SE: K-State Sports Extra Looks Back at 2015

Looking back at 2015, it has been a memorable year for K-State Sports Extra

From heptathlete Akela Jones’ record-breaking NCAA Championship victory to K-State head Coach Bill Snyder’s College Football Hall of Fame induction to everything in between – and there has been a lot in between – 2015 has been one of my favorite years writing about K-State Athletics. 

There is no way I can capture every moment this year in just one story, but I’ve tried my best to put together a few of my favorite memories from 2015.

JANUARY-MAY
The year opened with the Wildcat football team competing in San Antonio, Texas, at the 2015 Valero Alamo Bowl. K-State painted San Antonio purple as the town was filled with pep rallies, parades and press conferences. Bowl week is always a special week. Though the football team didn’t pull out a win over No. 14 UCLA, the Wildcats never gave up and came back from a 25-point deficit at halftime and lost the game just 40-35. 

Upon returning from San Antonio, K-State Athletics began a new era as it welcomed its first-ever head women’s soccer coach, Mike Dibbini, to Manhattan. The following week, the Wildcat men’s basketball team upset No. 16 Oklahoma on the road and the women’s team took down Kansas. 

The men’s basketball team went on to defeat five ranked opponents, including No. 8 Kansas at home, while the women’s basketball team extended its season through March making it to the second round of the 2015 WNIT Tournament. 

In April, the K-State football team headed east to Kansas City for its annual Purple vs. White Spring Game because of construction on the new Vanier Family Football Complex. The change of venue didn’t keep away K-Staters as the passionate purple fans flooded Sporting Park, home of the MLS’s Sporting Kansas City, and got their first glance at this year’s young football team.

As the spring continued, I had the opportunity to follow football’s Tyler Lockett through his training for the NFL Combine and preparation for the NFL Draft. From making breakfast to grocery shopping to running routes in practice (I even threw him a few passes!), K-State Sports Extra partnered with K-StateHD.TV and spent the day with Lockett before he was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Following Lockett’s path in the NFL this year, from his outstanding rookie camp to his record-breaking rookie season to his Pro Bowl selection, has been an exciting journey.

In May, I spent a week on the Western Swing and watched Assistant A.D. for Development Events Lon Floyd in action for the final time. K-State Catbackers from Dodge City to Garden City to Scott City to Colby to Hays shared their fondest memories of Floyd’s 20 years running the Catbacker Tour. He shared a teary-eyed goodbye with his friends in Scott City; it was a special moment. 

JUNE-AUGUST
Akela Jones took the NCAA Championship Heptathlon by storm on June 10 and 11. It was only her second time ever competing in the seven-event challenge, but she did so nearly flawlessly. In the event’s first day, Jones broke the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field collegiate record accumulating 4,023 points after the first four events. Jones’ performance bested three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s previous record of 3,942 points set in 1985.

Another strong performance on the event’s second day secured Jones with her first-ever NCAA title. Jones’ total of 6,371 points broke K-State Athletics Hall of Fame member Austra Skujyte’s K-State record of 6,275 points set in 2002, and she became just the sixth Wildcat women’s athlete all-time to win an NCAA title. 

Throughout the summer construction management team Mortenson & GE Johnson, in conjunction with sports design firm Populous, continued working hard on the Vanier Family Football Complex and by the first football game of the year, it was ready to go. 

SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER 
On September 5, K-State cut the ribbon of the brand-new, state-of-the-art Vanier Family Football Complex. It was special watching K-State student-athletes tour their new home for the first time. 

On that same day, K-State Football inducted four new faces to its Ring of Honor. Jordy Nelson, Darren Sproles, Michael Bishop and Clarence Scott returned to the Little Apple to celebrate. So much K-State football history was present that weekend. 

As the fall continued, K-State football turned a season many thought was a lost cause into a comeback never before seen in Big 12 history. Following a six-game losing skid, the Wildcats went on to win their final three games to finish the year 6-6 and earn a spot at the 2016 AutoZone Liberty Bowl later this week in Memphis, Tennessee. 

K-State volleyball, despite losing 2014 All-Big 12 performer Kylee Zumach to injury in the season’s opening week, used its youth to string together an exciting year. Freshmen Macy Flowers and Alyssa Schultejans both earned All-Big 12 Freshman team honors marking the first time K-State has ever had two players on the post-season team. Junior Kersten Kober earned K-State’s first-ever Big 12 Volleyball Scholar Athlete of the Year award, and redshirt junior Katie Brand became just the second setter in school history to earn All Big 12 First Team honors two consecutive seasons. 

In my three years sharing the K-State Sports Extra, this past December has been my favorite month of all. I witnessed K-State history as Bill Snyder, surrounded by his family and closest friends was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in New York City. I also had the great honor of sharing the inspirational stories of video producer Jay Moline, former javelin thrower and Vietnam veteran Ed Morland and former Wildcat baseball pitcher Evan Marshall. All three of these men know first-hand how fragile life is. It meant the world to me that they trusted the K-State Sports Extra with their stories. 
 
From January to December, K-State Sports Extra has published a grant total of 286 stories; 2015 has been a great year. 

So, today’s K-State Sports Extra is as much of a “Thank You” as it is a recap of the year. Thank you for reading my thoughts. Thank you for your kind email replies. I enjoy and appreciate every single one of them. 

Thank you for reading the K-State Sports Extra in 2015 – I hope 2016 is even better! 

Now it’s wheels up to Memphis with K-State Football to cover the 2016 AutoZone Liberty Bowl and all of its events this week. 

Happy New Year, Wildcats, from the K-State Sports Extra. 

Kelly McHugh-Stewart
K-State ‘13

 We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh-Stewart or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.