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Athletes shine senior year

By Larry Pritchett
Past PCHS activities director

The Nebraska high school state track meet is history for another year and this week the state golf meet will have been played by the time this is published. The 2013 school year activities will be over.
Like every year locally and statewide there were a lot of great games, surprise finishes by teams, and tons of outstanding individual efforts. Every year there seems to be athletes who finish the season strong. Seniors, after prepping for three years, getting stronger and faster, step up and have really outstanding efforts and show leadership throughout the year.
During the school year I don’t often mention students’ names and accomplishments a lot. The reason being is that some take the mention very well but others don’t. The last thing I want to do is cause a coach problems from the outside that might affect his or her team.
But now that the school year is over I think a little bit of recognition isn’t going to hurt and I think it is well deserved. I am keeping it to seniors just because they will have graduated and this was their last effort for the district.
In no particular order I am going to start with Austin Thelander. Austin had a great senior year. In football I think it would be safe to say that just looking at him probably didn’t strike fear in many running backs or receivers, but once he tackled them maybe that changed a little. He played well.
In wrestling Austin competed against athletes his size and I am sure that fear entered in the minds of some of his opponents. A great year with a state championship at Omaha. The first in school history and just that alone is something but winning a state championship in an individual sport is very special.
Austin finished the year up with picking up a spot in the state golf tournament. Another great way to finish up a senior year.
Vinny Ross also had a great senior year. Unlike Austin, Vinny might have scared a number of players who lined up in front of him in football. Vinny had size and strength and used it well and will take his talents not to South Beach but to UNK and another level of football.
Vinny also had a great year in wrestling and got to the championship round and ended up with the second place spot. That, too, is a great accomplishment.
Vinny also qualified for the state track meet and picked up a medal in the shotput with a 50 foot plus effort.
The third senior that I thought had a great year was Elliot Carlson. His effort on the football field was one of the best I have seen in my years here. He got moved to a new position this year and looked as if that was what he had been doing his entire career. Elliot also is headed to my favorite college, Fort Hays, known by us old Tigers as “Harvard on Big Creek.”
He, too, had a good basketball season and contributed to the 14-10 season after getting a late start due to an injury.
Elliot finished his year big also by getting to the state track meet and bringing home some medals. Although the season was terrible weather-wise Carlson also set a school record in the 100 meters.
All in all, these three seniors had outstanding years. They, like all seniors, will be missed and hard to replace next school year. If you noticed, and I don’t think that it is just a coincidence, but all three of these athletes were three-sport people. No off season but doing something to get better all year long. A good lesson for underclassmen to think about.
At the end of school as a coach there was always this little high because the pressure would be off for a while and the summer you could recharge your batteries. But you also knew that kids like Austin, Vinny and Elliot were not coming back so you had to get ready to reload and the summer is when a lot of that is done.
You also at times lost friends to retirement or moving on to other schools. That was a tough time also. This year isn’t any different. It is hard to replace people like Sandy Prante, Cindy Regier and Sheila Johnson. They have put a number of years into their profession and will be missed by students and faculty.
The district is also losing three other people and I probably know them better because I worked almost on a daily basis with them. The district is losing Marlin Terwilliger, Chip Kay and Tobin Buchanan.
Marlin is retiring, Chip took a superintendent’s job and Tobin is moving to a position outside of education. These guys have done a lot for the district also.
I have known Marlin since he was about 16 years old, as he was a sophomore when I came to Grant. Don’t do the math, unless I can convince you I started teaching when I was 12 that puts me on the high end of middle age, and the last time I checked very few people live to 140.
Marlin might be the most talented athlete to graduate from PCHS. I was an assistant in football, basketball and track when I first came and due to an injury I got to have him for a couple of JV football games. He made the rookie look pretty good. As a senior, he was all-state in football, basketball and the all-class gold medal winner in the long jump. If not for a serious knee injury at Nebraska he probably would have been part of a national championship. In addition to his athletic skills, Marlin was a good teacher.
Chip will be moving to the head of the line at Shelby-Rising City as he takes over as the superintendent. Chip worked hard as a football coach and instructor and I am sure that will happen in his new position. I enjoyed working with Chip when he was at Ogallala as AD and also when he came here we worked together. His absence will leave a big void to fill.
During my career I worked for and with seven different superintendents and only one time did I have one that made going to work not a lot of fun. Tobin wasn’t that guy.
Tobin has been an outstanding asset for this community in his role as superintendent. He was and is all about what is good for the students and the district.
He was one of the best superintendents to work for that I had during the years. I hate to see him leave education because education always takes a hit when people of his caliber leave. The good thing is that he and his family are staying in town. That is a big plus also.
Another year is wrapped up. Hope to be around and able to do this come the fall season. Thanks to the people who tell me they always read this column. Makes an old guy feel good! Have a good summer.