The Informer staff dove into the 2018-19 year to find the best moments from a busy Derby High School season. See which moments were selected below.
1) Kennedy Brown plays in McDonald's All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic
Since the McDonald’s All-American Game began for high school girls, no Kansan had been selected before Brown. The now graduate joined the following players to be selected from the Sunflower State. Darnell Valentine (1977), Antoine Carr (1979), Ricky Ross (1979), Aubrey Sherrod (1981), Greg Dreiling (1981), Danny Manning (1984), Wayne Simien (2001) and Perry Ellis (2012).
“On the court, Kennedy took our program to many firsts, but I know that a state championship is at the top of her list. She often made it look easy to those watching on the outside, but her legacy is a result of the hard work, dedication and commitment to our core philosophy. Being what we say, ‘uncommon’, means you have to put yourself out there and let yourself be held to a very high standard.”– head coach Jodie Karsak
2) Football wins fourth state title in six years
Since 2013, Derby has won four titles in five state appearances. The program has won four championships since their first in 1994.
“It’s unbelievable, to be honest. In my eyes, what we did and how dominant we were every week, I’ve never seen a football team do what we did… I love being a part of the Derby football program. My friends and I talk about it all the time and what it’s like to not be a part of this and have to be an opponent that’s looking at it from the outside. Having to prepare to play us, on our field and in that atmosphere with the energy we bring, it’s tough." – senior defensive back Dax Benway
3) Wrestling wins first state championship since 1986
Derby broke its 30-plus year drought by outlasting Manhattan at the 6A state tournament on Feb. 23. Seniors Triston Wills and Crew Squires each won a state championship individually, propelling the Panthers to their sixth title in program history.
“One thing that was very important in our run was the “Backside Bandit” mentality that was carried into day two of the state tournament. It’s almost unheard of to have 10 people place inside the top 4. We wouldn’t have had a chance to win it in the finals if it wasn’t for the kids who scrapped through the backside on day two… I have [also] looked back on that last practice before state. All of us seniors knew it would be our last practice together, but the readiness the team had as a whole was visible.”– senior Crew Squires
4) Softball reaches ninth-straight state tournament
No school in Class 6A has made more consecutive trips to the state tournament. The Panthers won their first state game since 2013 with their 9-1 victory over Topeka.
“This season meant a lot to me because it was my last year and I really wanted to break the curse of not making it past the first round. With the girls coming in, I knew the team to go all the way and do that. The program has been successful simply because of the talent we have in this town. Coach [Christy] Weve utilizes her players and helps up together a strong team each year.”– senior catcher Tatum Haney
5) Boys and girls swimming sweep AVCTL-I league titles
It was a year to remember for both Derby swimming teams. The boys won their first league championship since 2000, while the girls won their first since 2007. Coach Jimmy Adams’ crew bested perennial power Maize by nearly 70 points. The depth of a talented girls’ roster was on full display in Newton in May as they won the AVCTL-I title despite missing roughly 10 upperclassmen.
“Both of our teams and the sport of swimming have shown a tremendous amount of growth. The last four or five years, we’ve seen more kids getting involved in swimming and it’s getting more recognition. We’re seeing that develop into more kids coming into our program.”– girls’ swimming coach Bronwynne Queen