by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley cross country team is gearing up for the upcoming fall season this summer, meeting five days per week to run on various trails in the Eastern Jackson County area.
Last season, the girls team qualified for state, finishing 16th, and will return three of its top six runners. On the boys side, Grain Valley has a younger team full of runners that are looking to make their first appearance at the Missouri State High School Cross Country Championships.
That’s why the Eagles have been putting in a lot of work over the summer. So far, the summer camps have been going well, according to head coach Nick Small. Small said there should be 20 runners each for the boys and girls teams when the season starts in late August.
“Our numbers have looked pretty good, but we have a lot of kids on vacation right now,” Small said. “”Most days we meet off campus so we can change the scenery a little bit.”
“We have a lot of fresh new faces joining us and the veteran runners have been doing well, too.”
Some of the trails the teams have run on include Little Blue Trace Trail in Independence, Lake Jacomo, and Burr Oaks Woods in Blue Springs.
“We have put in hundreds of miles every day,” Carson Hill, a transfer from West Virginia said.
Added Nathan Allen: “We have been training our bodies for different layouts, so we can get ready for the races we have coming up.”
The summer training has also included some shorter runs on the track at Grain Valley High School.
“We have done some sprint workouts and shorter runs in intervals,” Payton Bell said. “We have been doing some 400 (meter runs) on repeat today.”
The girls team will be young but return a few from the 2020 team that qualified for state. One of those runners will be Ella Casey, who led the girls with a 99th place finish at state. About four runners will return that have varsity experience.
“We will have a younger team because we graduated a lot of seniors last year,” Casey said. “I think our goal is to get as many to state as we can. I want to make it to state and (earn a personal-record time).”
For the boys, Small is looking for some new faces to step up and provide a spark as it will have mostly freshman runners.
“Carson has come right in and stepped into a leadership role,” Small said. “He’s taking it on really well. We have mixed in some of our juniors from last year and we also have Nathan Allen joining us from the track team.”
Having such a young team could make it a little more difficult to advance far in the postseason, but some runners on the boys are confident this team can make an impact.
“We want to make it to state and finish in the top 10,” Mason McCain said. “I want to break the school record and get a medal at state.”
Grain Valley’s first meet will be Aug. 28 at home, and Small said his team has prepared well for the start of the fall season.
“Our kids usually do a pretty good job of stepping up when they need to, and I can see that already with their mindset and their training,” Small said.
by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley tennis program has had a lot of success in recent years and the 2020-21 school year was no exception.
Last fall, the doubles team of Chelsea Gorden and Finley LaForge made the state semifinals before finishing fourth, the first duo in the history of the program to do so. On the boys side, this spring, twin brothers Carter and Cade Compton made it to the state boys doubles tournament and took eighth.
This season, Grain Valley hopes to sustain the success a few of its players had last season as more than 20 athletes participated in a summer cap last Tuesday and Wednesday at the high school.
So far, veteran head coach Randy Draper has liked what he’s seen.
“There are things these guys and girls are trying to add to their game and work on this summer, and this camp helps with that,” Draper said. “A lot of them are playing in tournaments that help them keep sharp.
“The high school tennis season is really short, so you have to get better outside the season or you’re behind. I am pleased. We have some good players and I like the way they are hitting the ball.”
A lot of the work players have been doing during summer camp has involved working on forehand shots and Draper’s personal favorite shot, volleys. The players have said the work they do during the camps has been beneficial.
“We have been working on doubles of course because it makes everyone better,” Gorden said. “We all have been in Summer Slam Tournaments, too, getting some work in before the season.”
Added LaForge: “There is a lot of team bonding that goes on during this time. We get to know each other really well. Every practice, we keep getting better and better.”
The Compton brothers echoed those sentiments.
“This gives us a chance to get better,” Carter Compton said. “We’re off the whole summer, so it gives us time to get better. My serve was bad, so I have used the summer to work on that.”
