After decade drought, dreams come true for HHS
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Ask someone 50 or 60 years old, and 10 years might not seem like such a long time. But for a teenager, that's more than half their lifetime.
Nonetheless, Kade Parker remembers what he was doing at this time of year 10 years ago.
Then a first-grader at Wilson Elementary School in Hays, Parker was on hand in Topeka when his oldest brother, Kyle, a junior at Hays High School, helped the Indian boys advance to the Class 5A state tournament in Topeka.
Kade Parker grew up watching his two older brothers play game upon game of basketball -- and waiting his turn.
"I was always more excited after the games," admits Kade, now a junior at HHS. "That's when I could go out on the court and shoot baskets myself. I just loved it."
The youngest of three brothers, Kade Parker now will get to experience the same thrill of competing at state as Kyle.
Kade and his teammates are headed to state after practice today. For the first time since 2003, the Indians will be playing in the season finale Thursday when they take on Lansing in a 6:30 p.m. first-round game in Topeka's Kansas Expocentre.
While Kade Parker has vivid memories of the state tournament venue, he said it has been a long time, and he's glad for the opportunity to play on the big stage.
After all, middle brother Kameron didn't get the chance to play at state in basketball, as HHS teams his junior and senior years fell just one game short, losing in the sub-state finals.
"Kyle and I have been teasing (Kameron) a little the last few days," Kade said Tuesday afternoon. "Kyle has been telling me what to expect at state, mostly to just enjoy the ride."
HHS parents are doing all they can this week to make sure their sons do just that.
They hosted a pasta feed for the team Tuesday night and plan to be on hand this afternoon to give them goodie bags for the ride to Topeka in a send-off at the school. And the school is sending a pep bus with students to the game as well.
"Back then, I never really thought about it, how hard it is to get to state," said Christin Nunnery, mother of freshman player Isaiah Nunnery.
That's because Christin Nunnery, a standout in HHS girls' sports, qualified for state twice in both volleyball and basketball.
The HHS boys have come close several times but have had to watch other teams enjoy the postseason after falling in the sub-state finals. Not this year.
"I am just so glad they get this opportunity," Christin Nunnery said, adding she is glad Hays High is back at state. "It's been awhile."
To put in perspective how long 10 years might seem for this year's team, here's what some of the Indians were doing in 2003.
* Seniors Adam Deterding, Derek Bixenman and Nicholas Petz were second-graders, and juniors Kyler Niernberger, Jordan Windholz, Layne Downing and Kenny Rounkles all were first-graders -- all in the Hays district.
* Seniors Hunter Gonzales and David Cardinal weren't even living in Hays, or in the state of Kansas for that matter. Gonzales was living in a suburb of Richmond, Va., where his favorite team was the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth University. And Cardinal was attending school in Denver.
* Junior Lane Clark was a first-grader at Class 1A Ingalls in southwest Kansas. His family lived in Cimarron, but his mom was a guidance counselor in the Ingalls school district, so she took her oldest son with her to school each day.
* Isaiah Nunnery wasn't yet in the Hays school district, either. He lived in Hays but was in preschool.
Here's something that hasn't changed through the years, though. Brady Werth, at 6-foot, 6 inches, is the tallest member of the sophomore class.
"He's always been the tallest in his class," Rochelle Werth said of her son, who was in kindergarten in 2003 and wore a size 12 men's shoe by third grade.
Werth now wears size 16 shoes, ones he hopes can help the Indians advance to Friday's semifinals.
"We have to order them," Rochelle Werth said. "It's not like we can just walk in a store and buy 16s."