Good Luck

February 24th, 2020

trophyThe Redskins hoist the state chapionship trophy in the air in 2011 after winning the Class 5A State Soccer Championship with a 3-1 win. L&T file photo/Earl WattNovember 2011


Leader & Times

KANSAS CITY – Before the Redskins celebrated their state championship Saturday, they gave thanks.

Liberal soccer players kneeled in a circle in the middle of the field at Kansas City Piper High School, and Fellowship Baptist youth Pastor Tyler Prater led the team in a prayer of thanks.

It was not a late-season revelation for the Redskins. It had been a theme for the team all year after starting the season 2-5.

Head coach Lori Navarro knew her team needed to focus on something bigger than themselves, and that something bigger was their faith.

“I told them we were not giving Him everything,” she said. 

The players knew it.

Misael Moncayo scored the last goal of the state championship in the 3-1 victory over Stilwell-Blue Valley, and he recalled the struggles earlier in the season.

elijahdriveLiberal’s Elijah McCarter attacks the baseline against Cimarron Tuesday. Liberal snapped a three-game losing streak with a 54-40 win. L&T photo/Earl WattBy EARL WATT

Leader & Times

CIMARRON — Nine Redskins scored against Cimarron Tuesday, and Liberal snapped a three-game losing streak with a 54-40 win.

Embry Williams led the Redskins with 10 points including two threes in the second quarter.

AJ Ramirez, Malcolm Wiltshire and Alex Lopez eachs cored four points in the first quarter to give the Redskins a 12-6 lead.

Williams scored eight points in the second quarter and Alex Lopez knocked down a three to go along with another bucket from Ramirez, and the Redskins had a 25-16 halftime lead.

Hunter Hatcher and Ramirez each knocked down a three in the third quarter, and Liberal needed them both after Cimarron started to cut into the Redskin advantage. Midway through the quarter, the Blue Jays had Liberal’s lead down to six before Ramirez hit his three, and Hyde added a basket to push the lead to 11.

saintinlaneupBranton McCrary gets off the floor for a shot against Barton Saturday in the Greenhouse. McCrary scored 18 points to help the Saints knock off the Cougars with a come-from-behind second half, 79-72. L&T photo/Earl WattSpecial to the Leader & Times

Seward County Community College stormed back in the second half to defeat Barton Community College 79-72 for sophomore night in the Greenhouse Saturday. The Saints were led by Branton McCrary with 18 points, six rebounds, and seven assists. Roy Clarke added 17 points off of the bench.

In the first half, the Saints kept the game within eight points and never backed down from the physicality the Cougars brought to the table. Both teams shot 46 percent from the field in the first half and Barton took a 42-34 lead into halftime.

The second half the Saints trailed by 10 points early 44-34 and that was the largest deficit in the game for Seward. With the defense on a full-court press, it forced Barton to turn the ball over and create transition baskets. Seward climbed all the way back to reclaim the lead 66-64 with a Clarke lay-up.

The Saints held on to the lead for the remainder of the game and a big corner three by Ramiro Santiago put the game at two-possession advantage for Seward late to seal the win. 

Seward still has an opportunity to host a first-round playoff game in the Region VI tournament if they are able to jump up to the fourth spot and Saturday’s win kept those hopes alive.

Colby was led by Diovonte Caldwell with 16 points and five rebounds. Martin Vogts and Keandre Bowles both added 12 points for the Cougars.

pancake day 2020 logoSpecial to the Leader & Times


The field of 15 is officially set for this year’s Pancake Day Race. This year’s field of racers includes a mix of new participants and veteran participants. Meet this year’s racers!


Kenia Leyva

Kenia Leyva, wife and mom of three, is ready for her first run in the International Pancake Race! An accountant at Hay Rice & Associates, Chartered CPA, Kenia became the treasurer for International Pancake Day and the International Pancake Day foundation in 2016. She started her running journey shortly after. 

As an asthmatic with no experience, she recently joined a soccer team of mostly 30+ year old inspiring women which is helping her train for the big race! She is ready to test her endurance. Kenia said, “It’s never too late and you’re never too old to become better!” We’re here for it!