Not only that, but Draper has also had the girls play against the guys in scrimmages, which give the camps a unique dynamic.
“I grew up with the Comptons, so it’s pretty fun to play against them,” Gorten said. “They were new to tennis and they had a really successful season. It’s nice to have new competition because girls tennis and guys tennis are pretty different. The guys hit a lot harder.”
Kade Compton admitted the girls put up a tough fight against the boys.
“It’s pretty even,” He said. “Coach Draper splits everyone up. It’s pretty fun.”
The girls team will play this fall and will likely return most of its top six singles players from last season, including LaForge and Gorden. While many of the players will still be underclassmen, the majority of players will have at least one varsity season under their belts.
“We had three freshmen in our top six last year,” Draper said. “We are still young, we are just more experienced this time and we have some good senior players that will help us.”
While LaForge and Gorden said they hope to make it back to the girls doubles tournament and do even better than they did last year, they have some big team goals as well.
“We want to make it to state as a team,” LaForge said. “We were pretty close last year. This year, we are taking a big step forward. Everyone is putting in a lot of work.”
On the boys side, the Comptons are the only returning players that were in the top six for singles. Draper will depend on a lot of newer players to fill in the remaining four spots.
“Those guys are really good,” Draper said of the Comptons. “We have some other guys that are working hard, too. We lost some really good players from last year’s team and we have some young guys trying to step into those spots.
The first official practice for the girls team is Aug. 9. The boys will start their season in March 2022.
Registration has opened for returning students at Grain Valley Schools, with August 3rd as the deadline for families to complete the online registration process. Parents of incoming kindergarten students do not need to complete the process unless their address has changed since enrollment. In-person assistance will be available at South Middle School on August 4th from 11:00am—7:00pm for families who need additional assistance.
While student meals are free for the 2021-22 school year due to current USDA pandemic provisions, families who may qualify for free or reduced price meals are encouraged to register for the program during student registration to avoid any lapse in benefits when pandemic provisions expire.
by Michael Smith
Last season, during his first season as head coach, Brett Lewis led the Grain Valley boys soccer team to a Class 3 District 8 Tournament Championship.
It wasn’t a bad year for Lewis, who was previously an assistant to former head coach Tyler Nichol. This year, there will be higher expectations for the Eagles as they have 20 seniors on this year’s squad.
Last week, the boys team participated in a four-day camp to sharpen their skills for the upcoming fall season and help the coaches prepare to assign positions to the players.
During last week’s camp, Lewis had 35 to 40 players participate and he expects around 50 to be at tryouts in August, which is about 10 more than he had in 2020.
“Our camp is like the preseason before the preseason,” Lewis said. “It’s a time for the coaches to see some guys and let them get into game situations.
“I told the guys, ‘It’s super important for you to be here.’ This gives our first glimpse of what they look like in 11 vs. 11 scenarios. Once Aug. 9 hits, I want to have an idea where everyone is going to play.”
The camps have also helped players get back into shape.
“We have been doing a lot of fitness,” Grain Valley senior Micah Siems said. “We have been working on footwork and getting our touches down. We have been doing a lot of passing drills to see where everyone can play.”
Because of the increase in numbers, Lewis said some players will have to be cut from the team. Last season, he didn’t have to make any.
“I told the guys, ‘We lost five seniors and we are going to have 12 to 15 freshmen coming in. And it’s going to be a lot more of a competitive process.’” Lewis said.
The preseason camp helped prepare the players for tryouts and they got to hold their annual World Cup Tournament, a series of intrasquad scrimmages. The players were divided into six teams and got to choose what country they wanted to represent. Six nets were set up on the west and east ends of the field at Moody Murry Memorial Stadium.
“It’s pretty competitive because the winner gets donuts,” Lewis said. “You even see them wearing the colors of the country they are representing.”
