Check out this update on our Spring Preview Citizens State Bank & Trust Co. Hometown Proud Student-Athletes, featuring some of the top student athletes from Ellsworth, Lincoln and Ottawa counties.
Courtney Forte, Minneapolis High School:
Holding a record at an institution that has been playing organized sports for multiple decades is a feat in and of itself. Courtney Forte will forever be a part of Minneapolis Lions sports history, having amassed 718 rebounds throughout her career, the most in Minneapolis history.
The Minneapolis record-holder was named all-league two times for her efforts- honorable mention as a junior and first team as a senior. The Lions finished 10-11 during the 2021 campaign, before being defeated in regionals by Goodland.
Forte stands out on the volleyball court as well. The four-year starter was named all-league honorable mention as a sophomore, before getting the first team nod as both a junior and senior.
“Courtney is the kind of athlete coaches dream about,” Minneapolis head volleyball coach Julie McCullick said. “After she puts the smack down on a ball, her post-kill celebration inevitably includes showering praise on her setter.”
She also has been a standout relay member during track season. During her sophomore season, Forte was a part of 4x100 and 4x400 teams that qualified for state.
After a year off in 2020 with the season’s cancellation, Forte’s schedule has gravitated more toward individual events in 2021, having PR’s of 13.55 in the 100 meter and 27.85 in the 200, along with a foray into field events, posting a PR throw of 75-11 in the javelin. The lone relay she has consistently taken part in this year is the 4x400, which most recently ran a 4:35.57 at the Minneapolis Invitational.
Forte’s talents and leadership aren’t limited to the sports arena.
In her spare time, Forte made a point to go on multiple mission trips while in high school, one to Chicago and the other to Alaska. She stands out in the classroom, holding a 3.958 GPA and being a recipient of the Dane Hansen Scholarship.
Post-graduation, Forte will attend Kansas State University, where she intends to study Interior Design.
“We will miss Courtney so much next year,” McCullick said. “Not only due to her obvious volleyball skills, which she has honed through years of dedicated effort during season, club, summer leagues, and in the weight room...but most importantly because of what kind of a person she is. Courtney's humble nature, constant hustle, and uplifting attitude make her the ultimate teammate.
Shaylee Leiker, Ellsworth High School:
Ellsworth’s Shaylee Leiker has been one of the most consistent athletes in the state over the course of the last four years, making major impacts on both the track and the volleyball court.
She made All-NCAA in volleyball four times - honorable mention as a freshman, next three years as first team- and as a senior led the team in kills with 338, and digs with 277, making her a valuable combination of offensive and defensive ability.
“Shaylee is definitely a hustler!”, head volleyball coach Amy Johnson said. “Always focused and working hard. Listens and does what is asked of her. She is always looking to improve and help others improve. She volunteered her time this winter to help with a 5th/6th grade volleyball clinic that we did each week. Her teammates, as well as the youth in our communities, really look up to her. She is a true joy on the court!”
Leiker was among the favorites at state in both the 100 and 400 meter dash going into 2021. In both her freshman and sophomore seasons she placed in the 100 and 400 at the state track meet, before 2020 was shut down due to COVID. At the 2019 meet she finished third in the 400 with a time of 1:00.31 fifth in the 100 with a time of 12.82.
According to Ellsworth’s head track and field coach, Nick Rodriguez, Leiker hasn’t achieved her success without putting in the necessary effort.
“Shaylee comes everyday prepared to work hard and focus on getting better with each practice,” Rodriguez said. “She is a great leader in the classroom and in athletics. She approaches both with great focus and purpose. She is very goal driven in all she has accomplished. A model student athlete.”
Unfortunately for Leiker, the 2021 season so far has been a challenge due to continued issues caused by two stress fractures back in January of 2020. After a successful volleyball season, it was hoped that this injury was behind them.
“As soon as we got about two weeks into track she started having issues and she tried to keep running, but after her first two meets we had to stop,” Rodriguez said.
After returning on May 7th at the Ellinwood Invitational, Leiker finished third in the 100 meter, but wasn’t in her top form, finishing with a time of 13.34.
“She is probably 75%,” Rodriguez said. “She just can’t push off like she needs to. We will try to finish the season if possible.”
