OSAWATOMIE — It was a busy week at Osawatomie High School with summer practices and conditioning, heading into the fall sports season.
There were a few surprises, like back-to-back days with heat advisories, but the athletes are ready for the games to begin.
The Osawatomie volleyball team opened practice Monday, Aug. 19, without volleyballs.
After two-plus hours on their practice field affectionately named the “Pit,” the Osawatomie football players were greeted by the hill. It is not such a bad walk down to the field, but after running and working out with pads for two hours, the walk back up the hill is brutal.
The hike is 272 steps of pure determination and grit from the football practice field to the parking lot.
Osawatomie cross country runners opened practice warming up with exercises including jumps and leg stretches. They did short runs and then hit the pavement to put in a few miles.
The Lady Trojan volleyball program started practice like any other program across the state of Kansas — with one exception — a volleyball.
For the first three days of practice, which started Monday, Aug. 19, the Osawatomie girls practiced without a ball.
Osawatomie did hit the ball back to each other during warm-ups one afternoon, but after that the balls went to the baskets and were put up.
The Lady Trojans were still working hard, running and running and running.
It was just disguised as capture the flag and various forms of tag. Strategy and teamwork were also involved with the running.
The experience is also a good one for building team chemistry, Osawatomie coach Emily Ballou said.
Skyler Gravatt returned to the hardwood court after missing a season while recovering from a knee injury. She tried out for the program and made the squad.
Gravatt was one of the agile sprinters on the court for the tag drills. She was elusive and nearly wiped out assistant coach Marley Murrow and a team manager, coming within several feet of them while running toward the edge of the court.
It was a fun afternoon with a lot of thought going on, making even some of the more trivial questions for tag a bit difficult to process.
“If you are wearing blue, run,” Murrow said.
“If you have knee pads, run.”
Volleyball players were lined up at the baseline on one end of the gym and several were on the court in the middle of the gymnasium.
If a player matched the description to run, they had to dart from one end of the court to the other without being tagged.
“If you are a freshman, run. If you are wearing red.
“If you are a junior, run. That is you Maddie.”
Maddie Ballou paused, then started running, zig-zagging her way from one end of the court to the other.
Ready to represent the Lady Trojans are senior libero Molly Spencer, senior right side hitter Tara Haag, senior setter Sydney Booe, junior outside hitter Allie Lagasse, junior outside hitter Maddie Ballou and sophomore setter Avery Dempsey.
Others to keep an eye on include senior defender Grace Hendrickson, junior middle hitter Meadow Stull and senior middle Sadie Rayl.
Senior wide receiver Daulton Davis was on the sideline playing catch with senior quarterback Boyd Cole as the Osawatomie Trojans broke into 7-on-7 drills to work on coverage recognition, responsibilities and offensive and defensive positioning.
“Defensive backs, you have to move and get more depth,” coach Ron Madden directed at practice Wednesday, Aug. 21. “Don’t be standing there like a fence post. If you do that, you cannot react. You have to be moving and set your depth, then you can read the quarterback and react.”
Junior defensive back Beau Beers read a play out to the flat, jumped the route and picked off a pass for the interception.
Other seniors back for the Trojans include wideout Bailey Cornelison, running back Braden Bradshaw, defensive back Malik Schultz, tight end Ethan Wallace, lineman Colby Jones, lineman Jason Smith, lineman Josh McBride, lineman Brandon Armstrong and wide out Caden Maule.
The Osawatomie cross country team has been hitting the streets and the track, putting in miles to prepare for the season, coach Hayden Mersman said.
Osawatomie has 34 runners out for the high school and middle school programs. There are 16 girls on the team with nine high school runners and seven middle school runners. The boys program has 18 runners, including 13 on the high school team.
Eight letter-winners are back for the program.
Ready to lead the Osawatomie cross country team are seniors Justin Bradley, Theo Herbert and Thaid Timblin, juniors Tyler Manning, Kaden Carver and Sam Farley, and sophomores Chase Homrighausen and Tessa Thompson.
Senior Kaitlyn Fanning is also back to compete with the varsity seven.
“We have a nice mix of leadership skills amongst our seniors,” Mersman said. “Kaitlyn Fanning does a great job being a vocal leader, guiding the team throughout practices and supporting her teammates. Other seniors such as Justin Bradley do a great job leading by example. He is always striving to better himself. Our younger runners really look up to our seniors.”