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Nex-Tech Wireless Fall Supporting Cast features seven key athletic contributors

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Nex-Tech Wireless Fall Supporting Cast features seven key athletic contributors

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The Nex-Tech Wireless Supporting Cast recognizes behind the scenes contributors to the success of Kansas high school athletic programs

  • The 2019 Nex-Tech Wireless Fall Supporting Cast. Front row, left-to-right: Carl Werner, Sandi Bartz and Heidi Jones. Back row: Brett Jones, Jennifer Shiew, Tyler Engel and Don Wiens. (Photo by John Baetz)
    The 2019 Nex-Tech Wireless Fall Supporting Cast. Front row, left-to-right: Carl Werner, Sandi Bartz and Heidi Jones. Back row: Brett Jones, Jennifer Shiew, Tyler Engel and Don Wiens. (Photo by John Baetz)

Kansas Pregame and Nex-Tech Wireless are joining forces to recognize the individuals behind the scenes who help area high school sports teams achieve success. Athletic directors, team managers, assistant coaches, booster club members and more.

Sandi Bartz, Volunteer, Larned

Larned football wouldn’t be the same without the contributions of Sandi Bartz. Originally from Larned, Bartz has fond memories of growing up in the town of about 4,000 in southwest Kansas. For Bartz, Larned will always be home.

“It’s an amazing town to grow up in and a very good town to raise kids in,” Bartz said. “It’s nice that they have the freedom to ride their bike all over town or if they want to go to the pool or to Sonic. I have fond memories of growing up in Larned.”

Since 2007, Bartz has had a son playing football for either Larned High School or Larned Middle School. Her youngest son, Trevor, will be a junior for the Indians this season.

Bartz is very involved with the football program. Larned head coach Tad Remy says Bartz is always willing to go the extra mile.

“She helps us take care of rides for camps, prepares and organizes meals for road games, and organizes our pregame team meals,” Remy said.

Bartz loves helping out the team, whether that’s feeding the players or bonding with the kids.

“As a Larned football mom, I’m very good at making pasta,” Bartz said. “We feed the team every Thursday, and I always organize that. It’s good for team-building, it’s good to socialize with the boys and getting to know them a lot better.”

In a tight-knit community like Larned, the bonding process does not end after football or even after graduation.

“My favorite part of doing all that is seeing them after they’ve graduated,” Bartz said. “They always want to talk to you and visit and say hello and tell you how things are going. It’s always fun to keep in contact with them.”

In addition to team meals every Thursday, Bartz helps organize team meals on Friday nights before games. The atmosphere in Larned on a game day is special, according to Bartz.

“It’s a big day, it’s a fun day,” Bartz said. “The excitement is high. You start early, and it’s a lot of fun to watch them play and root them on.”

Congratulations to Larned’s Sandi Bartz for her selection to the Nex-Tech Wireless Supporting Cast.

Tyler Engel, Student-Manager/Announcer, Victoria

Tyler Engel was a Swiss army knife for Victoria High School athletics.

As a freshman, Engel started out as a student-manager for the football team. He then transitioned to filming football games on top of managing, which he did until his senior year. It was then, starting last football season, Engel got into broadcasting.

Engel spent most of his senior year as the public address announcer for football, basketball and track and field. Engel displays a calm demeanor outside of sports, but he says he’s a bit more outgoing when he needs to be.

“When I get behind the mic I’m more enthusiastic than sitting in a room and talking,” Engel said. “There’s something about it that I really enjoy.”

Announcing did not necessarily come naturally to Engel. It took him a few football games before he became comfortable with speaking to a large crowd.

“My senior year they needed a PA announcer and the coach knew I was interested so that’s how I started with that,” Engel said. “I remember I was pretty nervous before my first football game. Basketball is a little more intimidating because everyone can see you more. I really enjoyed it and I’m glad I did it.”

On Sept. 14 this past football season, Victoria hosted Macksville and the Knights rolled to a 70-24 victory. One play from that game stuck with Engel after the season.

