Creston senior Brandon Phipps got an early start to his athletic career.
“I remember baseball and football, definitely when I was really, really little, my dad and I would always be out playing catch in the yard,” he said. “We were always throwing the football. It’d almost be an every day thing. Those are some of my best memories I have with him, just tossing the ball around.”
The late Kevin Phipps would certainly be proud, seeing the type of athlete his son has turned into since those days tossing the football or baseball around in the family’s front yard.
Phipps has managed to do just about everything in his time at Creston High School, being the starting quarterback, playing for the varsity basketball team for three years, being a track and field standout for four years and also being a four-year starter on the baseball team.
That wide athletic range is what earned Phipps the title of Creston High School’s 2014 Outstanding Male Athlete, sharing the award with Trevor Frain.
“Brandon’s all-around athletic skill, I think, is important to him,” Creston head baseball coach Steve Birchard said. “The fact he’s played football, basketball, ran track and played baseball for four years. He’s been active outside of athletics, too. He works hard at all of those things. It sort of sets him apart.”
It’s a dying breed these days, the four-sport athlete.
Every year, there are fewer and fewer attempting to do it, with many athletes opting instead to focus on one or two sports.
Not Phipps, though.
“I kind of look at it as a very hard commitment to do,” he said. “I can’t name more than, I don’t even know five guys that do it. To do it in four different seasons, too, it’s an all-around thing. You can commit to one sport. You have to do it for your community and your school, just to be a part of the team.”
That level of commitment wasn’t lost on Phipps’ coaches at CHS.
“I’m a huge supporter of the four-sport athletes,” Creston/O-M head football coach Brian Morrison said. “Seems like every year we get less of these kids. We as a coaching staff appreciate kids like Brandon, it makes you a more competitive school across the board. His classmates respect that, also. He just likes to compete. Doesn’t matter the sport, he’s trying to win.”
“He doesn’t take any seasons off and he excels in anything he does,” Creston head boys track coach Pat Schlapia said. “When you talk about multitasked, here’s a kid that is outstanding in all four sports.”
The sport Phipps has seen his greatest amount of success has been track and field, running the distance events for the Panthers.
His career got off to a fast start when he qualified for the state meet in the 3,200 meters as a freshman, a rare feat.
“As a freshman, he didn’t run like a freshman,” Schlapia said. “One thing I like about Brandon in track was his drive and determination. When you get a horse like that, you don’t hold him back. You just let him go.”
As a sophomore, he qualified for the Drake Relays in the 3,200 meters and went on to finish fifth at state, running the second-fastest time in school history at 9:41.79.
He’s a two-time Hawkeye 10 Conference champion in both the 3,200 meters and the 1,600 meters and won one conference championship in the 4x800 relay. That 4x800 relay team also holds the school record in the event.
He’s made the transition this year from focusing on the 3,200 meters to focusing on the 4x800 relay, an event in which the Panthers qualified for the Drake Relays for the first time ever, and enter today’s State Qualifying Meet with the second-fastest time in Class 3A.
“I knew our 4x800 team was going to be pretty good,” Phipps said. “I put a lot of my focus into that right now and trying to end my career with a gold medal.”
Schlapia was impressed with Phipps’ willingness to shift from an individual event to a relay team to help his teammates.
“That shows what kind of a team player he is,” Schlapia said. “He’s giving up that chance to run the 3,200 to help the team in the 4x800. He’s put the team ahead of his own individual pursuits.”
For the team
Giving himself up for the greater good of the team has been a common practice for Phipps.
In football, he spent the majority of his career backing up Luke Neitzel at quarterback, earning a starting spot on defense while waiting for his turn at quarterback.
In basketball, he started as a sophomore, only to see his role on the team turn into more of a role player coming off the bench as a junior and senior.
He’s played just about every position in baseball, starting for Birchard wherever he was needed.
“He’s always been the kind of kid that will do whatever you want, whatever you think is right,” Birchard said. “He’ll do whatever it takes to get on the field. He’s always been willing to change positions. He’s a coachable kind of kid.”
“He was the type of kid who’s so unselfish,” Morrison said.
Waiting his turn
Phipps had the tough responsibility of being quarterback in the class following Neitzel, leaving a roadblock for him to reach his goal of becoming starting quarterback.
Until Neitzel hurt the thumb on his throwing hand at the tail end of the 2012 season, giving Phipps an opportunity to step in and be the starter.
“Playing behind Neitzel my whole career, it was kind of tough for me,” Phipps said. “But I also knew Luke was a good quarterback, a great athlete. He made me better as a player. I made him better.”
When his time came at quarterback, he stepped up and delivered.
“We knew as a staff his senior year that it would be tough for someone to take the quarterback job from him, because that’s been his dream from the get-go to be the quarterback at Creston/O-M, and he did not disappoint,” Morrison said. “Even his junior year, when Neitzel got hurt, he had an outstanding game against Heelan.”
Once he finally earned his shot to lead the team as quarterback, it was a memory Phipps will never forget.
“That was one of the best times of my life, being able to lead the team,” he said. “The family atmosphere we had this season was better than any we had throughout my four years. We had a lot of fun.”
In his unselfish ways, though, Phipps is quick to point out his success was dependent on the success of his teammates.