Leiker maintains a 4.0 GPA, is number one in her class academically and is also a member of the KVA All-Academic First Team. She will be attending K-State in the fall and majoring in Speech Pathology.
“I have seen Shaylee show strong leadership, work ethic and enthusiasm on the court and in the classroom,” Johnson said. “She is very responsible as a student/athlete and works well with the coaching staff and her teammates. She has a remarkable ability to work with everyone, no matter what their ability. She is very eager to learn, takes a great deal of pride in her work, and is extremely goal oriented.”
Trent Moeckel, Minneapolis High School:
You will be hard-pressed to find a more well-rounded three sport athlete in Kansas high school athletics than Trent Moeckel. The Minneapolis senior has been a problem for opponents in football, basketball and baseball all four years of high school, lettering each year possible in all three activities.
On the football field, Moeckel took over as quarterback in 2021, after playing receiver the three years prior. The signal caller would respond by putting up impressive numbers both in the air and on the ground, with 1292 passing yards and 13 touchdowns, to go with a team best 450 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. The Lions finished the season with a 4-5 record amidst a brutal schedule, the combined win/loss record of the teams they lost to being 39-13.
Moeckel was named all-league at quarterback as a senior and also received all-league honors for his duty as a punter.
“I have really enjoyed getting to know Trent these last two years,” head football coach Tom Flax said. “Trent the athlete is a great competitor that never lets his emotions get too high or too low. Trent is a team first player that is very humble. He cares about seeing his teammates succeed probably more than if he is the one making the play and he usually has a part or role in his teammates success.”
Moeckel is equally dangerous on the basketball court. The savvy two-time all-league guard helped lead the Lions to a 16-7 record during his senior year, before ultimately losing in the sub-state championship game to Thomas More Prep.
Baseball is also a strong point of Moeckel’s. He is considered one of the top 3A players going into the 2021 season and was named second team all-state at second base as a sophomore, before having his junior season cancelled. Moeckel had been a focal point in the Lions 2019 playoff push that saw them finish tied for third in the state tournament.
Minneapolis is currently working to make a return to state in 2021, sitting at 12-6 with the first round of regionals on Monday, May 17th.
Individually on the season, Moeckel has managed a solid .333 batting average, .405 on-base percentage, .460 slugging percentage along with 21 hits, and 12 RBIs.
Moeckel has also been a weapon in the pitching game for the Lions in 2021, posting a 2.534 ERA, 18 strikeouts over 19.1 innings for a 3-1 record on the mound.
Aside from being an extremely talented multi-sport athlete, Moeckel also exhibits impressive traits off the field, being a 4.0 student and also a recipient of the Dane Hansen Scholarship.
Post-graduation, Moeckel will be attending Kansas State Polytechnic where he will be majoring in Mechanical Engineering Technology.
“Trent is a guy that everyone wants to be around,” Flax said. “He is sneaky funny and also can sit down and talk with you about anything from sports to what he wants to do when he
Brecken Obermueller, Lincoln High School:
Brecken Obermueller’s high school career so far has been dynamic. Aside from her considerable time spent on the volleyball court and softball field, the senior also is a member of the National Honors Society, Kay Club, Student Government, Teen Advisory Board, church youth group, forensics, is a State Speaking Championships qualifier, and a Scholar’s Bowl participant.
For many, wearing that many hats would more than weigh them down and drain their energy. According to Obermueller’s head softball coach and language arts instructor, Linda Haring, Obermueller has the ideal personality traits to handle it.
“A spark plug, igniting energy and creating power for those around her, is the best description of Ms. Brecken Obermueller,” Haring said. “She is focused, driven, and positive—all qualities that make her a strong leader.”
Throughout her many different fields of focus, Obermueller holds various leadership roles. She has been both president and treasurer of the TAB at different times, has held the position of class vice president twice, and has been both a treasurer and secretary for her youth group.
She also finds the time to volunteer at the movie theater, mow the church cemetery, and cuts firewood during otherwise free time as well.
Obermueller excels on both the court and the diamond. As a volleyball player, she is a two-time Second Team All-NPL member and helped Lincoln to their first 25 win volleyball season in school history, which culminated in a regional championship as a junior. The Leopards would go 8-18 during the 2021 season and despite not managing as many wins, Obermueller stood out individually.