“[Macksville] threw a deep pass and it was picked off by us,” Engel said. “That was pretty exciting. I remember getting real excited and yelling about that so it was a lot of fun.”

Engel was an essential piece of Victoria athletics throughout his time in high school, but he had to work his way up starting as a freshman.

“I remember my first year all I did was the water during the games,” Engel said. “My second year they needed someone to film, so I got into that and I’ve done that for the last three years.”

Victoria assistant coach Dan Rogers says Engel was always willing to go above and beyond his responsibilities.

“Instead of the water just being filled up, he would distribute bottles to each position group during drills,” Rogers said. “Instead of just setting up the field, he would step in a drill as needed before cleaning up the field at the end of practices sometimes in the dark. He comes from a great family with high character. Our program and school wouldn’t be close to what it is without Tyler.”

With his high school diploma in hand, Engel will move 20 minutes west to Fort Hays State where he will major in sports media. But that doesn’t mean his time at Victoria is over.

“The principal at Victoria asked if I would do PA again, and I’d like too if I can,” Engel said. “Hopefully I will be able to find some opportunities in radio as well.”

Congratulations to Victoria’s Tyler Engel for his selection to the Nex-Tech Wireless Supporting Cast.

Brett Jones, Filmmaker, Derby

Derby is one of the top football programs in Kansas. From their facilities to their coaching, the Panthers have set the bar high. This remains true in the art of filmmaking.

Brett Jones, a 2019 graduate of Derby, is the creator of “Panther Pride,” a documentary focused on the team’s summer of 2017. Jones traveled with the team the entire summer and had the opportunity to interview players, coaches, and community members.

“I spent the entire summer camped out with the football team, going to all their major events,” Jones said. “I wanted a different perspective that people, specifically those in the Derby community, don’t see. I wanted to highlight what goes into making a program, and what goes into making a winning program specifically.”

Jones began his Derby career as a football player but switched his focus to filmmaking. Derby coach Brandon Clark allowed Jones team access and encouraged him to follow his passion.

“I talked to coach Clark, he told me he’d let me on the sidelines to work with video,” Jones said. “I got on the sidelines, I started making highlight videos and that grew into covering all the sports.”

Clark was one of many Derby community members who was impressed by what Jones was able to create.

“Brett brought football and the art of videography together,” Clark said. “He inspired our players during pregame and our community after the games with his videos. He not only created some masterpieces, he also did the behind-the-scenes work like film our practices and help players make their highlight tapes.

“Brett has a bright future in filmmaking.”

Jones says the documentary received lots of positive feedback.

“The community itself was very excited; I received a lot of messages asking when the documentary was going to come out, and I really appreciate that,” Jones said. “We have access to Wichita so we are unique in the whole Kansas experience, but we do have that same small-town thing that everyone in Kansas talks about. If it wasn’t for our close community, “Panther Pride” would have never have been successful.”

Congratulations to Derby’s Brett Jones for his selection to the Nex-Tech Wireless Supporting Cast.

Heidi Jones, Student-Manager, Plainville

Plainville senior Heidi Jones’ maturity and initiative make her a standout football team manager, a role she has embraced since her freshman year.

She remembers using milk crates to carry water bottles during her first year as manager. Displaying the afore-mentioned initiative, she bought new water carriers on her own.

“To carry that milk crate around, it was heavy, it was awkward, and when I held it for the players to get their water during the game, I had to rest it on my leg and it was painful,” Jones said. “I decided I was going to be a little more professional and get water carriers.”

Entering her fourth year as manager, Jones has built a solid relationship with Plainville coach Grant Stephenson. The two are often on the same page.

“I’ve learned what he likes to have done,” Jones said. “... I know what drills he wants to do on what days. Before the guys come out to the practice field I already have all the equipment out. I know what they like to do at this point, so I figure I ought to help the coach out just a little bit and have all that done.”

The extra assistance is not lost on Stephenson.

“She’s just very organized and I never have to ask her twice to do anything,” Stephenson said. “She seems to learn our practice routine and then finds out what she can do to help out, especially in several small ways that are very helpful.”

