Not since Broken Arrow’s 2017 state championship win over Stillwater have Tiger fans witnessed such thrilling late-season soccer as has been provided this spring.
The most dramatic of finishes came Tuesday in the 4-3 state semifinal win over previously undefeated Mustang.
Lest we forget, however, that home fans were treated to two April games, which played important roles in securing the Tigers’ home-soccer run through the playoffs.
First was the 1-0 win over Union, which featured two extra periods and six free kicks per team and came less than a week after an enigmatic, 3-2, loss at Tulsa Washington. Kaiba Tiem knocked in what proved to be the game-winning goal and Kevin Martinez made a diving save as the Tigers out-pointed Union, 4-3.
That game harkened memories of an evening in May of 2017 at the University of Tulsa’s Soccer and Track Stadium when the Tigers won a shootout, 6-5, for their first boys soccer title since 2011. Hunter Meeks-Riner’s 60-yard free kick goal with just over seven minutes to play tied the game and set up the unforgettable finale’, in which goalie Blake Anderegg had a game-extending stop on Stillwater’s fifth shootout kick and then-sophomore Cameron Beller hit what proved to be the game winner just ahead of a Stillwater shot that sailed over the crossbar.
A 2-0 win over Moore kept Broken Arrow’s 2021 hopes alive for a district championship prior to first place Edmond Memorial’s visit to Kirkland Activities Complex. Luke Nantz converted on a penalty kick to account for the only scoring of the game. The 1-0 win resulted in a district championship for the Tigers.
The playoff run began with Jenks, who beat the Tigers, 3-2, in March at Jenks. Broken Arrow got the game-deciding goal from Aaron Cook, who was playing on a gimpy ankle, with 6:38 to play.
“Just yesterday, I hurt my ankle, so I wasn’t sure I was going to play this game and I kept telling the coaches, ‘I’m good, I’m good,’ and it hurts,” Cook told the Tulsa World’s John Tranchina after the game. “But, I got in position and it happened, and I’m glad I played. I hit it in and it went in. The most exhilarating moment of my high school career.”
Broken Arrow-Union II did not share the same theatrics as the 2021original. Broken Arrow controlled the ball and the game winning 3-1.
Then came Tuesday and the undefeated, nationally ranked Mustang Broncos, who had allowed just two goals in the regular season. The Tigers matched that two-goal number in the first 17 minutes of play.
“Our goal was to come out strong and put them under pressure,” midfielder Luke Ferguson said. “They’ve never been under pressure like that. It was Mustang, and we didn’t know what we could do against them. Coming out and doing that was a shock to us and even more a shock to them. They had no idea what was going on.”
Andrew Kruse started the scoring just two minutes and 30 seconds into the match. It was the first time Mustang had trailed all season.
“Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to get a goal that early,” Kruse said. “I made a run not really knowing where the ball was coming from. It bounced of another player and, luckily, I was there to put it in the back of the net. It was a great start to the game.”
After Greyson Owen’s goal near the midway point of the first half, the Broncos, who had outscored their previous six opponents 34-2, learned that these Tigers not only had fight, but could strike quickly.
“It really got our hopes up and I think it took their hopes away,” Kruse said. “We really wanted to put doubt and fear in their mind.”
Mustang battled back to 2-1 by halftime, however. With 17:09 to play Cook gave the Tigers a 3-1 lead. Mustang cut the deficit to 3-2 with 9:40 to play and tied it on a free kick just outside the box with 2:05 left in the game.
“It was a little scary, but I knew we were going to come back,” Ferguson said. “We had scored a couple of clutch goals on the night and I knew we were going to get it done.”
A block by Mustang’s goalie and a deflection on the Tigers second attack on goal was part of a rushed sequence of events that culminated in a Tiem’s game-winner with 1:24 to play.
Saturday, District 6A-3’s top two teams – Broken Arrow and Edmond Memorial – meet again. This time, it will for much more than a district title. It’s the OSSAA Class 6A State Championship at 6 p.m. at Rogers State University’s Soldier Field.
Order state championship tickets online at https://rsuhillcats.com/sports/2014/6/17/Tickets.aspx.
Whether 14 strides from the vaulting pit or awaiting the baton in second leg of the 800-meter relay or bursting from the starting blocks in the 110 hurdles or soaring 20-feet before splashing in sand, the eyes of this Tiger remain steely blue, focused and unflinching.
Those eyes are a focal point of a tattoo on the right thigh of Crayton Shaw, whose success as a four-event athlete may be as important as any in the success Broken Arrow had in winning its Class 6A East Regional Track Meet on last Saturday and the success it will have at the State Championships this Saturday at Edmond Santa Fe.
Shaw, the state’s top-ranked high school pole vaulter, has played this multi-event scenario hundreds of times. He will play it for a final time as a member of Broken Arrow High School’s track team at the OSSAA Class 6A Track and Field State Championships in Edmond.
