Flinging open his classroom door on the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 27, social studies teacher Jeff Strickland pauses in his tracks, noting the disappearance of the chairs and desks in his room. AP Government students sit on the floor around the room waiting for an explanation, but with more important business to take care of, Strickland marched out of the door. Within minutes, under the supervision of Strickland, boys from social studies teacher Dustin Stinnett’s US History class come to carefully place each chair and desk precisely in their former location. This prank was one of many throughout the history of a unique relationship between Strickland and Stinnett.
“Trying to recall my first prank is like trying to recall my first drink of water,” Strickland said. “I’ve always been this way.”
The two began their long line of pranking during Stinnett’s student teaching in 2006. After randomly finding his computer mouse covered in hand sanitizer after Strickland covered his class, Stinnett returned the favor by soaking Strickland’s black plush desk chair with water. Though Strickland was only “legitimately mad for 15 seconds,” the jokes continued to escalate.
“My family conducts themselves in a manner where if you’re friends with someone, you joke around with them,” Stinnett said. “It’s a sign of affection.”
Stinnett did not feel the affection, however, after Strickland pulled his “best” prank that quickly went downhill.
“I would come into his classroom [on occasion] and spell words incorrectly on his whiteboard. During in-service day with elementary teachers in his classroom, teachers [saw the words and] complained about his inability to spell,” Strickland said. “They complained to the powers that be.”
Stinnett experienced negative results from Strickland’s fun and games, but didn’t take it too seriously.
“The jokes wouldn’t be worth it without an initial emotional response,” Stinnett said. “But we don’t get mad.”
Despite the outcome of this prank, they continue to battle without contributions from other teachers. In this game, Stinnett said there was “no help needed.”
“Some [teachers] don’t even know about all of this,” Strickland said. “They’re much too busy for these hijinks.”
From bike chaining laptop carts to desks to stealing desks and chairs, Strickland and Stinnett maintain a comical relationship.
“We’re actually not even friends,” Strickland said sarcastically. “We need a reason to interact and this is the only way to do it.”
The two plan to continue their hijinks every couple months to make their days more enjoyable.
“It entertains us.” Strickland said. “It keeps it lively, it keeps it fun, it keeps it lighthearted.”
While junior Molly Oshinski grabs her volleyball and knee pads for a day at practice, senior Staton Rebeck stuffs two workout outfits and a yellow Gatorade in his duffle bag for football weights before school and basketball practice after school. Oshinski has chosen to specialize in volleyball while Rebeck has played as many as three sports in a school year.
Recently, coaches have begun to acknowledge that multi-sport players like Rebeck are becoming limited compared to specialized athletes like Oshinski.
Athletic director David Ewers said that the amount of specialized players has increased greatly over the past decade.
“Between 2002-2003 is when one-sport players really picked up,” Ewers said. “Since then, it’s just increased tremendously.”
Head girls basketball coach John McFall said that in the last 10 – 15 years of coaching he has noticed a huge increase in the amount of specialized players.
“The specialization of athletes in high school is out of control and pushed by too many people that have their own agendas,” McFall said. “What happens is if [players] limit themselves to only [one sport], the first week of practice they [could] blow a knee then miss the entire season. They have passed up other opportunities to compete in high school sports and you only have one chance in life to be a high school athlete.”
Oshinski plays volleyball year-round as her sport of choice. She said if she was given the chance to play more sports she would, but time management is a huge factor.
“There’s no other time to play another sport,” Oshinski said. “I practice three times a week for nine months of the year and every day during high school season.”
Baseball coach and former high school athlete Dustin Stinnett said that while the time management may be difficult, it is worth it to play numerous sports.
“I benefited from every sport I played,” Stinnett said. “If I had said ‘I’m going to play baseball and that’s it’ then I would have missed out on opportunities. You’d miss out on the chance to see if you love a sport.”
Rebeck said that he has made sacrifices for being a multi-sport player, but the benefits are what matters.
“I miss out on hanging out with friends or staying up late,” Rebeck said. “But I have a broader athletic ability and a lot of life skills like hard work, dedication and perseverance.”
