The Neosho Wildcats boys soccer program made history last season with their first back-to-back district titles, their first sectional victory, and their first state quarterfinal appearance. The Wildcats played their historic sectional and quarterfinal matches at Bob Anderson Stadium.

The Wildcats graduated key leaders from that squad, namely Angel Alvarado, Brayden Johnson, and Edly Lihpai. All three signed letters of intent to continue their academic and athletic careers at the next level: Alvarado at NAIA Graceland in Lamoni, Iowa and Johnson and Lihpai at Coffeyville Community College, a hot spot for signing Neosho players both boys and girls.

Returning standouts Yahir Ruiz and Kayden Wood represented Neosho recently in the Central Ozark Conference vs. Ozark Conference all-star game in Springfield.

Ruiz, an outstanding goal scorer, earned all-Class 3 first team honors from the Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association. Ruiz, Johnson, and Lihpai earned all-region with a selection of players from District 9 through District 12.

Ruiz also won MVP for District 12 and Wood and Johnson won top goalkeeper and top defender honors, respectively.

“It was an incredible year,” Neosho head coach James Carter said after the quarterfinal loss to Glendale. “This team did so much for Neosho soccer. I told them it’s hard for me to put into words and I think I’m usually pretty good at putting things into words. It was incredible, the sectional win and the back-to-back district champs. They’re an amazing team and I think most often these things come one step at a time. We took a big step this year.

“I don’t want this to be a one-off type thing. Be more consistent with our postseason runs. That’s something we’re looking forward to do. A lot of young guys. That’s the real message: Let’s be more consistent about getting here more often.”

NHS schedule: Sept. 3 at Nixa, Sept. 10 vs. Ozark, Sept. 13-14 Parkview Tournament, Sept. 17 vs. Republic, Sept. 19 at Aurora, Sept. 24 at Webb City, Oct. 1 at Carthage, Oct. 3 vs. McDonald County, Oct. 4-5 Willard Tournament, Oct. 8 at Willard, Oct. 10-12 Joplin Tournament, Oct. 15 vs. Carl Junction, Oct. 22 vs. Joplin, Oct. 29 vs. Branson.

— It’s not much of an overstatement to say that former McDonald County catcher Kylie Helm enjoyed one of the best softball careers ever in the state of Missouri.

She finished her career without striking out in her final 205 at-bats, a state record, and she posted two seasons in a row without a strikeout.

Helm hit the winning home run in the Class 3 district championship game against Monett.

The Lady Mustangs won two district titles — one Class 4, another Class 3 — during her outstanding prep career and she signed after the season with NCAA Division I Mercer.

“She’s meant a lot for us,” McDonald County head coach Skyler Rawlins said after the sectional loss at home to Bolivar. “She’s been one of those leaders for us. She’s carried us from behind the plate and helped with our pitchers, and then offensively, you’re talking about someone that’s been one of the best hitters in Southwest Missouri. That’s nice to have and tough to replace. You’re not going to replace her right off the bat. It’s not going to happen. Just move on and enjoy what she done and what all these seniors have done for this program, it’s been amazing. They have two district championships, two conference championships, and the legacy they’ve added on is something we’re proud of for them.”

The cupboard’s not bare for the new season, though, since pitchers Alexa Hopkins and Madeline McCall, third baseman Whitney Kinser and shortstop Chloe Colvin, and center fielder Rita Santillan did not graduate.

MCHS schedule: Aug. 30 at Carthage, Sept. 3 vs. East Newton, Sept. 5 at Marshfield, Sept. 7 vs. Ozark, Sept. 7 at Bolivar, Sept. 9 vs. Joplin, Sept. 10 vs. Reeds Spring, Sept. 12 at Aurora, Sept. 16 at Neosho, Sept. 17 vs. Seneca, Sept. 19 at Cassville, Sept. 23 at Nixa, Sept. 24 vs. Lamar, Sept. 26 at Nevada, Sept. 30 at Hillcrest, Oct. 3 at Logan-Rogersville, Oct. 7 vs. Webb City, Oct. 8 vs. Monett, Oct. 11-12 Carthage Tournament.

— The East Newton Patriots and the Lamar Tigers have dominated boys cross country in the Big 8 Conference for the last 15 years.

East Newton won seven consecutive titles from 2004 through 2010 and Lamar entered last season’s conference meet with seven titles in a row.

The Patriots ended Lamar’s reign with a lineup of runners featuring no seniors and six underclassmen. East Newton placed five runners in the top 15: Kelton Sorrell fourth, Jacob Bennion fifth, Gabe Bergen ninth, Garrett Downum 14th, and Layton Earll 15th.

East Newton scored 47 points to win the Big 8 meet — the first one since the conference expanded to 14 schools — and Cassville finished a distant second at 113.

At state last season, East Newton finished eighth in the Class 3 team standings with 214 points. Festus won the title with 43 points and Bolivar finished second at 71.

Individually, Sorrell posted the best time with a 17:25.83 that placed him 27th overall in a race that featured 164 athletes.

Sorrell, Bennion, and Bergen ran on the Class 3 state champion 4x800 relay in the spring, and they were joined by Camden Lazure. East Newton won in 8 minutes, 13.23 seconds.

Several teams open their 2019 season Sept. 7 at the SWCCCA Richard Clark Invitational at Bolivar and other meets of note include the Carthage Invitational (Sept. 12), Cottey College Invitational in Nevada (Sept. 14), the Southern Stampede at Missouri Southern (Sept. 21), the East Newton Invitational (Oct. 5), the Central Ozark Conference meet at Nixa (Oct. 15), and the state championships in Columbia (Nov. 9).

The first session for the SWMO Running Camp filled up and registration was limited to runners from St. Joseph Central, Carl Junction, Liberal, Marshfield, Webb City, Montrose, Lamar, Southwest, Hartville, Lebanon, Owensville, Wyandotte (Oklahoma), Sparta, Carthage, Kansas Schools, Morgan County, West Platte, and host East Newton, meaning numbers approaching 200 runners.

— Over the summer, former Neosho activities director Cori Reid returned to Missouri Southern and her former assistant athletics director job and Neosho hired Brandi Arthur as new activities director.

Arthur previously coached the Neosho softball program from 2013 through 2015 and she helmed Crowder softball for three seasons (2006-08), leading the Lady Roughriders to two region titles and one appearance in the national tournament (2008).

Reid served as Neosho’s activities director from 2014 to 2019.