The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 8, 2013

Frontenac's Johnson signs with PSU track program

By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer

FRONTENAC, Kan. — Frontenac senior pole vaulter Taylor Johnson figures if you’re going to dream, you might as well dream big.

“I’m just going to shoot for the stars,” Johnson said of his long-term goals in track and field. “I’m going to say the Olympics. I think it would be the greatest thing in the world to be in the Olympics.”

Sure, it’s quite a goal. But this type of confidence is what’s made Johnson one of the best pole vaulters in the state. It takes a certain level of faith to let your body soar high into the air with little to no control.

“You got to be determined to do it,” he said. “You can’t just lollygag out there, or you’re going to get hurt.”

Johnson signed his letter of intent Wednesday at Frontenac High School to continue his track and field career at Pittsburg State University.

He said the proximity and the coaching were two of the reasons he chose Pittsburg State. Head coach Russ Jewett just led the Gorillas to the MIAA Outdoor Championship this past weekend, and assistant coach Kyle Rutledge was a three-time All-American in the pole vault at Missouri Southern.

“For one, it was close,” Johnson said. “Coach Rutledge was another reason.

“I have a lot of people behind me, and it will be a really good place to go.”

Johnson is a two-time state qualifier in the event and enters this year’s Class 4A regional with one of the best marks in the state.

According to, Johnson is tied for the sixth highest vault in the state and third best in Class 4A at 14 feet, 11 inches. Johnson reached that mark at the Southeast Invitational this season.

The Raiders are scheduled to compete at the CNC League meet today in Riverton. Regionals are set for May 17 at Iola.

Of course, Johnson is going to set his goals high.

“I’m hoping to get first this year,” he said.

Pittsburg’s Avalos to wrestle at Labette Community College

Gershom Avalos wasn’t your typical 220-pound wrestler for the Pittsburg Purple Dragons. Avalos also was an all-SEK League soccer player, and he used that athleticism on the mat.

“He’s just real light on his feet,” Pittsburg wrestling coach Scott Rieck said. “He can scramble real well for a big guy and can get out of situations real quick when needed. He can do techniques that little guys can do, and a lot of that can be attributed to soccer.”

Avalos signed his letter of intent Wednesday at Pittsburg High to continue his wrestling career at Labette Community College.

He will be wrestling for a program that has won back-to-back national championships but will have a new coach in Ryan Phillips, who had been an assistant at NCAA Division II’s Upper Iowa University for six years. Phillips replaces Joe Renfro, who left to rebuild the wrestling program at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.

Avalos was a three-time state qualifier at 220 pounds for the Dragons, finishing third this past season.

Rieck said Labette is planning on making Avalos a heavyweight in college.

 Colgan’s Dechant headed to Baker

St. Mary’s-Colgan all-state basketball player Dyson Dechant signed his letter of intent last week to compete for Baker University.

Dechant, who is about 6-foot-4, averaged about 18 points and 8 rebounds his senior year.

He will be competing for a Baker team that finished 15-14 last season. Baker, an NAIA school, is located in Baldwin City, Kan.