Although she acknowledges she would consider playing another sport, Oshinski said the deciding factor was her passion for volleyball.
“I don’t think I could love another sport as much,” Oshinski said. “I can see myself doing it for a long time and it’s always been my one sport.”
A total of 18 athletes took part in a group college signing ceremony in the auxiliary gym on Thursday, Feb. 7.
In previous years, athletes have signed separately or in smaller groups. Athletics director David Ewers said the group recognition ceremony was used at his former school and that he wanted to give athletes the chance to celebrate together.
“I felt that it celebrated the athletic department as a whole and I felt that it gave the athletes a chance to celebrate their … signings as a whole,” Ewers said. “I thought it went very well. I think people overall were very pleased with the event, so if those people were pleased, I was pleased. I thought it looked very nice and professional.”
Track coach Chris Dunback had two athletes sign and also enjoyed the event for the group celebration.
“I thought it was a really neat thing,” Dunback said. “Instead of having every kid [sign] on their own, they turned it into a special event and I thought that was awesome. I think it’s one of the best things we’ve done around here in a long time in terms of that. I just think the grandeur of the event … felt like a big deal. It was just a special thing to be a part of. Not only was it something for our athletes but it was also like a celebration of our school.”
The following athletes signed:
Senior Kayla Hammer, University of Central Missouri, soccer
Senior McKenzie Koch, Emporia State University, soccer
Senior Hayley Seibel, Baker University, soccer
Senior Kelli Spring, Wichita State University, softball
Senior Taylor Brunson, Johnson County Community College, softball
Senior Emily Brigham, University of South Dakota, track
Senior Madison Estell, Hillsdale College, track
Senior Molly Kelly, McPherson College, volleyball
Senior LJ Hatch, Johnson County Community College, baseball
Senior Jason Younger, Baker University, baseball
Senior Zach Stinnett, Washburn University, baseball
Senior Skyler Windmiller, Missouri Western University, football
Senior Kendall Short, Missouri Western University, football
Senior Coleman McCann, University of Northern Colorado, football
Senior Knute Holden, Baker University, football
Senior Staton Rebeck, William Jewell College, football
Senior Lincoln Benson, Hutchinson Community College, football
Senior Andrew Campbell, Chadron State College, football
Senior varsity baseball players Jacob Spring and Tyler Moore are preparing for their 13th year of playing together when they start at Coffeyville Community College this fall. The two started playing together in second grade and have been on the same team, except for a couple years, since then.
“When we first started playing, Tyler used to be the homerun hitter and a star pitcher,” Spring said. “I used to go to his house and see all the baseballs from his homeruns and think, ‘Ah man, I wish I had one of those.’”
Spring didn’t quite stand out compared to Moore that first year.
“He was one of the smaller kids,” Moore said, laughing.
“Yeah, and I used to play third base,” Spring said, a change from left field, which he currently plays. “And I was new to the area so I didn’t know too many people.”
The two continued playing together once they got to high school. Spring has been on the varsity team all four years and Moore has played varsity since his sophomore year.
“It’s been a fun, good experience,” Spring said of his time on the varsity team. “I also feel like high school baseball made me a better player.”
“It’s prepared us for the next level, which is college,” Moore said. “It just goes to show what a good coach [Jeff] Strickland is.”
Both Spring and Moore emphasize that the coaching during their high school career has been the contributing factor to their positive experience.
“They’ve all been really helpful,” Moore said of the varsity coaches. “Both Strickland and [Dustin] Stinnett have played a college level so they have the experience that’s necessary to coach.”
“I appreciated how passionate they are,” Spring said. “They already know we care, so it’s really great to have them show how much they care.”
Head coach Jeff Strickland has been impressed with Moore and Spring’s efforts over the last four years.
“Their work ethic is second to none,” Strickland said. “It’s nice to see them reach their dreams of playing college ball.”
Spring has high aspirations for the rest of his career.
“I’ll go to Coffeyville, play to get better, hopefully transfer to a Division I school, then get drafted in the minor league,” Spring said.