“It really helped me out that I had a great running back in Adam Baker,” he said. “I had some good players around me. Some great receivers, a good running game and a good offensive line around me really helped me out.”
At a young age, Phipps made a sport change that surprised some people in Creston.
After winning a state wrestling championship as a PeeWee, he made the switch to basketball.
Phipps spent three years on the varsity basketball team, with different roles each year.
“I knew I was a decent basketball player, but I knew it wasn’t one of my focuses,” he said. “I knew I could be a pretty good role player and I kind of took it upon myself to be a role player and be a leader on the team.”
As a sophomore, Phipps was thrust into the starting lineup by first-year head coach Billy Hiatt.
“I think it was good for him,” Hiatt said. “He kind of got thrown to the wolves early on. That was done mainly on his physical abilities. I think it will help him out as a person. He’s kind of one of those all-around players, all-around kid both on the field and in the classroom.”
As a junior, Phipps saw a diminished role, coming off the bench with a solid group of seniors playing ahead of him.
But he saw increased playing time as a senior, starting at times for the Panthers.
As the season wore on, Phipps began to make bigger offensive contributions for the Panthers.
“He was doing a lot of good things,” Hiatt said. “He started feeling better with his shot. He’s always played hard, that’s not an issue.”
Phipps has started for Birchard in baseball for four years. And he’s done it at just about every position.
In the infield, he’s played second base, shortstop and third base. He’s manned the outfield when Cole Crawford has pitched. And he’s done his fair share of pitching, himself.
“I was kind of honored, really,” Phipps said about being asked to play so many positions. “I look at myself as being able to play any position on the field. As an athlete, you have to be able to do that. I feel like that really helped coach out, if he wanted to mix up the lineup.”
Birchard said that flexibility has paid off for Phipps.
“With his all-around skills, he’s got the ability to play anywhere on the infield,” Birchard said. “His flexibility has served him well there. He’s earned his due to be one of those guys that is first in the lineup now, instead of that guy that is filling the lineup. He’s been a good, solid performer in baseball.”
Phipps, who signed a National Letter of Intent to run cross country and track at Northwest Missouri State, said he wants to one day become a teacher and coach.
It’s a field his coaches think suits him well.
“With him wanting to go into coaching, I think he’s looked at the coaches he has and you can kind of see he’s observing,” Birchard said. “I think that’s going to be important if he’s going to be successful in coaching, learning how to work with people. I think Brandon definitely has those abilities.”
Schlapia, who also ran cross country and track at Northwest Missouri State before becoming a teacher and coach, said it’s rewarding for him to see Phipps choose that as a career path.
“Being a teacher and coach myself, that’s neat to see him pursuing those areas,” Schlapia said. “As a senior this year, he’s really been one of our leaders in practice and at the meets. With the underclassmen, he doesn’t put himself above them. He’s matured through the years.”
With just more than a week left to his high school track and field career, and a full baseball season left ahead, Phipps still hopes for a strong finish to his high school career.
It begins tonight at the Class 3A State Qualifying Meet. If the 4x800 relay takes care of business and advances to state, there’s only one goal Phipps has next Thursday at the Co-ed State Track Meet.
“Just hoping to win that state championship,” he said. “I tell people my only goal in life right now is to get Jay Wolfe the baton within 10 meters. If I can do that, or maybe even get it to him in the lead, I know he’s going to bring it home for us. Winning that 4x800 would be the cherry on top.”
Creston High School Outstanding Male Athlete Award winners:
1977-78 — Doug Lang
1978-79 — Kean Richard
1979-80 — Mark Evans
1980-81 — Todd Barkalow, Todd Nielsen
1981-82 — Brad Laird, Brad Olson
1982-83 — Roger Baker
1983-84 — Mike Lamb
1984-85 — Joel Christy
1985-86 — Casey Bryant
1986-87 — Matt Somers
1987-88 — Tim Somers
1988-89 — Mike Linch, Brian Monday
1989-90 — Scott Driskell, Dennis Shaw
1990-91 — Ryan Woods
1991-92 — Kurt Belger, Jason Kinsella
1992-93 — Jed Gammell, B.J. Hellyer
1993-94 — Cory Latham, Rick Van Pelt
1994-95 — Brian Gerleman, Ethan Owens
1995-96 — Will Carroll, Dustin Spainhower
1996-97 — Ben Gerleman, Kyle McCann
1997-98 — Mike Mansour, Conor Reed
1998-99 — Brian Bucklin, Cory Gerleman
1999-00 — Tyler Hanson, Adam Travis
2000-01 — Neil Lang
2001-02 — Matt Buck, Jason Hyde
2002-03 — Gabe Stofferahn
2003-04 — Michael Buck, Ryan Steinkamp
2004-05 — Jim Ide
2005-06 — Trevor Conner, G.G. Harris, Dane Wardenburg
2006-07 — Keith Peterson, Scott Vicker
2007-08 — Kalab Evans
2008-09 — Clay Daggett
2009-10 — Kevin Irr, Seth Pals
2010-11 — Luke Eblen
2011-12 — Collin Bevins
2012-13 — Briar Evans, Keaton Hulett, Luke Neitzel
2013-14 — Trevor Frain, Brandon Phipps
(A list of winners previous to 1978 is unavailable from the school.)