Tera Arnberger

Tera Arnberger is another first-time runner in the International Pancake Day race! A PE/health teacher at Seymour Rogers, Tera’s students are very excited to hear about her experience in the race and already have her “training”. She works right along side them during PE and stays active keeping up with her 1-year-old at home. Tera has lived in Liberal four years and her family from out of town is all ready to watch her run!

Liberal wins fourth straight WAC title

senirogirlsSeniors, from left, Reagan Watt, Aysha Porras, Kenzi Kapp, Machia Mullens, Katie Horyna, and front, Audrey Gilmore gather for a fun photo after winning the school's fourth straight WAC title with a 62-29 win over Hays. L&T photo/Earl WattBy EARL WATT

Leader & Times

When Aysha Porras sank her first basket as a senior in the second quarter against Hays Friday night in The Big House, the Rowdy Crowd erupted. All five seniors who played scored in a 62-29 runaway win, and the fact that the victory locked up the fourth straight Western Athletic Conference title seemed to be an afterthought. 

For one moment, five seniors were on the floor at the same time, and that seemed to mean more.

Illness prevented senior Kenzi Kapp from playing, but the five that did all scored to bring an end to a big day for the Class of 2020, from a pep assembly to the final regular season home game.

Machia Mullens started the night with a jumper, and by the end of the first quarter, the Lady Redskins had the game well in hand with a 20-8 lead.

In the second quarter, four different seniors scored in an 8-0 run starting with Katie Horyna and followed by Mullens, Reagan Watt and Audrey Gilmore.

trees on seventhABOVE: Trees along Seventh and Sherman sag, crack and break Sunday during an ice storm that hit Liberal late Saturday night and continued through the early Monday morning hours. L&T photo/Heather WattSpring 2017


Leader & Times

An eerie creaking sound could be heard only a second or two before a heavy branch made its way to the ground, crushing anything that might have been below it.

That pattern repeated all day and through the night Saturday and Sunday in Liberal as rain quickly turned to ice on branches, building up into an inch-thick cocoon, and the massive weight was too much for the trees to support as limb after limb gave way, scattering debris in roadways, on houses and in yards, and utility lines also suffered damage, causing power outages throughout Liberal and the high plains region during Winter Storm Jupiter.

Welcome to “Icemageddon,” a January rain that hovered at freezing, keeping the rain from turning to snow but cold enough to instantly freeze upon contact with branches, fences, power lines and anything else suspended in the winter air.

Roadways avoided the ice for most of the weekend, but as temperatures finally plummeted below freezing Sunday night and early Monday morning, the ice finally turned to snow and started to accumulate on the ground, which could have been the best break in the storm for the trees.

Still, even Monday morning, the creak and crash of branches continued as limbs succumbed to the icy weight.

The National Weather Service issued a statement that the winter storm would continue until noon today. The total precipitation was 1.23 inches during the weekend, most of it starting as rain that turned into ice. Reports today may change the total, and snow was not yet included.

Many businesses were already scheduled to be closed for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, but school was supposed to take place until a notice of cancellation was given late Sunday evening that there would be no school in Liberal.

That left residents with the task of cleaning up after the devastation of branches that caused damage on their way to the ground.

The City of Liberal and Seward County partnered to remove downed limbs and branches for the next two weeks in a massive clean-up after FEAM declared the storm a national disaster.


machiashotfoulnocallMachia Mullens has her arm pulled while trying to take a shot by Newton’s Keila Gillispie Monday in Newton. Mullens scored 12 points in a 43-20 win for the No. 2 Lady Redskins. L&T photo/Earl WattBy EARL WATT

  • Leader & Times

NEWTON — As teams try to run zone on the Lady Redskins, Liberal is starting to find ways to score against it, and Monday’s 43-20 win over  Newton was another example of facing a zone with success.

The Lady Railers slowed down the tempo on offense, and after the Lady Redskins stopped pushing for instant scores, Liberal started to run offense and push the ball in the lane while knocking down four threes.

Audrey Gilmore connected on two open shots from outside in the first quarter to help Liberal build a 12-6 lead.