“Same idea for me,” Moore said. “But if it doesn’t work out, I want to stay around sports, maybe coaching.”
After being approved at a recent Board meeting, the area behind Monticello Trails Middle School is currently being altered to create space for an additional two practice football fields and to find a more effective use of the available space.
“They wanted to use the space out there in a better way,” head football coach Joel Applebee said. “It allows for a larger number of kids we can have practicing there for football and track too. Basically, the reason we’re doing this is for a better use of space.”
The space is currently occupied by one practice football field and was previously occupied by the baseball team’s batting cages.
According to district director of activities Roland Van Wyhe, one of the goals of the renovation was to get the activities condensed into a smaller area.
“It will organize our field events in one area where it can be supervised at the same time,” Van Wyhe said. “Also, it will provide two official-sized football fields to practice on.”
Before this, the practice fields available to the football team were not full size. Also, Van Wyhe said that one of the fields will be available to the middle school football teams for games if deemed necessary. This would prevent scheduling conflicts with events occuring on the high school football field.
Additionally, the shot put area will be modified to allow for two more areas to be created. However, this will not occur until after track season to avoid interfering with the practices.
Another change that will occur throughout the transition is the relocation of the batting cages. The current two cages have already been taken down and will be replaced by two new cages.
Each of the cages will be placed alongside one of the foul lines on the baseball field, one cage per line on the field.
“It’ll be more beneficial for us because it’s actually closer to our field,” head baseball coach Jeff Strickland said.
Strickland and assistant baseball coach Dustin Stinnett also said that this will restrict the amount of space available to the baseball team but also agreed that they just want the season to arrive and are largely unconcerned with the changes.
“We’re just ready to play baseball,” Stinnett said.
Senior varsity baseball player Jacob Spring agrees with Stinnett but also acknowledges that practices will be affected.
“We’ll definitely have to make adjustments,” Spring said. “It’s not going to be what it was in the past, but I think we will be alright.”
According to Applebee, this decision will help not only the football team but also the baseball and track teams.
“It was a conservative effort by everybody to help everybody out,” Applebee said.
Strickland agrees with Applebee in the fact that this is a group effort.
“Overall, I think it’s going to be beneficial for everybody,” Strickland said. “The utilization of space we have is going to be better.”
Over 200 paper turkeys were posted around the school last week for a contest to show appreciation towards teachers and staff. The event, held by StuCo, took place Monday, Nov. 21 thru Monday, Nov. 28. The goal of the contest was to get the highest number of points by finding paper turkeys that were posted around the school. The yellow turkeys were worth 10 points, the blue turkeys were worth five points and the green turkeys were worth one point.
The winner of the contest was science teacher Alyssa Auld, who won a $30 gift card to a location of her choice.
English teacher Lindsey Prewitt, social studies teacher Dustin Stinnett and office secretary Lynn Bath were chosen out of a hat as the consolation winners of a $10 gift card to a location of their choice.
Assistant StuCo sponsor Jessica DeWild thinks the competition went well.
“Most of the teacher really got into it. We had teachers ‘turkey hunting’ during their plans and having kids scour for them during passing periods,” DeWild said. “I think it was a fun event to show our appreciation for all the teachers and staff at Mill Valley do throughout the year.”
Junior Zach Stinnett has always seen himself as a baseball player. It’s the sport that he identifies the most with and the one he would prefer to play over any other. But in the past year, wrestling has had more and more of a role in his life.
Making varsity sophomore year, his first year trying out for the team, Stinnett has shown his ability. He finished fourth at regionals and competed at many varsity meets during his sophomore year.
Although he has seen a lot of success, every loss makes an impact on Stinnett.
“Losing a match sucks,” Stinnett said. “It’s just you that loses as opposed to a team taking a loss.”
Even though wrestling is more of an individual sport, Stinnett sees the memories made during wrestling practices and meets as bonding the team together.
“I enjoy the companionship with the other wrestlers,” Stinnett said. “My favorite memory was during my sophomore year. Trey Johnson was acting like a monkey jumping around the gym at the Johnson County Classic.”