Jones manages the football team in the fall and participates in forensics in the spring. However, if you make her choose just one, ultimately her love is football.

“Football is more of a team activity,” Jones said. “Everyone has to work as one big unit and come together in those big-time situations.”

Jones’ older brother, Nolan, plays at Kansas Wesleyan and is a big reason for her passion for football. In fact, Heidi and Nolan hope to one day become the first brother-sister coaching duo in football.

“If it wasn’t for my brother enjoying football, I would never be where I’m at now,” Jones said. “If I hadn’t joined the football team, I don’t think we would be as close as we are now.”

Jones has scholarship offers to serve in a similar role with the football teams at Fort Hays and Kansas Wesleyan. She plans on majoring in sports management while in college.

“Eventually if I can coach, that would be my dream come true,” Jones said. “As long as I’m working in football, I’ll be happy.”

Congratulations to Plainville’s Heidi Jones for her selection to the Nex-Tech Wireless Supporting Cast.

Jennifer Shiew, Photographer/Volunteer, Hodgeman County

Jennifer Shiew may not have a son playing for the Hodgeman County football team anymore, but that won’t stop her from continuing her duties as a team mom.

Shiew has four children who have graduated or are currently enrolled at Hodgeman County High School. Her oldest three sons played multiple sports for the Longhorns while her youngest daughter, Grace, plays volleyball, basketball and runs track.

Her oldest son, Zeck, is 23, which means, for most of the last 10 years, Shiew had a son playing football at Hodgeman County. In 2019, the only Shiew on the football field for Hodgeman County will be Jennifer on the sidelines taking pictures.

Shiew is an avid photographer who is at every home game and most road contests. She finds it important to make time to support the kids, because, as she says, it all goes by so fast.

“We just get up and go because we don’t want to miss any of them,” Shiew said. “That time is so precious. They’re only playing for a certain amount of time and a certain amount of years, and we just want to be there. You hope and pray that nothing ever happens to them, but if something does you want to be there.”

In addition to following the Longhorns to take pictures, Shiew coordinates meals for Grace’s teams, and helps out with summer girls basketball.

Shiew has developed a passion for giving back to the Hodgeman County youth. She wants her children and their teammates to bond on and off the field.

“I think Hodgeman County is a great community and school district,” Shiew said. “The team meals help bring together a family atmosphere. Teams that eat together, play together, and win together.”

Now that Zeck, Nick, and Luke have graduated, Shiew and her husband will turn their attention to Grace. Shiew admits there was a learning curve transitioning from football to volleyball in the fall, but she sees similarities between the sports.

“We really didn’t know a lot about volleyball, but it’s been fun to watch her grow and watch her become the player that she is becoming,” Shiew said. “She still has a lot of the same passion and energy for sports just like her brothers do.”

And Grace’s participation sports means the Shiew family will continue to be easy to find on game nights during the school year.

“Every bleacher, every season,” Shiew said.

Hodgeman County schools include the small communities of Jetmore and Hanston, two towns that were once rivals.

“I think it was really cool how those two schools could come together,” Shiew said. “Everybody really got on board to make it Hodgeman County. It’s been fun to meet some of the families in Hanston. I wish I had met them sooner, not only for me, but for my kids as well.”

Congratulations to Hodgeman County’s Jennifer Shiew for her selection to the Nex-Tech Wireless Supporting Cast.

Carl Werner, Athletic Director/Volunteer/Donor, St. Francis

Carl Werner’s name has become synonymous with St. Francis athletics. Werner has served 51 years total in education. In his time at St. Francis, Werner has spent 10 years teaching, 30 years as the Superintendent of Schools, and this upcoming year will be Werner’s eighth year as athletic director, after a brief five year retirement.

No matter the sport, Werner genuinely loves supporting his St. Francis Indians.

“I just love St. Francis schools and kids,” Werner said at Nex-Tech Wireless headquarters in Hays in mid-July. “I watch a lot of practice, I go to every game I can. If the St. Francis athletes are there, I want to be there watching.”

