The year was an eventful year for Polk County sports. From district championships, state medal winners, hall of fame award winners and even a state championship in girls cross country, the year that was had it all.
District champions included Marion C. Early and Bolivar baseball and Bolivar girls soccer in the spring, Bolivar and MCE softball and Bolivar boys and girls cross country. The Lady Liberator softball and girls soccer teams advanced to the state quarterfinals, MCE softball, as well as Bolivar and MCE baseball made it to state sectionals.
The biggest trophy went to Bolivar girls cross country after winning its second Class 3 title in three years. The Liberator cross country team finished second at state, and Fair Play boys cross country finished fourth in Class 1.
The BH-FP covered it all and offers a look back at the top-10 sports stories based on what you, the readers, read on our website BolivarMoNews.com.
In a style similar to David Letterman when he did his late-night talk show, here’s your Top-10:
10. Madison brings defensive mindset to Bolivar hoops (July 13)
A rare coaching change for the Bolivar High School girls basketball program has brought Ryan Madison to Bolivar.
He makes the move after 16 years of coaching in northwest Missouri and brings a defensive-oriented style to the Lady Liberators.
Madison takes over for Darin Archer, who had led the Lady Liberator program for the last 10 seasons. The Lady Liberators finished 16-8 last winter, falling in the district semifinals for a second straight season. Madison will be a teacher for in school suspension at Bolivar.
Madison's last stop was at Class 4 Lafayette High School in St. Joseph for the last eight seasons. The Lady Irish were 15-8, also falling in the district semifinals. Prior to Lafayette, Madison also had stops at Class 2 Stanberry for seven seasons, and one year at Class 1 Albany.
9. Davis excited for return to Class 2 wrestling (July 4)
Bolivar wrestling will gain the knowledge of a coach who has spent the last two decades in Class 4 wrestling this winter. Jeff Davis takes over the Liberator mat program hoping to pick up where Bolivar left off in February at the state wrestling championships in Columbia.
Davis spent the last five seasons at Park Hill in Kansas City and the 15 years prior at Waynesville. He inherited a team that finished 13-5 in duals last season, won the final Central Ozarks Conference Small Division and the Grandview Duals tournaments.
After 20 years in the state's top class of wrestling, Davis admits he will have a learning curve for Class 2 wrestling this season.
8. New coach looks to continue success (Nov. 28)
Bolivar wrestling may be under new leadership, but the team’s goals remain the same. The Liberators start their first season as an independent on the mat, returning five state qualifiers for first-year coach Jeff Davis.
Davis comes to Bolivar after 15 seasons at Waynesville and five at Park Hill in Kansas City, both Class 4 programs. He inherits a team that finished 13-5 in duals, won the final COC Small Division Tournament and finished third in districts.
Back on the mats are state fifth-place finisher senior Granite Cunningham (113), state runner-up junior Hayden Burks (160) and state tournament qualifiers Zack Sokolik (126) and Riley Hawk (132). Also out for Bolivar is junior Austin Coons (152), a transfer from Class 2 Odessa. Coons was a state runner-up the last two seasons for the Bulldogs.
7. Bolivar Speedway to offer family fun on race nights (Aug. 3)
Historic Bolivar Speedway is hitting the back half of its return season of asphalt racing, with more racing options in the near future. While the focus continues to be the asphalt season, Bolivar Speedway recently broke ground and started work on two dirt tracks, with crews breaking ground on a third one in September.
The asphalt track will continue to be the focus for Bolivar Speedway, as owners Jim and Vicki Benner, plus track manager Jon Hoffman, said the facility is a family track with lots of upcoming attractions on the schedule.
The speedway has a back-to-school party planned Friday, Aug. 10, with kids big wheels and bicycle races on the track as part of the night’s races.
It hosted a car show and back-to-school supply drive last week at Bolivar Walmart and will give back to the community by handing out 100 backpacks and school supplies to area students. The speedway also hosted B-Mods and Midwest Mods asphalt challenges, military appreciation night in July and has much more planned for the coming months.