Added senior Gage Levell: “It’s a lot more fun than doing a dribbling drill or something like that. It helps us get sharp for game-time scenarios.”
This offseason has been a lot more favorable than 2020 as the restrictions for the COVID19 pandemic have been lifted and allowed the Eagles to hold their version of the World Cup Tournament. Last season, the players didn’t get to start working with the soccer ball until July.
The Eagles also had to wear masks, which made it more difficult to breathe when running up and down the soccer field. They also had to do drills in smaller groups as the player had to social distance. Now with the vaccine rollout slowing the spread of the virus as compared to 2020, things are back to normal for Lewis and his team.
“We were unsure if we were going to be able to play,” Siems said of the 2020 offseason. “Wearing masks was hard for everyone because it’s so hot. This year is nice because we started early and got our workouts in, and no masks.
“Last year, some kids had to go to the sidelines and take the mask off because it was hard to breathe.”
Grain Valley will begin the 2021 season and will expect even more success after a successful 2020 campaign.
“They are hungry to go even further this year. We have some lofty goals,” Lewis said. “We can go out and accomplish those goals if we work hard.”
One of those goals is to win the Suburban White Conference, a league in which the Eagles missed out on first place by one game.
“We had a really good shot at it last year,” Levell said of winning the conference. “We had some players in quarantine last year. We had a two-week span of that. We should have a good shot of winning it this season.”
Photo credit: Michael Smith
by Michael Smith
Sni-A-Bar Elementary special education teacher Trace Goade didn’t think he would get into coaching football as soon as he did.
Grain Valley assistant coach Chris Cochran tried to convince Goade to become a coach as soon as he joined the district as a teacher. He was reluctant at first, but eventually joined the staff as an eighth-grade assistant coach along with head coach Ryan Adams in 2019.
This season, Goade received an upgrade on the staff as he is now the linebackers coach for the varsity team under head coach David Allie. The opportunity opened up when veteran assistant coach Pete Carpino retired.
“Coach Allie and Coach Cochran pushed me to try it,” Goade said. “Coaching eighth grade football was a good way to get my feet wet because I had never coached before.
“I always found a reason not to do it before. Now, I am glad I did. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Goade, a 2010 Grain Valley High School graduate, played linebacker and fullback for Cochran and then head coach Forrest Rovello for four years. He was a part of the 2007 Eagles team that made it to the Class 4 state semifinals.
He was a three-time all-Missouri River Valley Conference West team selection and made the all-state team as a senior. After playing football for two years at Pittsburg State, Goade came back to Grain Valley to be a teacher in 2014. This year, Goade will move to the high school to be a part of the special education program there.
After joining the staff, Goade has had no regrets. The experience has gone well for him so far, he said.
“Coach (Matt) Curts, who is our defensive coordinator, also coaches linebackers,” Goade said. “He’s been someone who has been really great to learn from. The whole defensive staff is a pretty tight-knit group. If I ever need anything, they are always willing to help. They are showing me the ropes.
“It’s been really good so far, I am so excited.”
He got to be a part of Grain Valley’s Class 5 state quarterfinal run last season, one in which the Eagles ended their season with a narrow 31-28 loss to Platte County. He got to help the varsity team when the eighth-grade season was over. He kept the team stats during games.
This year, he will be taking on a bigger role for the varsity squad.
Grain Valley had all of its starting linebackers from last season’s team graduate, which means Goade will have to prepare new players to get accustomed to playing linebacker at the varsity level.
“We have a lot of young guys who haven’t played yet but I think they are going to be pretty good,” Goade said. “Several of them I coached when I was a part of the eighth-grade staff. It’s pretty cool to see them transition to high school. There are a couple of them that are trying to make a name of themselves. I am trying to help.”
Now that he’s a coach, Goade said he’s thinking about wanting to be a head coach of his own program one day but right now, he’s focused on helping the Eagles prepare for the 2021 season.
