By Mark Janssen
Wade Weibert stands 6-foot-6 inches tall and spins the scales past 300 pounds. On a daily basis the giant-of-a-Wildcat goes facemask to facemask with a helmet-equipped man of equal size and with one of those nasty defensive lineman dispositions.
Yet here's what Weibert says about his desire to be faced with returning a volleyball slam from outside-hitter JuliAnne Chisholm of the K-State volleyball team.
"No way! I've seen her in high school during warm-ups hit one of our girls in the head and give her a concussion," said Weibert. "I'll line up against a 300-pound dude any day before taking a hit from her."
In Kansas, Hillsboro High School is a Class 3A school of 184 students that come from this community of 3,000 ... counting pets ... located in Marion County.
Weibert is K-State's starting center and Hamm the Wildcats' backup fullback; Chisholm and Kaufman are starting hitters on the KSU volleyball team.
Former Hillsboro High School athletics director, and now Principal/football coach Max Heinrichs says of the Trojan graduates, "The community is extremely proud of all of them. The best thing about each of those kids isn't their athletic ability, but the fact that they are good people first. They are just top notch at everything they try to do."
The regular season comes to an end for all of these Hillsboro natives this week as the volleyball team travels to Kansas tonight and will entertain Colorado on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Ahearn Field House, while the football team plays at North Texas on Saturday at 3 p.m.
PROUD OF HOME: "It's a pretty tight knit community with a lot of emphasis on athletics that brings people together," said Hamm of his hometown. "I'd say the town is mixed between K-State and Kansas, plus it has some OU fans, but I think with our success here, it's becoming more of a K-State town."
Pick the sport, and you'll find Hillsboro in postseason play. Recent Class 3A state titles have come in girls basketball (2007), girls track (2005 and 2007), the football team reached the semi-finals in 2006, and the track team placed second in 2004 and 2006.
Of producing quality teams in so many areas, and four Big 12 athletes in a matter of four years, Weibert says, "It's a blue collar community where the work ethic is tremendous, as is the support for the school activities. Friday nights are for football, and then you go to a basketball game and the place is packed to the rafters."
Kaufman, a KSU freshman, added that on "Hillsboro Night" at an early-season K-State volleyball match, "I think the entire town of Hillsboro was here. The support of all our teams is just fantastic, and very motivating to us to do well."
To that, Chisholm adds, "Hillsboro athletes are known for working hard. We are expected to be good, and we expect ourselves to be good."
That includes in the classroom where Hamm and Chisholm were recent recipients of Academic All-Big 12 honors.
FRIENDS, TEAMMATES FOREVER: While proud of the place they call home, that admiration also extends to each other.
"I'll never forget being in the weight room with Wade and telling my friends, 'I lifted weights with Wade Weibert!' " said Kaufman.
Weibert, who started for Butler County Community College when the 2007 Grizzlies went 12-0 and won the NJCAA Football Championship, passed on the verbal praise by saying, "I think it's fun to run into Julianne and Dakota on campus or at training table just because we do all come from the same home town and have turned out to be success stories."
Hamm, who was also on the same Butler team in 2007, plus won all-Jayhawk Conference honors in 2008, comes from a farming background, as do Chisholm and Kaufman, who are cousins.
"Dakota is my closest cousin age-wise and lived a quarter-mile down the road, so we'd run down and play together when we were kids," said Chisholm.
Their success on the volleyball court has not come as a surprise.
"JuliAnne is one of the most motivated and driven people I know," said Hamm. "Everything she did was with excellence, and Dakota has been the same way. They both come from athletic families and are carrying on that tradition."
As a freshman in high school, Kaufman said of Chisholm, "I remember admiring her work ethic when I entered high school and it was always my goal to come here and play with her again."
Chisholm welcomed that opportunity, as well: "I was so excited when Dakota chose to come to K-State. I didn't want to push her to come, but I sure wanted her to come to K-State. She's going to be a great Big 12 player. I mean, she's starting as a freshman."
All four Trojans also played basketball, but as Weibert quips, "Anyone who went to a basketball game knew that it wasn't my first sport of choice."
Chisholm, however, continues to be accomplished enough in basketball that she will join coach Deb Patterson's KSU team next week following the conclusion of her volleyball season.
While all were accomplished athletes for the Trojans, Chisholm's resume is one of Hall of Fame stature:
• Multiple-time All-Stater in volleyball and basketball
• Four-year letterwinner in volleyball, basketball and track
• Seven-time Class 3A State gold medalist in the high jump, 300-meter hurdles, 4 x 400 relay; still holds school records in the high jump (5-9), 100-meter hurdles (14.77), 300-meter hurdles (45.93) and 1,600-meter run (5:34..60).
All, however, have all-league and all-state behind their names, and all are hometown heroes when they can sneak in a 90-minute trip back home.
"Speaking for the quartet of Wildcats, Weibert said, "People are attracted to us when we come home. They go out of their way to stop you and see how things are going. I think the town takes a lot of pride in us being able to put the Hillsboro name out there."
Hamm added, "There really is a sense of pride in where we come from, and I hope that kids growing up in Hillsboro will look at us and try to become the best they can be."
Each Trojan turned Wildcat is truly living the Hillsboro High School motto: Respect for the past, Strength for the future.