Best of Kansas: Miege's Verhulst, Mill Valley's Kremer nab top KS HS Sports Awards honors

Brent Maycock
Topeka Capital-Journal
Bishop Miege’s Payton Verhulst (22) bring the ball up the court as teammate Catherine Boling (31) follows during the second half of the 4A state semifinal game at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center on Friday.
A multiple state champion in both football and wrestling, Mill Valley's Ethan Kremer (61) was named the Kansas High School Sports Awards Overall Male Athlete of the Year on Thursday night. Kremer was also chosen as the Football Player of the Year.

Throughout their four years at their respective high schools, Payton Verhulst and Ethan Kremer more than made their marks, achieving both individual and team glory.

In multiple sports.

Verhulst was a staple in leading Miege to two Class 4A girls state basketball championships and the volleyball program to a title as well. Kremer led Mill Valley to a pair of Class 5A state football titles while also winning three individual state wrestling championships.

Their efforts didn't go unnoticed. In addition to all the All-League, All-Class, All-State and Gatorade honors they piled up, the duo also have received the highest honor at the Kansas High School Sports Awards.

Verhulst was named the Overall Female Athlete of the Year, while Kremer was named the Overall Male Athlete of the Year.

The show, which aired Thursday night, honored the best athletes in Kansas in 23 different sports. Special awards were also given to a state coach of the year, team of the year, scholar athlete of the year as well as a courage award.

Verhulst, who also was named the girls' basketball player of the year and was an honoree in volleyball, edged out Topeka High's NiJaree Canady and Gardner-Edgerton's Kendra Wait for the girls' overall honor.

Canady was named the softball player of the year after leading the Trojans to the first state championship in program history while also being an honoree in girls basketball. Wait was named the girls' track and field athlete of the year after a historic four-golf performance at this year's state meet and also was an honoree in volleyball.

Kremer, the football player of the year and finalist for boys wrestler of the year, took the boys' overall honor over Little River's Jayden Garrison and Manhattan's Daniel Harkin.

Garrison was an honoree in boys basketball and also starred in football in leading the Redskins to the Eight-Man Division I state championship. Harkin was the boys' tennis player of the year and a finalist in boys cross country, taking state titles in both as a senior. He also was the boys' cross country runner of the year in 2020.

Olpe's Chris Schmidt was named the overall state coach of the year after guiding the Eagles to state championships in both football and basketball this season. Other finalists were Washburn Rural's Damon Parker, who led the Junior Blues to a sweep of the boys and girls state wrestling championships, and Miege's Terry English, who led the Stags girls basketball team to a record 22nd state championship before announcing his retirement following the season.

The team of the year award went to the Shawnee Mission Northwest girls' basketball team which posted an undefeated season and won the program's first state championship when it took the Class 6A title this year. The Cougars also handed English's Miege team its only loss in a state championship season.

Other finalists for team of the year were Washburn Rural's wrestling teams — the boys capturing the program's first state championship and the girls winning a second straight, each in dominating fashion — and the Dodge City boys' soccer team, which became the first boys' program in the state to enjoy two undefeated seasons on its way to the Class 6A state title.

A handful of individual sport winners were repeat winners from previous seasons.

Chapman's Taylor Briggs won her third straight girls' cross country runner of the year award after becoming just the sixth girl in state history to win four state cross country titles. St. James Academy's John Amrein was named the boys swimmer/diver of the year for the second straight year after a record-setting sweep of his individual events at the Class 5-1A state meet.

Free State's Talia Gay was named the gymnast of the year for the second time in three years, winning the award as a sophomore and then again this year as a senior after bouncing back from an injury-plagued junior year.

Other individual sport winners included: Blue Valley Southwest's Ben Kudrna (baseball), Miege's Mark Mitchell (boys basketball), Wichita Northwest's Brandon Bonta (boys bowling), Carroll's Kaylee Back (girls bowling), Girard's Cormick Logue (boys cross country), Mill Valley's Nicklaus Mason (boys golf), Blue Valley West's Julia Misemer (girls golf), Dodge City's Alan Lopez (boys soccer), Aquinas' Grace O'Keefe (girls soccer), Blue Valley West's Addi Barnes (girls swimming/diving), Kapaun's Clara Whitaker (girls tennis), Sterling's Tyus Wilson (boys track and field), Aquinas's Caroline Bien (volleyball), Andale's Hector Serratos (boys wrestling) and Paola's Jordyn Knecht (girls wrestling).

Blue Valley West's Barnes also was named the scholar athlete of the year, while Jackson Heights' Alex Edwards received the courage award.

KANSAS HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS AWARDS WINNERS

Overall Male — Ethan Kremer, Mill Valley

Overall Female — Payton Verhulst, Miege

Baseball — Ben Kudrna, Blue Valley Southwest

Boys Basketball — Mark Mitchell, Miege

Girls Basketball — Payton Verhulst, Miege

Boys Bowling — Brandon Bonta, Wichita Northwest

Girls Bowling — Kaylee Back, Carroll

Boys Cross Country — Cormick Logue, Girard

Girls Cross Country — Taylor Briggs, Chapman

Football — Ethan Kremer, Mill Valley

Boys Golf — Nicklaus Mason, Mill Valley

Girls Golf — Julia Misemer, Blue Valley West

Gymnastics — Talia Gay, Free State

Boys Soccer — Alan Lopez, Dodge City

Girls Soccer — Grace O'Keefe, Aquinas

Softball — NiJaree Canady, Topeka High

Boys Swimming/Diving — John Amrein, St. James Academy

Girls Swimming/Diving — Addi Barnes, Blue Valley West

Boys Tennis — Daniel Harkin, Manhattan

Girls Tennis — Clara Whitaker, Kapaun

Boys Track and Field — Tyus Wilson, Sterling

Girls Track and Field — Kendra Wait, Gardner-Edgerton

Volleyball — Caroline Bien, Aquinas

Boys Wrestling — Hector Serratos, Andale

Girls Wrestling — Jordyn Knecht, Paola

Courage award — Alex Edwards, Jackson Heights

Scholar-Athlete — Addi Barnes, Blue Valley West

Coach of the Year — Chris Schmidt, Olpe

Team of the year — Shawnee Mission Northwest girls basketball