6. Cardinals blank Panthers behind dominant pitching (March 28)
Halfway baseball put on a pitching clinic in its home opener Thursday night, March 22. The Cardinals blanked visiting Marion C. Early 3-0 with two pitchers combining for 17 strike outs.
The Panthers and Cardinals were scoreless through three innings. Halfway got momentum swinging its way after stranding the bases loaded in the visitors fourth. The Cards broke the scoreless deadlock with an RBI-double from Cody Gallivan. Ben Barham later added an RBI-ground out for a 2-0 lead.
Hayden McCarthy did the rest from the mound, striking out 13 in 5 2/3 innings of work. He held MCE to four hits and walked three.
5. Liberators drop grid opener with Mustangs (Aug. 29)
Big plays and a strong rushing night by host Eldon were the difference Friday night, Aug. 24, at Victor Field at Eldon Middle School. Bolivar dropped its season opener 42-26 against the Mustangs, the two teams’ first meeting in 20 years.
Bolivar coach Glen Johnson said his team “grew up” with a number of young players getting their first shot under the Friday night lights.
“We had a lot of sophomores in that had never been in a Friday night game,” Johnson said. “I told them at the end of the game, we no longer have experience on Friday nights. I’m excited. I saw the look in their eyes. It’s not sad; it’s I want to get better. I can tell they’re hungry for it, and they’re going to be a great group.”
Eldon rushed for 403 yards on the night and held a decisive advantage with time of possession. The Mustangs held the ball for 33 minutes, 40 seconds, compared to the 14:20 Bolivar had the ball.
4. Bolivar Speedway gets spruced up for relaunch (Apr. 6)
The green flag does not drop for a few more weeks, but Jim and Vicki Benner said “good progress” has been made in getting Bolivar Speedway ready for its reopening Saturday, April 28. Cleanup days and a successful drivers’ meeting has the speedway off to a good start.
“For the track, we just need a good brush truck,” Vicki Benner said. “In the stands, we got a lot of the brush out of there. If we open, we would have a place for everybody to sit unless we sell out.”
One trouble area is the pits, Vicki said.
“The pits need a little work. There’s seven years of dirt accumulation down there,” she said. “We’ve got a ways to go with that.”
3. Grid Brothers (Oct. 17)
For six years, a Roweton was under center for the Bolivar Liberators football team.
Now, two of the brothers, Lance and Brock Roweton, will be among the 12 recipients of the Elite 11 award at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame football luncheon at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17, in Springfield. Southwest Baptist University graduate Kevin Patterson, the university’s chair of graduate students in education, will also receive the award.
The award was an honor for both Lance and Brock. It also brought back a lot of memories of playing for the Liberators in the 1990s.
“I was both honored and excited. It made me reflect on my past and made me feel blessed with all the teammates I’ve played with,” Lance said. “The great coaches I’ve been able to play for, and the coaches I’ve been able to coach with, and players that played for me. I feel blessed to be in a position to get an honor like this.”
2. Johnson, Archer to step down (March 23)
Bolivar High School will have two vacancies in winter sports for next season to fill. Wrestling coach Glen Johnson and girls basketball coach Darin Archer have confirmed they had resigned their positions.
Johnson's notice to step down as wrestling coach was accepted at the Feb. 22 R-1 school board meeting. He will remain on as head football coach for the Liberators.
Johnson told the BH-FP he was stepping down from the wrestling head coach position to be more involved in the BHS football program.
Archer is stepping down as the BHS girls basketball coach. His resignation was accepted at the March 15 R-1 school board meeting.
Archer has been coaching for 28 years, 26 of those in Bolivar. He called it "a fantastic experience, as well as a blessing on my life."
And drum roll please...
1. Bolivar Speedway to reopen (March 2)
Engines are expected to roar again at Bolivar Speedway starting in April.
The track will reopen for asphalt racing after being purchased by James and Vicki Benner.
Classes for the coming racing season are Pro Late models, Big 10 late models, Modifieds, Street Stock, Charger, Hornet and any other class that can bring racers to Bolivar Speedway, according to the Bolivar Speedway Facebook page.
What does 2019 hold? We are ready to begin the journey of a new year and see how our top-10 shapes up next year.