Nex-Tech Wireless recognizes athletic contributors in this special feature
Kansas Pregame and Nex-Tech Wireless continue to recognize those behind the scenes helping area sports teams achieve success. Check out the Spring Supporting Cast below and for more about Nex-Tech Wireless visit www.nex-techwireless.com.
Jerry Darling, Norton Wrestling
Norton resident Jerry Darling never had a child wrestle for Norton High School, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the biggest supporters of the powerhouse program in northwest Kansas. According to Norton wrestling head coach Bill Johnson, Darling is unwavering in his support for not only wrestling, but all Norton High School athletics.
“Wrestling is his favorite, but he supports all the kids,” Johnson said. “He loves the kids, and he loves seeing them succeed.”
At last year’s Norton wrestling team banquet, the team wanted to honor Darling and named an award after him: The Jerry Darling Wrestling Fan of the Year Award. The award goes to the biggest fan of the program, with the one exception being the winner cannot currently have a child competing on the team.
“We have a good following for our wrestling team,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of people following us who didn’t have kids on the team. I got with Jerry and we created the fan of the year award.”
Johnson just completed his 29th season as head wrestling coach at Norton, and he says Darling has been a supporter of the program for over 20 years.
Darling does more than attend home matches. One of the things that impresses Johnson most about Darling is his willingness to travel any distance to support the wrestling team.
In the past, the Norton wrestling has travelled out of state to Colorado and Nebraska for post-season tournaments. When Darling made the trip to the Mile High Tournament of Champions in the early 2000s, it made quite the impression on Johnson.
“My oldest son is 35, a 2003 graduate, when he was a sophomore we made our first trip to Denver to the Mile High Tournament of Champions, which has now turned into the Rocky Mountain Nationals, and Jerry accompanied us to that. Probably the first time I realized he was dedicated enough to travel that far just to watch these kids,” Johnson said.
Norton High School wrestling assistant coach Billy Broeckelman is a 2011 graduate of the school and became a coach during the 2018-2019 season. Seeing Darling’s support as a competitor and now as a coach has caused Broeckelman to gain a greater appreciation for Darling’s contributions.
“I remember as a kid he was always there,” Broeckelman said. “As a kid, you talk to him and he talks to you, but as an adult you really grow to respect the man because you realize he doesn’t have any reason to come and watch other than he wants to.”
Broeckelman echoes Johnson’s thoughts about Darling’s importance to the program.
“Jerry is an invaluable part of this program. He helps with traditions, kids know he will always be there. You just don’t see it anymore - someone who wants to support something that strong,” Broeckelman said.
Jamie Remsberg, Newton Flyers Track Club
Jamie and Tad Remsberg have a good working dynamic that is based on an agreement - Jamie handles the administrative aspect while Tad does the coaching.
“I’m more behind the scenes,” Jamie said. “The parents know not to talk to Tad about the registration process and to instead come to me.”
Together, the wife and husband run the Newton Flyers Track Club, which helps feed into the Newton High School track and field program - a program that has won three of the last four state championships on the girls side.
“It feels like a large family because a lot of those girls were Flyers when they started track,” Jamie said.
Jamie and Tad took over the Newton Flyers when their oldest son, now a junior in college, was around eight. Jamie said they became owners because nobody else wanted to.
“Tad and I had a discussion after our kids were done competing whether or not to keep it going,” Jamie said. “It’s actually been a really great thing to keep it rolling as a way to give back to the community.”
Tad is the head coach of the Newton High Track and Field teams - one of the top programs in the state. He credits his wife for the program’s success.
“My wife Jamie is also the backbone of our summer track program. She does all the hard work to keep that team going,” Tad said. “I get to do the easy part and just coach. Newton Flyers track wouldn’t still be around without her. Much of our high school success comes from athletes that started on our youth team.”
Jamie and Tad met at Emporia State University in the late 80s or early 90s. Jamie, who has lived in Newton her whole life outside of college, played softball for the Hornets her junior and senior years, and played at Hutchinson Community College as an underclassman.
Her senior year, Emporia State finished third in the nation.
“It was a great way to end our season and my softball career,” Jamie said.
Jamie was a standout in basketball, as well as softball, in high school.
“Softball and basketball were both big parts of my life,” Jamie said. “I chose softball over basketball in college because I had a bad knee injury. Basketball was my first love, softball was what I was good at.”
Together, Jamie and Tad have three children. Kadin, the oldest, is a junior on the Air Force football team. This past season, Kadin rushed for 1,050 yards and eight TDs for the Falcons.
Maggie, the middle child, does multiple events at at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. In high school, Maggie collected 16 total state medals and won individual state championships in the 100 meter hurdles as a junior and the 300 hurdles as a senior. She was also member of the 4x400 state championship relay as a freshman and was part of the gold medal winning 4x100 relay team as a senior.
Jamie and Tad’s youngest child, Jonah, will be a junior at Newton High School next season.
Due to COVID-19, Jamie and Tad made the decision to keep the Newton Flyers Track Club closed for the indefinite future. Jamie said she never realized how much she and her husband were invested in sports until sports were taken away.
“Our socialization is watching sports,” Jamie said. “Watching our kids compete, watching the high school kids compete. . . we’re missing all of it.”
