This is the first of a three-part series in recognition of the first West Central Conference All-Sports title in Smith-Cotton High School history.
Only a handful of employees populated Smith-Cotton High School in June, as custodians hauled furniture across empty halls and teachers readied freshly-cleaned classrooms.
S-C Athletic Director Rob Davis was the lone man in the office, preparing for the 2016-17 season after one of the most successful seasons in Tigers athletic history.
Commendable results all year culminated in the West Central Conference’s All-Sports title in August, celebrating the best, yearlong overall program results in the conference. In the 15 years since joining the WCC, Smith-Cotton had never won it.
The story of an athletic resurgence at Smith-Cotton was written throughout the year, by teams, in the fall, winter and spring. The Tigers and Lady Tigers’ excellence was so reliable that one could have missed it if they weren’t paying attention. They won as a team and the won individually. They won on the road and in front of stylish, community-supported backdrops like Tiger Stadium at Jennie Jaynes Complex and the turf on Dey Field at Liberty Park.
“We probably had our best year, that I can remember, in the last 14 years,” Davis said. “Not just because of the success of a lot of our programs, but it goes to our facilities. If you look at that, and compare to where we were … Our football, soccer, where we play baseball and basketball, and now our track: who’s got better facilities than that?”
The WCC All-Sports title is determined by points accrued based on final season standings. Smith-Cotton football, volleyball, girls and boys soccer, wrestling, baseball and girls track and field won conference titles.
These titles propelled Smith-Cotton beyond Warrensburg, recipient of the last 14 WCC All-Sports titles. Some sports – baseball and wrestling in particular – were only recently snatched from Warrensburg’s grasp two years ago.
Even boys tennis’ finish in May, runner-up to the rival Tigers under first-year head coach Rush Walters, collected enough points to give Smith-Cotton its first All-Sport honor after finishing last in the conference Spring 2015.
Davis said an improvement in “country club” sports helped provide an edge over Warrensburg.
“(Warrensburg AD Keith Chapman and I) tallied all the points through the fall and winter, and we were tied going into spring,” Davis said. “The big thing, where Warrensburg had beaten us in the past, is we both won our fair share of titles in various sports. We kind of lagged behind and finished last or next to last or second to last in more sports than they did. (Smith-Cotton) so called country club sports: tennis, golf and cross-country – I’d throw that in there – we weren’t competing at a high level.
“The last few years, those sports have really picked it up.”
Of course, Smith-Cotton’s team accomplishments were results of exemplary individual effort. That effort, which was awarded in abundance in 2015-16, was supplemented by gyms, fields, tracks and amenities that not only helped win awards, but blended an educational institution with its community.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2