Looking back at headline makers of 2021

There was no shortage of storylines when it came to Kingfisher County sports in 2021.

Fortunately for us as sports fans, I can rewrite that line every 365 days and just change the year.

We are in a bountiful area when it comes to quality coaches, athletes and teams.

Some years are better than others, but each year offers its share of tremendous headlines.

That’s what we’re going to take a look at over the next couple of editions.

Instead of the traditional “year in sports” in which we make note of nearly every significant sporting event throughout the year, we’re going to take a look at some of the most significant…at least in our eyes.

So this won’t necessarily be a look back at a specific game or a moment (although it could be)…but also the bigger picture those moments helped create.

In no certain order, here are 10 of the biggest storylines of 2021. Keep in mind, these events take place over the course of two different school years: The latter half of 2020-21 and the first part of 2021-22…

1. Crescent championships – Sure, Crescent isn’t in Kingfisher County, but several subscribers reside in the Crescent school district. Hence the inclusion.

Dominic Stevens made history for Crescent in May when he won the Class 2A individual golf championship.

The senior shot 10-under-par over two days to win the title by 14 strokes and become the first golfer from Crescent to win state gold.

The Crescent cheerleaders followed that up in September with a 2A state title in competitive cheer. It was Crescent’s first championship in competitive cheer, but not in cheerleading overall.

Under coach Danyele Walker, the team had won the Game Day state championship the previous November. That paired with the September title made cheerleading the only sport in Crescent to be able to claim multiple state championships.

2. Ally Stephenson – Simply put, she’s a phenomenon. Standing 5 feet, 3 inches tall, Kingfisher’s Stephenson cleared a remarkable 5-8 in the high jump to win gold at the Class 4A state championships.

That jump broke her own school record of 5-6 and also tied a 36-year-old 4A state meet record.

The runner-up in the event was Tuttle’s Landry Allen, who is 6-foot-3 and headed to OU to play basketball.

That was just part of Stephenson’s meet as she accounted for 28 of Kingfisher’s 30 team points.

She was the state runner-up in the long jump and the 400 meter dash.

She soared 18-3 1/4 in the long jump, breaking the school record she set the previous week by more than eight inches.

Making Stephenson’s feat even more remarkable is that she had never competed in the long jump before this, her junior year. In her first ever time competing in the event back in late March, Stephenson jumped 17-4 at Bethany.

That broke the school record of 16-7 1/2 set by Kristi McMullin in 2003.

Stephenson also practically dove across the finish line to take state silver in the 400 and set a PR in the process.

The good news for KHS: She’s back this year for her senior campaign.

She’ll compete in 2022 as a University of Oklahoma signee. Stephenson quietly signed with the Sooners in November (she didn’t have a public ceremony…that will come later).

Simply put, Stephenson is one of the best athletes to ever compete in any kind of KHS uniform.

3. Coaching changes – Two coaching resignations were accepted by the Kingfisher Board of Education during a special meeting in March, one of them by the longest-tenured coach at KHS.

Ed Evey tendered his resignation effective at the end of the 2020-21 school year, which put an end to a 40- year career with the district.

Evey’s overall tenure was second only to Dr. A.J. Johnson’s current run of 48 years.

He was just the third head wrestling coach for KHS since the program was revamped in 1979 and he assisted with the two previous head coaches Lloyd Peck and Mark Howard.

Evey had 71 state placers since becoming head coach prior to the 1986-87 season. Ten of his wrestlers won a combined 13 state championships.

His 2008 team was the 2A dual state runner-up and was third at state.

The 2009 squad was the 3A state runner-up.

The other coach to resign that night was Gerrett Spears, who had a 33-19 record over two years as the head coach of the girls basketball program.

Those resignations led to the hiring of Bryan Dutton for wrestling and Taylor Cooper Young for girls basketball as both programs begin new eras.

4. Coaches passing – Two of the more notable coaches who left us in 2021 were Charles Lewallen in January and Bob Carter in December.

Lewallen was the longtime boys basketball coach at Lomega as he built that program into one of the more consistent teams in the state.

His 32-year career saw him coach at Buffalo for seven years (he won the Class A title in 1980), Lomega for 18 and then Canton for seven more. In all, he won more than 600 games.

His retirement saw him do his share of hunting and fishing, but most notably he was in the stands for the various sporting events of his grandchildren as well as the big games for the Lomega Lady Raiders, coached by his son, Kevin Lewallen.

Charles sat in the same seats at the state tournament. The 2021 tournament was the first time he wasn’t in attendance to watch his son coach at state.

“He was still there,” Kevin said after his Lady Raiders won the Class B state title. “Just in a different way.”

Carter (see his obituary on the left) coached for 30 years…half of them for the Okarche boys program in the 1970s and 1980s.

His 1979 Okarche team won the Class A state championship and remains the only state title for the boys program.

That came after a runner-up finish in 1978.

Carter returned to Okarche in April 2019 for a 40-year reunion of the title team. All but four members of the championship team were on hand and about 70 former players were in attendance.

Said Nick Kretchmar of Carter: “I believe Coach Carter had a great influence on our success.”

5. Presence of COVID – The good news is that there were no major cancellations such as there were in the spring of 2020.

However, that doesn’t mean the virus went away in 2021.

Seating capacities at many indoor events were still limited.

Most places had some sort of mask requirement if you were indoors.

Some games or duals were canceled. Others were postponed.

At other times, games were completely dropped and – at best – teams scrambled to find a replacement at the last minute.

But the games did go on, even if we saw some changes.

For example, instead of the dual state wrestling championships being held in February – before both the regional and state wrestling tournaments – they were pushed back to the middle of March…after state.

The regional tournaments were their traditional two days in length, but the format was different.

Seven weight classes competed on the first day, to completion, and then the largest seven classes competed on the second day.

The second weekend of state basketball at the Big House also saw significant changes.

Instead of the traditional three-day format, state games began on Tuesday.

It allowed the OSSAA to spread out the games throughout each day (they cleared the arena after each one).

A by-product was also allowing more teams to play at State Fair Arena.

The idea of starting the state tournament earlier – at least on the second weekend when there are three classes playing there as opposed to two – had been kicked around several times between the OSSAA’s David Glover and basketball coaches.

They had only dipped their toes into the pool of the idea. Last year they sort of had to jump right in.

Turns out the water was pretty warm, so much so that we very well could see that format continue this year.

Attendance was also limited during that last year’s state tournament.

There was a cap on the number of tickets that could be sold each session.

However, it sure seemed that “cap” disappeared for the state title matchup between Kingfisher and Heritage Hall on the tournament’s final day.

There sure was no shortage of KHS fans in the stands. Maybe we can thank Glover for that one, too.

Stay tuned for more headline makers in the upcoming editions of The Times & Free Press.

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