“I am wanting to join every minute of this right now,” Goade said. “If the opportunity presents itself down the line (to become a head coach), that would be awesome.”
The start and end times for elementary schools will change to 8:45am-3:45pm starting this fall (previously 8:40am-3:40pm) and middle schools will be 7:55am-2:55pm (previously 7:45am-2:50pm). The high school start and end times will remain unchanged.
School start and end times are changing by a few minutes each at our elementary and middle schools to improve the flow of school bus transportation and reduce chronic wait times some schools have experienced, particularly at North Middle School.
by Michael Smith
Grain Valley graduate Cole Keller made an impact on the Eagles as a three-year starter at quarterback.
During his senior season last fall, he led the 6-foot-4, 203-pound signal caller led the Eagles to the Class 5 state quarterfinals. He completed 80 of 125 passes for 1,408 yards and 16 touchdowns and had 130 carries for 1,332 yards and 20 more scores on the ground.
He was also named to the Class 5 second-team, all-state team.
Now that he’s moving on to play for Washburn University, Grain Valley has some big shoes to fill. The team currently has three candidates to take over the signal caller position for a young Eagles squad.
Currently, junior Caleb Larson comes into offseason training camp as the No. 1 quarterback, sophomore Brek Sloan is No. 2 and Ty Williams is the No. 3 who could end up playing as a running back.
“I have been really happy with our quarterback play over the summer,” Grain Valley head coach David Allie said. “That was a big question mark after Cole graduated after starting three years for us. I have been pleasantly optimistic about what our quarterbacks have done this summer.”
Added Larson: “We have some great quarterbacks here. We have all been working hard and have been watching a lot of film. We have big shoes to fill with Cole, but we have been doing well this summer.”
The starting job is still up for grabs, but both Sloan and Williams yielded to Larson as the most likely to earn the starting job.
“I think we are going to stick to one quarterback, this man right here,” Williams said while tapping Larson on the shoulder.
Allie said Larson has the most experience as he was the starter for the junior varsity squad last season and that could aid him in earning the position for 2021.
“Near the end of the season, he did really well and he was our scout quarterback,” Allie said. “The good thing about making a deep playoff run is you get more practice time. It makes your team better. Caleb really grew as a scout team quarterback. He wants the job.
“Williams and Sloan split time on the freshman team and got some junior varsity experience, too. We know they want to play and they each bring things to the table.”
Larson is an accurate passer, has increased his arm strength and moves well in the pocket. He has built solid chemistry with a receiver that Allie calls “one of the fastest kids in the state,” Logan Pratt.
“Caleb has really connected with Logan on fade and go routes,” Allie said. “He’s really stepping up as a passer. In 7-on 7s, he did a great job being thrown into the fire and trying to respond under pressure. I really like how his arm has developed.
This season, Larson will be used as a bootleg and roll out quarterback on passing plays.
“He’s a fearless kid. Not much rattles him. He’ll tuck it and run and deliver a below. I admire that in a quarterback. I know he’s going to be a great football player and quarterback because he wants to be.”
Added Sloan: “I can sling it down the field a little bit and get outside the pocket. I want to be able to get out on the run when the pocket collapses and be a playmaker.”
Sloan has a strong arm as he is also a catcher for the Grain Valley junior varsity baseball team.
“His strengths are similar to Caleb,” Allie said. “He has the mechanics to have a stronger arm. He has really good football knowledge. We have to get him to throw with his legs and he will throw the ball better. He’s more of a pocket type kid.”
Sloan said he wants to improve on reading defenses.
“I think I can read defenses OK,” Sloan said. “I want to be able to see which guy does what and if the defense is in Cover 2. I want to see what routes work on different teams.”
Williams is perhaps the best at carrying the ball out of the three candidates, which is why he likely will see time at running back. He still has room to grow as a passer, but may get on the field quicker as a running back or slot receiver, Allie said.