“I have the ability to win my own events and that will score for the team,” Shaw said. “That’s the whole thing; the better I do the better the team does. It’s important to me to win state as an individual, but in 2019, we won as a team and I didn’t win as an individual and it was just as good a feeling.
“I just really wanted to be the leader of the team. I wanted to make people around me better, so we could win as a team.”
So far, so good.
“If he just went to the meets and all he could focus on was the pole vault, he would be jumping 16-feet every meet,” said Scott Wilkinson, Tiger head track coach. “He is having to do three events before (pole vault) and is running around here and there and long jumping and hurdling. He is a team player, and he understands what all we have to have him do on the team to reach our team goals.”
Shaw and Wilkinson both discussed how older athletes helped Shaw develop his skills when he was a joined track in middle school. Now, as a senior, Shaw is passing along his knowledge and work ethic to future varsity athletes.
“We have a lot of young vaulters,” Wilkinson said. “I’ve actually spoken with some of their parents and they just go on about how their kids come home and talk about this Crayton Shaw kid and how much help he’s been. So yeah, he’s been a team leader for us.”
Pausing for a moment, Wilkinson laughed and acknowledged that those conversations could have started or ended with the younger athletes’ wonderment of Shaw’s tattoos.
Shaw’s Tiger print comes from his fascination with creatures mostly seen at a zoo. Though somewhat embarrassed, he freely admits that he made no connection with his high school mascot when requesting that a blue-eyed Tiger be inked on front of his upper leg.
I got it because I just like jungle animals,” he said. “I am walking around at a meet and people are like ‘you go to Broken Arrow, don’t you? Did you get that because of that?’ I was like, ‘wow, I did not think of that.’
“On my leg, I was just going to do stuff that was cool. A Tiger, you know, they don’t quit. They’re fighters. They’re beasts in the wild.”
The etched armor on his chest and shoulder, offers a vision of an ancient gladiator’s crested shield. And, it has meaning.
The story it tells features a cross in the foreground of a cloudy, sun-rayed sky. Three flying doves transition the scene toward a facial profile of a young teenager. The artwork is a “legacy” in honor of Shaw’s step-brother, who committed suicide five years ago.
“It was a shock,” Shaw said of the sudden death of his brother, who was a year older. “We just never expected this. What really fueled me to keep going was God, being close with family and a small group of friends, who I can talk with about anything. Those are the things that have kept me going.
“I’m not using his death as a motivator and I can’t use is as an excuse if I’m not doing this or I’m not doing that. You have road blocks in life and that was obviously the biggest road block I’ve ever had in my life. I still think about him every day, but I can’t let it stop me.”
Several factors have played into Shaw’s track achievements. They range from his brother’s death to the lost 2020 season – something that Wilkinson recognized. Shaw’s self-confidence and dedication to practice also are contributors to his accomplishments.
“The journey of what you have to do to be successful is made by the work you do,” he said, speaking wisdom beyond is life of 18 years. “Last year, if I wouldn’t have worked as hard as I did, I probably would not have the opportunity to go to college and run track. Now, I’m starting to talk to colleges.
“I’ve always been really confident. I just knew that someday something is going to happen that is going to go well for me. I’m confident in myself. I’ve always told myself I can be better.”
After Saturday, he may have a medal or two around his neck demonstrating the reward of hard work and reflecting a legacy brought on by a brother’s memory and the chilling stare of a ferocious jungle cat.
Broken Arrow Public Schools Athletic Department has scheduled its annual MyHeartCheck, a comprehensive heart assessment for Broken Arrow student-athletes in middle school and high school,for Saturday, June 19, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the Kirkland Activities Complex gymnasium, located at the corner of Lynn Lane and Detroit.
“ATS is providing a tremendous service by providing our student-athletes affordable and convenient testing for undetectable heart conditions,” said Lane Green, Athletic Director of Blue Valley School District in Overland Park, Kan. “Through the heart imaging and other tests, parents can obtain information on their child’s physical condition that can’t be achieved thru the typical pre-participation physical exams.”
Studies have shown that one in 100 youth have some form of heart defect. According to MyHeartCheck, a student athlete suffers cardiac arrest every three days.
The MyHeartCheck uses the most effective analytic tools to understand a heart’s condition that includes Blood Pressure, electrocardiogram (EKG), and echocardiogram (heart ultrasound), all delivered by specially trained medical professionals certified in congenital and genetic heart conditions.
Select the following link to read more MyHeartCheck Testimonials.
Registration for MyHeartCheck is required.
It’s been a week since Broken Arrow Varsity Cheer’s police escorted bus ride home from Tulsa International Airport following UCA Gameday National Championship in Orlando Florida.
While celebratory echoes from the competition and bus trip still echoed in their heads, reality set in for the most experienced team members less than 12 hours after arriving home.
“I cried when I got the text,” said senior Evie Turner.
The message from Coach Krystin Delehanty was simple and direct. “Seniors need to turn their uniforms in by Thursday.” (As an aside, Delehanty did soften and push the deadline back five days.)