And he has taken his love of St. Francis schools a giant leap further than just attending athletic contests.

Werner helped launch the St. Francis Education Foundation fund with an extremely generous $100,000 donation. The foundation benefits those within the USD 297 school district.

“I made the initial donation and anyone can donate to it at any time,” Werner said. “I didn’t want it to be named after me. It is administered by the St. Francis school board and the superintendent.”

While Werner works as the school’s full-time athletic director, he receives very little compensation. The way Werner sees it, he’s just giving back to a community that has given him so much.

“I think the main thing is that St. Francis schools have provided my entire career to me,” Werner said. “St. Francis is just a great place to live and work.”

In his time at St. Francis, Werner created the Indian News Line in which he wrote recaps after every ball game for fans who weren’t able to make the game.

“A lot of the older people loved Indian News,” Werner said.

Head football coach Nick Fawcett, who is entering his second year at St. Francis, says Werner is the best athletic director he has ever worked with.

“He absolutely lives and breathes St. Francis athletics,” Fawcett said. “He does his best to give me almost everything I ask for as a coach.”

Former St. Francis coach Rodney Yates, who coached the Indians from 2015-2017, has nothing but positive things to say about Werner as well.

“When I think of Sainty there is only one man responsible for the opportunities that community has experienced,” Yates said. “Mr. Werner is a man I respect dearly and since his retirement in 2006 he has volunteered his time and life to ensure the school is set up financially and each kid that attends the district is taken care of academically and athletically.”

Congratulations to St. Francis’ Carl Werner for his selection to the Nex-Tech Wireless Supporting Cast.

Don Wiens, Athletic Director/Coach, Thunder Ridge

Whether it’s at Thunder Ridge High School or at the KSHSAA State Track and Field Meet, you can count on Don Wiens to be there.

Wiens is a long-time teacher, coach, and athletic director at Thunder Ridge in Kensington. He’s also been a vital part of the state track meet for nearly three decades as a starter.

Wiens started his career as a business teacher at Kensington and served as an assistant coach for football, basketball and track. He even drove the bus and still helps maintain the fields.

In his own words, Wiens does a little bit of everything, although coaching will always hold a special place in Wiens’ heart.

“The year we went down to 8-Man football, we won state that year, so that was a special year,” Wiens said. “Later on in the early 90s we won another state championship, and my son was on that team. Those were special times, but every year is unique.”

Wiens has lived in Kensington since 1964. In addition to his career in education, he gives back to the community in other ways.

“I’ve been on the recreation commission since 1972,” Wiens said. “We have a unique situation in that the school district doesn’t own the football field, the recreational commission owns the football field. I water, mow, and take care of the field. I’m also on the church board and the housing board, so I manage to keep busy.”

Wiens also keeps busy every spring during the state track meet when he fires the starting gun for the 3-2-1A races.

“The state does such a tremendous job managing that state track meet,” Wiens said. “This last year was unique because we had to finish it on Sunday and that was the first time that had ever happened. It’s just a tremendous event and it’s great to be a part of it. I’ve been doing it for 30-some years and I enjoy doing it.”

Wiens’ son, Darren, respects the career his father has built.

“Longevity and reliability are two things hard to find in this day and age, especially at just one school,” Darren said. “I can’t think of many coaches/teachers/ADs that have spent their professional career at one school longer than he has at Kensington.”

Congratulations to Thunder Ridge’s Don Wiens for his selection to the Nex-Tech Wireless Supporting Cast.

Think someone from your community deserves consideration for the Nex-Tech Wireless Supporting Cast? Nominate a contributor to the success of your athletic program and they might earn recognition in an upcoming issue of Kansas Pregame. Submit nominations for the Nex-Tech Wireless Supporting Cast by messaging Kansas Pregame on Facebook or Twitter, emailing kansaspregame@gmail.com, or mailing a nomination to PO Box 186, Lincoln, KS 67455. Be sure to include details about how they support the team behind the scenes, contact info and references who can attest to their key role as a member of the team’s Supporting Cast!