“He’s like Tim Tebow,” Allie said. “When you look at him, he’s a big kid. He doesn’t mind lowering his shoulder into you. He’s not afraid of contact. He’s more of a runner and every once in a while he will pop out and throw.
“He will have a chance to really succeed at a lot of different places.”
Williams said he’s willing to do whatever it takes to help the team.
“I talked to coach and he said to try and play H-back,” Williams said. “I have played quarterback my whole life, so I am more comfortable with that, but I want to benefit the team by playing as a slot receiver, H-Back, anything I can.”
The trio of quarterbacks will have a chance to get reps in against live competition in a scrimmage against Lee’s Summit North Wednesday.
by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley girls soccer team had its best season in program history in 2021.
Not only did the Eagles finish the season with a sparkling 22-3-1 record, they made it to the state final four for the first time ever and made it the state championship game before falling to Fort Zumwalt South.
With a breakout season such as this, the postseason accolades were sure to follow. The Eagles had four players make the Class 3 all-state squad, three on the first team and one on the second team.
Grain Valley was led by senior Raena Childers who was the leader of the Eagles and was named co-offensive player of the year with Fort Zumwalt South sophomore Brooke Cattoor. Childers put up gaudy stats, scoring 57 goals and dishing out nine assists.
“I am super happy that I was able to get first-team all-state and was happy for my teammates that made the list,” Childers said. “That included two freshmen which is incredible.”
Childers is the third of four sisters to come through the program and her sisters Rylan and Reighan also made the all-state list more than once. Grain Valley head coach noted Childers’ competitive edge as a big reason she was an elite player.
“She is such a competitor, man,” Nichol said. “That sets her apart from other players. She is probably the most competitive player I have ever coached. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are or who she goes up against, she is going to give it her all.
“In the state final game, things didn’t go our way. She had the mindset that we weren’t going to get shut out. No one shut us out all year. She took us over on a couple of great goals near the end of the game.”
She was joined on the all-state list by Annabelle Totta, Sophie Brookerd and Emma Thiessen.
Thiessen, a freshman, was a great all-around player for the Eagles and was especially sharp on give-and-go plays. She finished the season with 29 goals and 23 assists which landed her on the first team.
“She’s a great talent,” Nichol said. “I think she had a hat trick in the first game of the season. She didn’t waste any time getting going and figuring things out. She’s so creative and is super good on the ball and has great touch. It’s so hard to take the ball away from her.”
Thiessen was surprised she received the honor.
“It’s a pretty great honor, especially as a freshman,” Thiessen said. “It’s definitely a very cool honor. My teammates helped me and Coach Nichol and Coach Lewis had a big role in helping me make all-state.
“I feel like I improved on my finishing and creating opportunities for Raena or my teammates. They also played really well. It went both ways.”
One of those teammates who played well was freshman Annabelle Totta, who finished with 17 goals and 18 assists to make the second team.
“It’s exciting to know that I still have three more years of high school and I can keep improving,” Totta said. “I feel so blessed and honored to play on varsity and get the playing time that I did.
“I think I have the speed on the outside to be able to beat defenders. I was also able to get it to Emma or Raena to bury it back into the net.”
Totta was a player Nichol was high on before she even played her first varsity game.
“She was great,” Nichol said. “She played a little out of position. She was a center midfielder but we played her on the outside on the left mainly. We wanted to use her speed a little bit. She was good at taking on players 1-on-1 and she was really good at touch passes.
“She didn’t have as much confidence as the others near the beginning of the season and she just developed more confidence as the season progressed.
While Totta, Childers and Thiessen helped power the offense, Broockerd was the heart and soul of the defense often coming up with clutch deflections and steals with the game on the line as the Eagles’ center back. She led a defense that notched 14 shutouts and allowed just .77 goals per game.
“She’s been a four-year starter for us and a tremendous leader,” Nichol said.