Newton connected on a three in the second quarter, but the Lady Redskins ended the half on an 8-0 run to take a 22-9 lead.

earl watt color mugWATTBy EARL WATT

Leader & Times

The No. 2 Lady Redskins have a great chance to return to the state tournament for the third straight year, and sitting at 14-0 it would be hard to look at a team with such success and have questions about whether or not that shot at a state title will happen.

Coach Carter Kruger knew his team is having some struggles, and it goes beyond a missed shot or a turnover.

“We are in a lull right now,” Kruger said. “More than getting in the gym we need to fix our culture. I don’t think we are necessarily all bought in as we need to be. That’s something we can fix really quick, otherwise we are in for some trouble.”

He’s right.

When wins come easy, the cracks aren’t so hard to see.

But when challenges come, that’s when unity means more than ever.

Liberal has had some close calls this season — an overtime win against Dodge City, a late rally to beat Hugoton by two, and Friday’s game against Great Bend was a lackluster performance for the No. 2 team in Class 6A.

There is no question the talent on this team is good enough to compete at the highest level. 

But here are a few pointers for the Lady Redskins if they want to fix the culture and achieve the lofty goals they have set for themselves.

Trust your coaches 100 percent if they are asking you to do what you believe to be impossible.

The best leaders never see in you what you see. They see more. You will never see it in yourself until someone else drives you beyond what you think you can accomplish.

I was fortunate to have two people like that in my young life, ‘That’ Liberal Band director Richard Honish and newspaper publisher Jim Elsberry. They demanded of me and the team more than I ever thought I could do, and the results were Div. I ratings at every contest for four straight years and establishing the best small daily newspaper in Kansas.

But we followed them without question, starting with the seniors. They showed undying loyalty to the leaders.

Coach Kruger and his assistants are the best coaching team in Kansas. Be willing to follow them to the gates of hell if necessary.

Leadership and talent aren’t always the same.

The best lesson in leadership I ever heard came from Ivanhoe Love, Jr., during a Leadership Liberal class in 1999.

You are on a city subway for the first time, and throughout the day you pass the same location and saw a skid row bum on the platform and other business people as well on the train.

A fire breaks out in the subway. You don’t know the way out. The business leaders in their suits say, “I’m a leader. I’ll find the way out.”

The skid row bum then says, “I live here, I know the way out.” Who are you following?

I’m following the skid row bum.

Leadership doesn’t come from the place you might expect it on a team. But without it, the team will not be cohesive when times get tough.

Leadership voices aren’t those who offer criticism or believe they know all the answers.

Leadership comes from the teammate who encourages, who rallies the troops, who earns respect by sacrifice and is willing to admit their own mistakes. If no one is following, then you aren’t leading.

Trust your coaches and find a leader, and there is nothing that can stop you.

story from 2013

Light Grain mill building destroyed


  • L&T staff report

fire3A structure adjacent to the Perryton Equity Exchange grain elevator in Liberal was completely destroyed by fire Sunday night, but no injuries have been reported.

The structure was once part of the old Light Grain Flour Mill, and according to Liberal Fire Chief Kelly Kirk, officials are still investigating the cause of the fire.

In a press statement released Monday afternoon, Kirk said Liberal firefighters responded to a reported structure fire at 7:25 p.m. Sunday in the flour mill at Perryton Equity Exchange located at 140 S. Kansas Ave.

“Heavy smoke and flames were visible from nearly everywhere in the city at the time fire units were dispatched,” Kirk reported. “The first fire unit arrived on scene at 7:29 and confirmed that the three-story flour mill and one-story warehouse were fully engulfed in flames. 

“The fire also involved two rail cars, the elevator facility and a warehouse immediately across the railroad tracks,” he continued. “Due to the size, extent and wind driven nature of the fire, crews immediately assumed a defensive attack, focusing on containment and exposure protection.”

Kirk noted winds were at 15 to 20 mph with gusts over 30 mph.  

Also responding to the initial page were Liberal Police Department, Seward County EMS and Seward County Sheriff’s office. Immediate calls for assistance were also placed to Seward County Fire Department, Seward County Emergency Management, Turpin (Okla.) Fire Department and Tyrone (Okla.) Fire Department. 