On the softball diamond, Obermueller has been an impact player since her freshman year, putting in valuable work as a pitcher and a fielder for her Sylvan-Lucas/Lincoln cooperative agreement squad. In 2019, her sophomore season, the team finished 13-9, while she posted a .383 batting average to go with 35 hits, five home runs, 25 RBIs, and scored 15 runs as a sophomore.
She also put in valuable innings as a pitcher, finishing the season with a 3.00 ERA, 3 saves, and a 5-1 record.
So far during her 2021 season, Obermueller has again put up impressive numbers as a sophomore, going .500 at the plate, along with 74 strikeouts from the mound. Currently her squad sits at 13-7 with their next game being the first round of the regional tournament on May 17.
Beyond high school, Obermueller plans to attend the University of Nebraska to study Software Engineering and is well equipped for that undertaking.
“Brecken is a young lady with a growth mindset,” Haring said. “She accepts critiques as a way to improve her performance. As such, she is a very coachable athlete, who always gives her full attention and with a smile on her face. As a selfless individual, she brings out the best in those around her by always encouraging and supplying positive energy. Her hard work motivates others to raise the bar for their performance.”
Jaycee Vath, Lincoln High School:
For the past few years, Jaycee Vath has been the smiling, polite, yet extremely competitive face of distance running in Class 1A and 2A.
Many folks have watched her grow up on cross country courses in the fall and track ovals in the spring.
She’s been durable, powering in her way through aches and pains, soreness and sprains. She’s someone everyone cheered for whether or not their fandom was to Lincoln High School.
Vath has been one of the most consistent as well as one of the best. During her outstanding career, she claimed back-to-back-to-back 1A state cross country championships after finishing second in 2A as a freshman. Her victory as a sophomore propelled Lincoln’s four-runner squad to the 1A team title.
She was barely challenged in her three individual victories, with respective winning margins of 26, 37 and 36 seconds.
“There were a couple girls behind me near the beginning,” recalled Vath, looking back on her 19 minutes, 20 seconds clocking during her 2020 title run. “I can remember people cheering on a couple girls behind me, but I don’t know how long they stayed there. It wasn’t close at the end.”
This was her first ever race at the Sand Plum Course in Victoria as her previous state races had been held on the grueling Wamego Country Club Golf Course. COVID-19 and the unavailability of Lawrence’s Rim Rock Park forced the Kansas State High School Activities Association to do some reshuffling of locations.
“Wamego is my favorite course, I love it,” she said. “It’s my favorite place to run, ever. It threw me for a loop when things changed. I was like, “hmm, I’ve never been there, what’s it going to going to be like running on a course I’ve never run on?’”
But at the same, she said, she wasn’t about to complain. The pandemic had completely wiped out her junior track season and was flirting with doing the same to her final season of high school cross country.
Said Vath, “I definitely felt like my season wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to break 19 minutes and that didn’t happen. I ran a fun run on the Fourth of July and I ran faster at that than I did at any of my cross country meets all year.
“Looking back, that’s kind of sad, but at the same time I can’t ask for much more. We actually got to have a season and I got to race my senior year. But I definitely think I did everything to the best of my ability. With everything that was thrown at us, I think it went as well as it could have went.”
Vath is in the process of trying to duplicate the success of two seasons ago when at state she claimed gold in the 1,600 (5:23.81) and 3,200 (school-record 11:27.53) and fourth in the 800 (2:28.58). She also is hoping to run down Jenna Farris’s school mark of 5:16.88 in the 1,600.
“It’s kind of hard to set goals for yourself because you don’t know what to expect after not racing on a track in so long,” said Vath, who plans to run at Fort Hays State University next year. “I don’t want to go by things I did two years ago. That first meet might be a little strange, but I’m excited about it.”
With the final and most crucial track meets of the season coming up, including regionals and state, Vath has posted times of 2:35.02 in the 800, 5:31.9 in the 1600, and 12:03.1 in the 3200. She is likely to be in the mix for the gold in all three races.
Sponsorship from Citizens State Bank & Trust Company made this coverage of central Kansas Hometown Proud Student-Athletes possible. For more about Citizens State Bank visit their website at www.csbanc.com.