“My mom came up and said ‘hey, I washed all the uniforms and put them in your bag.’ I cried then,” a still emotional Turner said. “We’re a little upset having to part from each other, because we have been with each other for so long. The high is still there, but I’m never going to forget how I felt in that moment.”
Of course, "that moment” is when the national championship was made official.
“Honestly, we didn’t even get to hear the first-place announcement,” said senior Garrett Hinesley. “We heard second place and another school's name and we started freaking out. It was really cool.
“I had this gut feeling. There was no doubt in my mind that we just walked off the mat and won a national championship right then.”
Turner shared that same feeling.
“As soon as the music stopped we knew it was good,” she said. “I cried when we came off the floor and we almost got Blood (Coach Delehanty) to cry, and Blood has like no emotion. I think we all got nervous because we got runner up for performance (at Nationals) and we just didn’t want to wish that upon ourselves again.”
This year, the national competition crowd was a little smaller than normal. Parents and coaches were the only fans in the stands. Once the routine was over, the ESPN Wide World of Sports AdventHealth Arena was cleared and the next team, coaches and parents were ushered in.
“It was nice knowing it was just my parents out there and just the coaches,” Turner said. “That was a calm thing to have happen. It was just you and the judges, and you can’t see their faces. It was like our own mini-practice, but at Disney World. And, it’s nice to see your coaches freaking out about how good you’re doing. It’s really motivating.”
Even with the small crowd, Hinesely, who was a sophomore on the Tigers 2018 football state championship team, recognized the magnitude of the surroundings and the competition.
“It’s two completely different feelings,” said the two-sport athlete when comparing a cheer national championship to a state title in football. This one seemed a little more intimate. We've got a smaller group of people. It was awesome. It was great.
“Going into it I had no idea what to expect at all. I was more nervous than I was for State. It’s a bigger stage. It feels like a lot more is riding on the stunts, your performance, your motions and things like that.”
Hinesley’s time with cheer has added to his high school memories, as well as directed his collegiate future.
“Honestly, this is one of the best decisions for me,” said Hinesley, who plans to cheer at the University of Oklahoma next fall. “With this sport, there’s always something more you can do. There’s always a new stunt that you can hit. You have to be a self-motivator because you don’t have a position coach. You have to be able to challenge yourself, rely on technique and really want to get better.”
In the cheer world, there’s nothing better than a National Championship.
“We’re still on a high around here, enjoying this last little bit as a team that we have left,” Hinesley said.
And, yes, he has turned in his uniform.
Earning All-State Athletic Training Student Aide was unfathomable to Reanna Lawhead a year ago.
She struggled to adjust to online education brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with encouragement from Broken Arrow certified athletic trainers Daniel Steward and Grace Woern, Lawhead was able to regain focus.
“Neither one of them ever gave up on me,” Lawhead said. “They pushed and pushed and made sure that I got back on track. Once I got back on track, they kept me on track. They’re just two amazing people to be around.”
While her school work took a turn for the better, Lawhead’s life was hit with upheaval on May 22, 2020. Her father was killed in a car accident.
“Now, your entire world is changed and you have to go with it,” Lawhead reflected on the tragic event of nearly a year ago. “There was no transition period. Once that happened, I had to switch from being a kid to being an adult. I definitely think that pushed me to mature really, really fast.”
Steward and Woern, who were mentoring through student zoom meetings and cell phones, would have their first in-person meeting with Lawhead at her father’s memorial service, more than three months after school was shut down for COVID.
“She was hit by a lot of hard things all at once,” Woern said. “The number of obstacles she’s overcome has proven how strong she is. She has been such an inspiration to watch. It is one of those things that afterwards you control what happens or it controls you.”
Lawhead is finishing up her senior year in control and a college and career path laid out. She will be attending Oklahoma State University to major in applied exercise science, staying in the athletic training field she participated in for two years at Broken Arrow High School.
“Once I actually started doing this, I absolutely loved it,” she said. “It is something I definitely want to do. It is a program that is most likely to lead you to a career. You’re either going to love it or you’re going to hate it; there’s no in between. You are dead set or you’re ‘no, this isn’t for me.’ There is no ‘I like it today, but I don’t like it tomorrow.’”
Lawhead’s passion for sports medicine birthed a dream to eventually be a trainer in the NFL. She has even reached out to long-time family friend, Tyler Lockett, Tulsa Washingon graduate and current Seattle Seahawk, for potential assistance of getting her “foot in the door” when that time comes.
“In the end I’m going to work my way up to the NFL,” Lawhead said confidently. “I know I’ll get there at some point.”
She also knows that accomplishing that goal would make her father proud.
“He was obsessed with Broken Arrow football,” Lawhead said. “He loved being at football games.
“There was something about his and my relationship that was just different. He was the one that I wanted to win for. He’s the one that I wanted to prove a point to. It wasn’t that I had to prove a point to him, he was that person that I wanted to make proud all the time.”
Receiving Oklahoma Coaches Association All-State recognition would make a father proud, too.