“In all, more than 75 area emergency responders and at least 15 fire apparatus were involved with bringing the incident under control,” Kirk added.

“Fire crews and law enforcement patrolled the area and neighborhoods north of the fire for several hours,” he added. “This was due to a large amount of embers and fire brands carried by the wind. These embers caused at least two additional structure fires, one residential and one commercial, one fence fire and multiple tree and grass fires.” 

The fire was declared under control – though not entirely extinguished – at 2:03 a.m. Monday, more than six-and-a-half hours after it was reported. 

Kirk noted the flour mill and warehouse were both empty and scheduled for demolition in the near future. 

“These two structures were completely destroyed in the fire,” he added. “The two railcars were loaded with fertilizer and are a total loss. The elevator facility suffered significant damage from direct flame and radiant heat. And the fertilizer warehouse suffered extensive fire damage to approximately one-third of the building. All other damage from the exposure fires due to embers was minor in nature.”

Kirk reported there are still smoldering fires beneath the rubble pile that are inaccessible due to the amount of collapsed debris. 

“These fires will likely smolder for some time and will be monitored by the fire department,” he said.

Firefighters and a pumper unit were still on site at 6 early this morning.

“The cause of the fire is undetermined at this time and an investigation will be ongoing in conjunction with multiple local agencies and insurance company representatives,” Kirk noted.

“The Liberal Fire Department, along with all other agencies involved, would like to express our heartfelt appreciation to all of the individuals and businesses that provided an overwhelming amount of support for the responders at this incident. The food, drink and other supplies were invaluable to the personnel involved in an intense and physically draining emergency response,” he added.

No caused determination

Liberal firefighters still have not determined the cause of a fire Sunday, May 26, at the abandoned Light Grain and Milling Co. flour mill.

Thursday, deputy fire chief Skeety Poulton said investigators with the Liberal Fire Department started working on the fire scene on Monday morning and continued throughout the day attempting to determine a cause of the fire.

“LFD investigators met with insurance fire investigators on Tuesday,” Poulton said in a press release. “Through efforts of both parties, the official cause of the fire will be listed as undetermined.”

Poulton said all accidental and natural causes have been eliminated, but due to the extensive damage and destruction of any potential evidence, a finding of anything other than undetermined is not possible at this time.

“Interviews with potential witnesses will continue, and investigators encourage anyone with information regarding the fire to contact Poulton or Fire Inspector Cody Regier at the Liberal Fire Department at 626-0128,” the release noted.

The flour mill had been a part of the Liberal community for nearly a century. Light Grain & Milling Company was organized in May 1915, under the name C.M. Light Grain Company by Charles Moses Light Sr., who in subsequent years acquired country elevators at many points on the Rock Island, BMME and the Santa Fe Railroads in Southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle.

Flour and feed warehouses have been operated at many of these elevator points as well as Miami, Okla., Tucumcari, N.M., El Paso, Texas, and Amarillo, Texas.

In the spring of 1918, a flour mill of 200 barrels, or 39,200 pounds, daily capacity was built, and the name of the company was changed to The Light Grain & Milling Company.

story from March 2017

Last remnant of prairie town burns to the ground

arkalonbestOnly the chimney remains after a grass fire destroyed the last remaining building of the prairie town of Arkalon. The town did not survive beyond the 1920s, but the Arkalon School stood as a reminder of the pioneer town until Thursday’s fire scorched across the open lands through Seward County and claimed the 126-year-old structure. Photo courtesy Jim RiceBy EARL WATT

Leader & Times

With the promise of a bustling town on the horizon, the people who made up the prairie town of Arkalon had enough faith in their future that they expanded their school to a two-story building in 1891.

Though the promise of becoming a major city in Southwest Kansas never materialized, the Arkalon School stood through the growth, decline and eventual demise of the village that claimed to be as big as 800 but probably never surpassed a population of 300.

Building after building was either pillaged for its wood or eventually succumbed to the elements, all but the prairie schoolhouse that provided the final reminder of civilization in the long-gone ghost town.

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