“She understands the game so well. She is so aggressive and loves to step up to the ball. Whenever we needed her in the back, she always stepped up. She throws her body on the line all the time and made deflections left and right.”
The Grain Valley Partnership’s Kissick Classic, is an annual fundraising event to provide scholarships to Grain Valley High School graduates going into the engineering/ construction field. The tournament in named in memory of Jim Kissick, a longtime friend of the Partnership.
Two scholarships were awarded this year. Cody Hunter will attend Missouri S&T in the fall. Tre Rosales will be utilizing his A+ scholarship at MCC and then transferring to Missouri S&T after he completes his associate degree.
If you wish to be a part of the Kissick Classic, visit:
by Michael Smith
Grain Valley junior Grace Slaughter has not only established herself as one of the best girls basketball players in Missouri.
That was evidenced by her sophomore season with the Eagles when she averaged a whopping 27.3 points per game (the highest in Kansas City), 7.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 2.3 steals and was named to the Class 6 all-state team.
Last Friday, she can now say she’s one of the best girls basketball players in the United States.
After a week of tryouts in Indianapolis, it was announced that Slaughter made the USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team, joining 11 other players including Blue Springs’ Jada Williams.
“They announced our names in alphabetical order, and my name was one of the last ones called since my last name starts with an S,” said Slaughter, who verbally committed to play at the University of Missouri. “It was nerve wracking for sure, but I knew I left everything out on the floor. I am so excited to get selected.”
So was Grain Valley head girls basketball coach Randy Draper.
“I thought she was going to make it, but the process is so stressful because it’s so selective,” Draper said. “But hey, I didn’t have to go through the process. It’s an unbelievable achievement and is a great reward for someone who works as ridiculously hard as she does.”
Thirty-four finalists were selected by the USA Basketball Women’s Developmental National Committee to attend tryouts in Indianapolis. That number was cut down to 16 players last Thursday before the 12-person roster was announced the next day.
During tryouts, players played scrimmage games, including 3-on-3 and went through drills. At the tryouts, Slaughter was able to display her versatility to coaches and evaluators. At 6-foot-2, Slaughter is able to play and defend multiple positions on the floor.
“That was something I was really going after was to show my versatility,” Slaughter said. “I didn’t want to go in there and just be a straight 3-point shooter even though that’s something I do very well. I can go in there and be a stretch four and play on the perimeter and drive to the basket or I can play in the post. I can be whatever you need.”
That versatility was what helped Slaughter guide the Eagles to a 14-7 record and a district championship game appearance during the 2020-21 season.
“She can do everything,” Draper said. “She can play the point, she can post, she can shoot, she can drive and she’s a really good passer. As good as she was as a freshman, she was even better as a sophomore. She’s shooting the ball really well and she’s gotten stronger.”
Slaughter has still been active playing for her AAU Team, the Missouri Phenoms, which helped prepare her for the Team USA trials. The skill she displays on the court isn’t just natural. Slaughter works diligently on her craft, and puts up shots whenever she can on the court. She even worked on her jump shot following a wrestling tournament that was held at the high school.
“My mom works for the middle school, and she checks the schedule to see when cheerleading is in the gym, when is wrestling in there, when is color guard in there,” Slaughter said. “We definitely find pockets of time that I can go in there and work on my game.”
Slaughter and her Team USA teammates will participate in a training camp on Aug. 4 before heading to the FIBA Americas U16 Championship which will be on Aug. 16-22 in Santiago, Chile.
“I can’t wait to experience a different culture and travel outside the country,” Slaughter said. “To be able to represent your state on the national team is such an honor. I dreamt of playing on an Olympic type team. I am so excited. I am not only representing the United States and Missouri, I am representing Grain Valley. I am so pumped to go and play against great competition from other countries.”
After a week of tryouts in Indianapolis, it was announced that Grain Valley's Grace Slaughter made the USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team, joining 11 other players including Blue Springs’ Jada Williams. Photo credit: John Overstreet.