Curtis Simons, Athletic Director, Emporia
Emporia High School athletic director Curtis Simons is heavily involved behind the scenes to make sure sporting events run smoothly.
At Friday night home football games during the fall, Simons is all over the place making sure everything goes as planned.
“When you have a home game, you can’t just show up and play,” Simons said. “Away games are a bit easier - you just show up and supervise.”
During a home football game, Simons responsibilities include, but are not limited to, coordinating with Emporia State University, paying referees, locking the gates, turning on and off the lights, and making sure everybody has towels and water.
“Home games require a lot of responsibilities,” Simons said. “I have a student manager who helps me out.”
Simons, originally from Scott City, has served as athletic director at EHS for seven years. From 1993-2004, Simons was the head wrestling coach and an assistant volleyball coach at Emporia.
One of his favorite moments in his time as athletic director includes hosting the first-annual Centennial League Girls Wrestling Championship last year..
“One of our girls came from behind and pinned her opponent in the third period of the last match which allowed us to win league as a team by one point,” Simons said.
Another fond moment came in 2016 when the Emporia boys won the Class 5-1A State Bowling Championship. Braden Schuler won the individual championship and bowled a 300-game in the process.
“The other kids fed off it, and it was awesome,” Simons said.
In 2017 when Shawne Heights left the Centennial League for the United Kansas Conference, that left a hole in Emporia’s football schedule for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Simons reached out to Kansas City, Kansas-area schools who had corresponding open weeks, but they decided to play opponents in Missouri.
“To be honest, that was kind of frustrating,” Simons said. “I called KSHSAA and told them I didn’t think that was right.”
Simons reached out to schools in Oklahoma and Nebraska without much luck. In July of 2018, Simons met the athletic director of Legends High School (Colorado) and the two teams had an open spot to fill.
The distance from Emporia to Parker, Colorado is nearly eight hours. After going back and forth on where the game would be played, Simons called Scott City athletic director Randy Huck to see if the two teams could play there in the middle.
In 2018, Emporia hosted Legends at Scott City High School. In 2019, it was Legends’ turn to host Emporia at the same spot.
Legends won two competitie games by a combined 10 points. Simons said it was a great atmosphere considering the situation.
“They have a great environment and great stadium,” Simons said. “It was nice to go home and see some friends and family who still live in Scott City.”
With the cancellation of spring sports due to COVID-19, Simons says he misses the kids more than anything.
“It’s been a depressing spring,” Simons said.
Emporia football head coach Corby Milleson is grateful for Simons’ contributions and knows it will be hard to replace him when he decides to retire.
“As far as football goes, Curtis goes out of his way to make sure that we have everything we need,” Milleson said. “He builds relationships with players in every program, and makes decisions based on the best thing for kids.”
Don Steffens, Announcer
There aren’t many things Don Steffens is more passionate about than track and field and cross country. Whether he is writing, spectating, managing, or announcing - which is what he is known best for - Steffens enjoys what he does.
“I love the whole package,” Steffens said. “I’ve been infatuated with track and field since I was a sophomore in high school. I like keeping statistics, I like watching it, I like announcing it, I like writing stories about it. . .
“There is no aspect of it that I do not enjoy.”
Steffens is an iconic voice in state cross country and track and field in Kansas. In 1974, Steffens announced his first state cross country meet. The following spring in 1975, Steffens announced his first state track and field meet.
For the past 45 years, Steffens has been a staple of consistency in the cross country and track and field community.
Steffens, 74, hasn’t missed a state meet since beginning, and he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
“I hope to be announcing the state meet until the day I die,” Steffens said. “This year would have been 46 in a row. I’m sure I’ll hit 50, that’s kind of my goal. Right now I’m healthy, and I’m enjoying every moment of it.”
Steffens is a graduate of Wichita East High School where his love for cross country and track and field blossomed. Steffens served as a manager under legendary head coach Bob Timmons, who passed away in August of 2015.
In the summer of 1974, Steffens met McPherson-native Carol Swenson. The following fall, the two became the first announcers at the state cross country meet.
“Nobody had ever announced a state cross country meet until we did it,” Steffens said. “It’s really fun because we get to talk about athletes that don’t get a lot of attention throughout the years. The parents love to listen to it, and coaches get a kick out of it, too. We feel like it really does affect the athletes.”
Steffens has seen everything there is to see at the state meets, and yet he says he sees something new every year.
When Steffens recalls his favorite moments, watching Jim Ryun become the first high school runner to run a sub four-minute mile comes to mind.
However, it is not his favorite.
Steffens has three children: Billy, Suzanne, and Kem. When Suzanne qualified for state in the high jump, and the whole Steffens family was there in attendance.
“That’s the most fun i ever had at a state track meet,” Steffens said. “Our son Billy was working with the timing crews, our younger son Kem was in the press box handing out results, my brother Jim was running the clock, and my wife Charlotte was sitting with all four grandparents. The whole family was there. It was just an amazing day.”
Right now, Steffens is missing his first state track and field meet due to the cancellation of spring sports from COVID-19. When sports do resume, Steffens will be excited to get to the action.
“I used to go to about three track meets a week,” Steffens said. “Needless to say, I’m missing it all.”
Thanks to Nex-Tech Wireless for making this coverage of the 2020 Spring Supporting Cast possible!
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