Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

The Hesston Record
345 Old Hwy 81
Hesston, KS 67062
(620) 327-4831

Excel Announces Restructuring, Layoffs

Posted 6/22/2017
Employees leaving Hesston’s Excel Industries Wednesday afternoon, told the Record they would be receiving letters Thursday that would inform them if they would remain employed at the company.
The employees declined to give their full name but said the notification from the company would come in the form of a letter sent to the homes of employees. Some employees will get letters saying they are laid off, some will be asked to move to different shifts or jobs, and some employees will see no changes.
A release issued by Excel read, “ Excel Industries, Inc. today informed employees about a reorganization that includes a workforce reduction at its Hesston manufacturing facility. The company will issue a formal statement regarding the restructuring on June 22 after impacted employees have been officially notified. 
 “In the interest of protecting employee privacy, no further details are available at this time.” 
Severance packages and payment terms vary according to seniority, according to one employee. Friday, the company release information that it is laying off around 270 production employees.
At a company meeting Wednesday no names of employees keeping or losing jobs was announced.
Excel, maker of Hustler and Bid Dog brand mowers, has largely been in a growth mode in recent years. The company was shaken last year after a mass shooting at the facility in February. This spring Excel rolled out a UTV called the Maximum Duty Vehicle or MDV.
See the Record 6.29 print edition for full story and reaction in Hesston.
Read the rest of this entry »

HMS Students Produce Active Shooter Training Video

Posted 6/22/2017

Record Staff

On Thursday morning, Hesston Middle School eighth grade students learned the moves to fight for their lives during an ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training under the guidance of the Hesston Police Department.

Middle school Principal Greg Heinrichs said the day was an opportunity to create emergency situation training videos to be shown to HMS students.

“Hopefully these kids learned a little but the primary purpose was to video them doing some responses that were a little more intense and a little more lifelike than you can manage with 250 kids during the school year,” said Heinrichs.

Hesston Police Chief Doug Schroeder said students in the training, and those watching the videos, should learn one critical lesson - take action.

“One of the basic tenants of ALICE is that potential victims do something, even if that something that they do is wrong. The worst thing they can do is nothing,” he said.

Through the day, the dozen students being filmed participated in evacuation drills, barricaded themselves inside a classroom, getting hands-on with an attacker and countering an attacker with classroom objects.

“Everyone can now have an idea what it means to barricade a door or how to get out a window. Those aren’t things you think about every day, but if you have that idea somewhere in your mind, the chances of executing when your life depends on it is better,” said Heinrichs.

Schroeder said the video, as well as the hands-on training for some students can save lives.

“It is important for everyone to recognize what they can do to increase their chances of navigating a critical incident,” he said.

Austin Sontag, a 2013 graduate of Hesston High and a new member of the Hesston Police Department, said he was recruited by Schroeder to play the part of the active shooter.

“It’s changed drastically since I was in middle school. We locked down, shutting off lights and getting in the corner. Things are changing and getting more violent and we need kids to know what to do if that ever happens. A better and quicker response time is what we need,” he said.

During the day, Sontag said he was encouraged by the actions of students as they went through the training and filming.

After learning the basic options of evacuating, barricading, swarming an assailant and countering with objects at hand in a classroom, students put their skills to work in more free-form scenario where they would have to make their own choices.

“What surprised me was what they did when we were running the ‘coming in from recess’ drill.”  Sontag came down the commons near the library yelling and threatening students as they were coming in the doors on the north side of the building. “I didn’t think anyone was going to get hands-on and take me to the ground - which they did,” said Sontag. 

To read more, see this weeks print edition

Read the rest of this entry »

Police Catch Wedgwood Car Burglars

Posted 6/22/2017

Record Staff

Hesston Police Sergant Chris Carter said Andre B. Howard and Chaz W. Howard, both of Newton, were arrested in connection to eight car burglaries on June 16.

“We don’t have all the reports completed yet. There are eight cases and Officer [Chris] Eilert is on those,” said Carter.

Carter said officers had a “backwards investigation” of the car burglaries.

“An officer had contact with one of them, but not during the commission of the crime,” he said.

Officers noticed one of the arrestees on foot in the area before the burglaries were discovered.

“We found the person, then fond the crime. It was a backwards investigation. From there, they were located in Newton,” Carter said.

With regards to charges, Carter said Hesston PD will turn over paperwork to the County Attorney’s office, who will then determine what charges Andre Howard and Chaz Howard will be facing.

Carter also gave an update on the string of commercial burglaries.

“The cases aren’t wrapped up. We are still compiling paperwork that needs to be sent to the County Attorney for charging.

“We can’t release the suspect’s name that this time,” he said.

Carter said staffing issues have delayed getting charges and paperwork completed in a timely manner. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Swather Cheer Brings Home Trophies, 3 Earn All American Spots

Posted 6/22/2017

Record Staff

Last week 10 girls and one adult piled into a van to spend a week at Butler Community College for summer cheer camp.

During the week-long camp, Swather cheer girls learned new routines and bonded as the 2017-2018 Swather Cheer Squad. The girls, however, were without their regular coach, Nicole Roth, who gave birth to a daughter just days prior to camp. 