Stinnett sees his hard work as the thing that sets him apart from other wrestlers. He estimates that he will practice for 12 hours every school week. To prepare for meets, Stinnett has to attend zero hour every morning and keep his weight down in order to be able to compete in his weight class.
“I have to eat less than I normally do and stay hydrated,” Stinnett said.
Staying healthy has been a problem for Stinnett this year. He suffered from pneumonia and had to miss many practices and preparations for the season. Regardless, Stinnett feels that he is prepared for the season.
“I just missed practice,” Stinnett said. “But I’m back to healthy. It was hard to breath at the beginning, but my breathing is coming back.”
2001 graduate Justin Cobb
Graduating with about 120 other students in the school’s first senior class, 2001 graduate Justin Cobb left behind four years that still affect his life.
Cobb was one of the first students to have the opportunity to call himself a Jaguar football player, an experience that is still a favorite memory from high school.
“[My favorite part was] trying out football,” Cobb said. “I’m a big sports guy and…after awhile you start to miss good old Friday night football. Those were fun times.”
Social studies teacher and 2002 graduate Dustin Stinnett played football with Cobb.
“I remember Justin Cobb was a very talented athlete,” Stinnett said. “It was nice having a running back that could break for a big play at any given time.”
Cobb received a scholarship to play football for Baker University, and graduated in 2005 with a degree in business. However, he received the opportunity to play arena football, proceeding to play for the Arizona Adrenaline. After that, he tried business but is now a police officer for the Shawnee Police Department.
“I tried the business world and things are pretty volatile in the business world and I’m not much of a desk…kind of guy,” Cobb said. “I chose something where I could help people. It creates a sense of fulfillment when you can do something others can’t do.”
Though he only attended the school for one year, Cobb enjoyed that time and believes it benefited him.
“Mill Valley is surrounded by a great community and has great teachers,” he said. “If someday I had kids, I definitely wouldn’t mind them going to school there. I think Mill Valley does a good job of allowing kids to be kids.”
2007 graduate Hillary Mullin
From Los Angeles to London to Topeka, 2007 graduate Hillary Mullin has embarked on a career in journalism that started out as something she simply enjoyed doing while she was in high school.
“I used to be really involved with dancing, StuCo and stuff like that but by junior year I was constantly in the journalism room and by senior year I was editor of the newspaper,” Mullin said.
Mullin’s career spawned from that first step in journalism. After graduation, she went to the University of Missouri, where she was directly admitted into the journalism program. After that, she did an internship at KOMU-8 News. She was a production assistant and worked on editing videos. By her junior and senior years of college, she was working at KOMU multiple times a week and by her senior year was “their go-to, fill-in anchor” whenever they needed one.
“I guess it was just being a staff reporter for the newspaper that ended up turning into my career,” Mullin said.
After that, Mullin moved to Los Angeles and worked as an intern for Entertainment Tonight. Later, she moved to London and was an intern for the CBS News Bureau before finally coming to Topeka to work as the morning anchor for Kansas First News.
“I didn’t expect to get an anchoring job because that’s something that it takes awhile to get,” Mullin said. “The funny thing is that on my first day I got calls from directors with other news jobs asking for me but I had to turn them down because I already had a job.”
All of it was born out of what she did in high school.
“I think [high school] is the time to find out what you’re interested in,” Mullin said. “Sometimes it’s just weird for me to think that what used to be a hobby is now how I make a living.”
2004 graduate Jay Matlack
Running cross country races that earned him college scholarships and receiving an education in classes that still challenge students today, 2004 graduate Jay Matlack prepared for a future he hadn’t expected.
As a student, Matlack participated in musicals and plays, but one of the things he remembers most about his experience was running track and cross country. In his junior year, Matlack ran a 5K cross country race in 15:59, which still stands today as the junior and school record. He also set the senior record at 16:20. He still believes that one of the most valuable lessons he learned came from running.
“[Some of the skills I learned are] first and foremost, running and what it taught me,” Matlack said. “I still run everyday. It taught me how to stay committed to things, to stay dedicated to a goal. It’s given me everything. It’s given me my friends, people to network with. It’s shaped my personality and my work ethic.”
