Just in the past few months, a McPherson County athletics program has sent teams to state in volleyball and cross country, appeared in the championship game of their respective sub-state regional and continued to build a tradition of excellence.
One might automatically think of McPherson High School. Or, possibly Moundridge. Maybe Smoky Valley.
While those schools do have decades of championship tradition, however, it was Elyria Christian School that made waves during the fall and winter seasons, achieveing levels of success previously unseen at the private school located five miles southeast of McPherson.
“It takes time to create a great winning culture, but this year was certainly a great step in that direction,” Elyria Christian athletic director Bobby Childs said.
The Eagles definitely took several steps in the right direction this past fall and winter.
The volleyball and cross country programs both went to their respective state competitions for the first time in school history in 2012. The high school girls basketball team made it to the championship of their sub-state regional, also a first. Between the junior high and high school, teams finished third or better in tournaments seven times this year.
All of this was accomplished with four new head coaches. Cross country, itself, had never been offered before at Elyria.
“State was one of our goals,” Elyria volleyball coach Tonya Robertson said, “but, with a small, inexperienced team, we knew it would be an uphill battle. That’s what makes this makes this year so amazing. It was a blessing to be a part of it.”
The recipe for success was already in the works when Childs moved to McPherson from Ohio with his wife. ECS had joined the Kansas State High School Athletics Association a few years prior and looked to hire coaches that could bring up the athletics program from their prior experiences and stay true to Elyria’s mission statement.
“While the coaches may be first year, we actually took a huge step forward in the development of our program by putting the right coaches in place,” Childs said. “Winning is important, but they are first and foremost trying to develop young people.”
The strong hiring philosophy for coaches meant Elyria’s successes weren’t surprising to girls basketball coach Jeff Fields.
“I know Tonya (Robertson) does a great job with the girls, and you could see improvement throughout the season,” Fields said. “In basketball, I was a bit surprised with where we got some positive play from. I expected (seniors) Abby Fields and Cori Mines to provide strong defense and good leadership, and they didn’t disappoint.”
Page 2 of 2 - Fields didn’t expect, however, his underclass to step up the way they did.
“(Sophomore) Katelyn Reimer began playing well as a point guard towards the end of the season,” Fields said. “And then (freshman) Rachel Adamyk really provided a spark this year by leading us in scoring.”
The students and parents are sharing in the enthusiasm of building up the Elyria Christian School tradition, both of whom Childs said have worked hard for years to build up the programs. Parents of Elyria student athletes, in particular, have been there every step of the way with their athletes.
“All the parents go above and beyond, and their Godly love shines through,” Childs said. “Any time we need help with anything, they are always there to help us out. This is what makes ECS very successful and special.”
Childs, himself, gets an enthusiastic thumbs-up from his coaches as his first year as athletic director nears completion.
“Bobby is a great encouragement to the coaches,” Robertson said. “He works hard to assist them in building up the athletic programs, as well as holding true to the mission of the school. He is very organized and prompt in taking care of issues that arise, and strives to handle things in a Godly manner.”
Childs, however, shrugs off the praise.
“The students are the ones that are making the difference and that is awesome.”
Contact Chris Swick by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter, @SwickSentinel.