boys’ Golf

Weeks and his golfers saw a few highlights in 2019 whether it was junior Ethan Kline winning five straight events or his teammates in sophomore Zach Krantz and senior Trevor Ralston joining him in sectionals for a shot at state. Kline reached state for the second straight year with Weeks at the helm and it was the fourth straight season that an Indian was playing among the best at state.

Chris Byington, Camdenton Girls’ Soccer

Talk about a turnaround. Things were looking bleak early on for Camdenton as the team started 0-6 with a tough schedule, but Byington emphasized positivity and sought to get the best from the team at districts. His club responded finishing the season 11-12-1 which included a five-game win streak and shot at a district title.