Michelle Critchfield, a former Swather cheerleader, stepped in and accompanied the girls as their sponsor.

“Nicole Roth reached out to me this spring to see if I would be interested in taking the squad, because her baby was due to arrive around the week of cheer camp,” she said.

Critchfield was already familiar with many of the 10 squad members before heading to Butler.  

“I had most of the girls in class from substitute teaching at the high school this spring, so I already knew most of them.  As a former cheerleader and someone who loves the sport, I really wanted to help in any way that I could, including taking the team to camp,” said Critchfield.

Senior cheerleaders Sarah Teeter and Kayla Ewert said Critchfield “rocked” as a stand-in coach.

“She has a great cheer background. She knew everything we were supposed to hear and coached us.  She also had fun with us when it was time to have fun,” said Ewert.

Critchfield cheered as a Swather her junior and senior years. She then cheered at Baker College for four-and-a-half years and served as captain for two years.  Critchfield’s collegiate team performed at NCA Nationals three of Critchfield’s four years.

Teeter said Critchfield’s experience helped the girls work through a gruling week of dancing, stunting and learning new routines.

“We learn a lot of new material and it really helps the girls come together and learn how we work together. And, it teaches the new girls how things are going to look for the season,” said Teeter.

During a week of intense 12-hour days, Ewert said she came away more confident than ever in the Swather squad.

“I think this was my favorite camp experience. It wasn’t the camp that was different, the group was different. We have a bond I’ve never seen before and that really made the experience for me.

“I’m looking forward to what we can accomplish. Our group is so talented. Last year at camp during the Extreme Routine we were struggling with an elevator folddown; we were stressing over that. This year we didn’t even sweat a flip into a lift. The talent is totally different,” she said.

Teeter added the flyers in the group are incredibly talented with new cheerleader

Faia Fry “picking up on it really easily.”

However, all three ladies said cheer camp is a physically and mentally tough week for cheerleaders and their coaches.

“The staffers taught the team so many new stunts and skills in such a short amount of time. It was difficult to be able to try - for the first time - and then practice all of the enw stunts during stunt class each day,” said Critchfield.

Teeter said 12-hour days of non-stop cheer is as much a mental challenge as physical.

“It’s exhausting. You don’t get many breaks so everyone is tired. So, pushing through the tiredness is the main thing,” she said.

However, Ewert said she was on the receiving end of the physical challenges more than once.

“I took a foot to the face. I took a complete fall - I was the backspot and everyone else stepped out and it was just me under her,” she said.

However, the pain and exhaustion are part of making the team stronger and preparing for the fall season.

“Our main goal is to support Hesston and lead the community and get them involved.  I want them to appreciate that’s what we’re doing. We want them to participate with us. We’re not just there for people to watch, we want people to cheer with us and get people going,” said Ewert. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Swather Grad Rolling Out First Ever Robotics Camp

Posted 6/22/2017

Record Staff

This summer Hesston youth will be getting hands-on and building bots during two camps hosted by 2015 Swather graduate Austin Weaver June 26-30 and July 3-7.

The camps, hosted at Hesston High are for youths in sixth grade through incoming freshmen. The fee is $35 per participant, which will benefit the Hesston High robotics program. Registration deadline for the June 26-30 session is June 23.

Registration information may be sent to Weaver at  or calling 620-217-0521.

 Weaver said camp participants will learn a full range of robotics skills including robot building, driving and programming.

“I love robotics and miss it. Kendric Weaver, Allan (Zach) Rizza and I all graduated together and did robotics together.  Someone brought up the idea to my brother, Ian, and he told me,” said Weaver.

A plan began to take shape to create the first Swather Robotics Camp. Weaver said he received permission from Superintendent Ben Proctor, Principal Ty Rhodes and cooperation from robotics teacher Trevor Foreman to host the camp.

“We started planning what we needed. They’re going to have claw-bot kits, and we had to figure how many kids we could handle with four helpers because it’s a lot of one-on-one attention.

“We went to the school and figured we could make eight kits,” Weaver said.

Weaver added during the camp, in addition to learning basic robotics skills, participants will be taking part in a tournament with a final public match at the end of camp.

“I made up a mini-game and we are going to have a tournament. I created the game, based on what you can do with a claw bot and some of the games we had while I was in robotics,” he said.

Weaver said the camp was an opportunity for youth to explore talents outside athletics.

“It gets kids engaged. Hesston’s been big on athletics. Robotics is a new thing; it’s ‘chess club.’  It’s something for the kids that don’t fit in other places. And, it gets kids ready for robotics in high school,” he said.

Weaver said there are already 20 registrations for the June session, and he is encouraged to see several new names.

“These are pretty new kids. I know the families because it’s Hesston, but a lot aren’t related to Robotics kids that are already in the program. That’s really cool,” he said.

During his time at Hesston High, Weaver was on an award-winning robotics team, taking the State Championship title in 2015. He is currently a sophomore mathematics education major at Tabor college. 

Read the rest of this entry »