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Becker looks to her own legacy

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Rachel Becker doesn't like being compared to her older brother. So rather than following in his footsteps, she took her own path of involvement in high school.

Funny thing, now Becker can talk about some of the same lofty accomplishments as -- sorry, Rachel -- her older brother, Alex, who excelled in academics at Thomas More Prep-Marian High School.

Becker, now a junior at TMP, has helped the Monarchs' scholars bowl team reach the state tournament, something Alex also did as a junior.

"I love my brother and everything, but ..." began Rachel.

"She doesn't like being called Alex Becker's little sister," added their mother, Linda Becker. "They are two completely different people."

While this also is an entirely different team of which the elder Becker sibling was a member, it's hard not to talk about his teams, which won back-to-back state titles in 2010 and '11.

After barely missing on qualifying last year, Rachel Becker and her teammates finished second at last week's Class 3A regional meet at Russell to qualify a Monarch team for state for the third time in four years. They will compete against 11 other teams Saturday at Cimarron in the 2013 season finale for 3A.

With Alex Becker and Tanner Younie -- who combined for a 257-37 overall record in high school -- now in college, it's up to the younger Becker and her team to try to bring home some hardware from state.

While her older brother is a math whiz, Rachel's specialty is foreign language. She is in her third year of talking German at TMP, giving the Monarchs some punch from the get-go. The first question at scholars bowl meets is to interpret a foreign language sentence.

This year's team is as balanced as any he has had in his eight years at TMP, said coach Don Hageman.

It will be the first time competing at state scholars bowl for this year's Monarchs, although several of them do have an idea of how the state tourney is run. Becker went with her parents to watch Alex the two years he competed.

Once Alex graduated, she decided to try out for the team last year.

"I enjoyed watching it but didn't think I wanted to (compete)," Becker said. "Now, I love it."

In addition, juniors Jacob Brull and Ryan Hammerschmidt also went along to watch the state scholars bowl tourney as freshman team members, and both students also are members of the school's chess team, which finished second in 3A state competition last year.

"We've got some sharp kids up and down (the lineup)," Hageman said. "They read a lot on their own, and they have terrific memories. We don't just have a couple people carrying the team this year."

Completing the Monarchs' state team will be senior Ross Werth, in just his second year on the team, junior Justin Raynesford and sophomore Lucas Diehl.

"It's the first time I've been to state -- in anything," Werth said. "So I'm excited."

Like Becker, Diehl also can share in bragging rights with his older siblings. All three of his older brothers played on state-qualifying Monarch basketball teams that made it all the way to the state title game.

With the first step of winning another state title behind them, Hageman now is concentrating on steps two and three, which he said will be a stiff test.

The Monarchs, who finished first or second in six of their last meets this season, are in the same pool at state as Wichita-Independent, the defending state champion that placed second to TMP in '10 and '11.

"We know it's going to be hard, so you have to get the easy ones," Hageman said, adding none are easy at state.

"Getting out of regionals is first," he said. "Then you have to get out of your pool to the finals. Then ... well, we want to win state, of course."