5 memorable moments

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Huggins hired to replace Wooldridge

March 23 was a turning point for K-State basketball.

When Bob Huggins was introduced as Jim Wooldridge’s replacement, the K-State basketball program – which, from the 1960s to 80s, was one of the premiere programs in the country – began a rebirth.

Nobody had stepped on the court, not one recruit had been named, Huggins had barely spoken 10 minutes, but everyone knew – Huggie was the man for the job.

Wooldridge could not find a way to win; Huggins finds it difficult to lose. He’s been a head coach for 24 years, is the eighth winningest coach in Division I history and has been to the NCAA Tourney 15 times, including three Elite Eight appearances and one Final Four.

Huggins is a magnet for good, even incredible, athletes. Within days, the top recruits in the country – Jason Bennett, Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo and Herb Pope – were adding “K-State” to their prospect lists, and speculation of Big 12 Conference Championships and future NCAA Championships began swirling through not only Manhattan, but the entire nation.

Huggins spoke of his intentions for the future at his March 23 press conference.

“I am excited about coming here and continuing to build this basketball program, playing in the NCAA Tournament, and doing those things that you are supposed to do,” Huggins said. “We will work hard and be committed.”

WNIT championship for Cats

This wasn’t supposed to happen – not this year.

With the loss of Kendra Wecker, Laurie Koehn and Megan Mahoney, and the integration of four freshmen, the 2005-06 season was rumored to be a rebuilding season by fans and critics alike.

The Wildcats, on the other hand, refused to listen to the chatter.

Instead, the combination of freshmen Shalee Lehning, Marlies Gipson, JoAnn Hamlin and Danielle Zanotti, juniors Twiggy McIntyre and Claire Coggins and senior Jessica McFarland led K-State to the Women’s Invitation Tournament title – the first postseason tournament title in K-State history – and a 24-10 season record.

Along the way, they halted the preseason rumors.

“It is huge for us, and the fact everyone kind of underestimated us at the beginning of the season,” Lehning said after the WNIT victory. “We proved to ourselves and everyone else we are a team that is going to compete.”

Record crowd at Spring Game

New K-State football coach Ron Prince had high expectations for the 2006 Purple-White Spring Game on April 22.

Soon after he was hired in early December 2005, he made it his goal to bring 20,000 fans to Snyder Family Stadium for his first spring scrimmage as the Wildcat frontman.

“I want to make (the Spring Game) a real event that hopefully a lot of people show up to,” Prince said in January. “I hope people will really be mobilized to come and be here in earnest.”

K-State fans heard Prince’s message and responded in droves.

Attracted to Manhattan to catch their first glimpse of Prince’s Wildcats, and by the all-day Spring Game Fan Fest, which included a carnival, a barbeque contest, a baseball game and a battle of the bands, a record 31,875 fans attended the scrimmage, which ranked as the seventh-best attended spring game in the nation.

Kern wins tourney

In his senior season, Ben Kern emerged from the background and proved to his teammates and golfers nationwide of what he’s capable.

The Tucson, Ariz., native won the Arizona State Thunderbird Invitational with a score of 199 on April 9 in Tempe, Ariz. For his first-place finish, Kern was named Golfweek and GolfWorld Golfer of the Week and Big 12 Conference Golfer of the Month.

His final round of 199 also set a Thunderbird record, marking the first time a player finished below 200, a feat even Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson couldn’t accomplish during their collegiate golf years.

Smith sets record

Senior Christian Smith will leave K-State this year, but his name in K-State track and field will not be erased, as he made history multiple times in the 2006 indoor track season.

On Feb. 4, Smith smashed the collegiate national record in the men’s 1,000-meter run with a time of 2 minutes 19.57 seconds at the Sevigne Husker Invitational in Lincoln, Neb.

But he wasn’t finished.

On March 11, Smith won the national title in the men’s mile with his 4:12.75 second run at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships also in Lincoln, making him K-State’s first national champion since 1993 and only the 11th in school history.

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