Matlack also says that high school taught him to appreciate the relationships that people build with others.
“Some of my best friends are the people I went to high school with,” Matlack said. “It’s important to value those relationships.”
Cross country coach Mark Chipman appreciates Matlack’s contribution to the team.
“Jay was a great kid,” Chipman said. “He got the most out of his abilities. He had a great career here but went on and had a great career at Tulsa also.”
After graduating in a class of about 160 students, Matlack attended the University of Tulsa, where he ran cross country and track and earned a marketing degree. After that he moved to Denver and earned a master’s degree in sports management at the University of Denver. Today, he lives in Kansas City, owns and manages Tricycle Transit, a pedicab company, and also works at Kansas City Kansas Community College in the business division. Matlack says that he never had any idea that he would be doing what he is doing now.
“I didn’t choose it, it just happened,” he said. “It wasn’t a goal of mine but I’m glad it happened because I enjoy what I’m doing. It’s definitely not what I saw myself doing. There’s a lot of opportunities out there, some that you may never have thought about…because you’ll never know what’ll come.”
As the team rolls out the mats each day for practice, head wrestling coach Travis Keal has specific goals for the wrestlers to carry with them during the season.
“Our goal is to have each wrestler better themselves daily in the classroom and in the practice room,” Keal said. “By focusing on being the best daily, each wrestler will have the mind set and skills necessary to achieve individual success.”
There are nine anticipated returning varsity wrestlers: sophomores Landon Scott, Daniel Grey, Jake Ellis and Tyler Dickman; juniors Zach Stinnett and Derrick Paxton; and seniors Devin Ellison, Zach Callahan and Christian Service.
During the 2010-2011 season, 10 of the 14 varsity wrestlers placed in the top four out of eight wrestlers at regionals.
Ellis wants to see the team compete again at such a high level of competition so that he and the wrestling program will both benefit from the success.
“I want to place in the top four at regionals to make it on to state because my hopes are becoming a state champion by the end of this year,” Ellis said. “We want as many state qualifiers as we can get because that’ll up our chances of winning state as a team.”
Head girls basketball coach John McFall foresees that the 2011-2012 season will be one of success.
“With a good nucleus of returning varsity players and a good influx of JV players, this year’s squad should be competitive if they rebound well,” McFall said.
There are expected to be five returning starters: junior forward Stephanie Lichtenauer, junior guard/forward McKenzie Koch, junior guard Tanner Tripp, and two returning letter winners, junior guard Mackenzie Conklin and sophomore guard Mary Altman.
McFall thinks the goal of the team should be reaching its full potential as opposed to only winning games. The players and coaches refer to each game as ‘trips,’ and they go out and play their best each ‘trip.’
“[The trips] help motivate our team to work hard every week at practices instead of just preparing for one game at a time,” Lichtenauer said.
After finishing the 2010 season with a league record of 12-2, McFall coached a summer league team consisting of some players who would be returning for the 2011-2012 season. The league gave McFall an opportunity to observe the growth taking place, as well as focus on the areas in need of development.
“The summer league showed a ton of improvement,” McFall said. “[But] we need to become stronger with the ball.”
Seeing a large group of young players signed up for boys basketball tryouts, head coach Justin Bogart knows that a large team gives it more depth. The more players who show up, the better the options.
Although many seniors were lost at the end of last season, there are nine varsity players expected to return for the 2011-2012 season. Junior forwards Nathan Stacy, Austin Moylan, Brett Hamilton, L.J. Hatch, Grant Schrepfer, and junior guards Staton Rebeck, Jake Theis and Kyle Kain all earned varsity letters last season and helped last year’s team earn a 12-9 record.
Throughout the season, Bogart hopes that the boys will improve in all aspects of play, including taking care of the ball and making smart decisions on the court. After finishing last season with a winning record, the bar is set high.
“I think this is going to be a really exciting, successful season,” Moylan said. “This team is going to be young, fast and exciting to watch. I think we have a chance to do something really special.”