Two public high schools in the same city.
Sound familiar? It should. In the fall of 1997, that situation is scheduled to occur in Lawrence.
Salina, located 135 miles due west of Lawrence, is the only city in Kansas with two public high schools. Salina High split 25 years ago and became Salina Central and Salina South.
The school's two athletic directors -- South's Gregg Gordon and Central's Sam Siegrist -- must deal with scheduling, rivalries, sharing facilities and managing similar budgets. Despite the hassles, both Gordon and Siegrist agree that two schools provide more opportunities for everyone.
"You'll find when the split happens," Gordon said, "you're going to have some people who say, 'If we just keep them together, we would have been a powerhouse in football.' That's going to be the biggest obstacle that you're going to face. It comes back to why they decided to go to two high schools. It gets more kids involved and I think it leads to a better education."
Two miles separate the two Salina high schools. Republic Street serves as the boundary. Students north of that street attend Central (the old Salina High), students south attend South.
The boundary has been effective. Currently, there is only a 30-student differential. According to the 1994-95 Kansas State High School Activities Association membership directory, South's enrollment for sophomores, juniors and seniors was 733. Central's was listed 763.
Central and South rank second and sixth, respectively, in terms of enrollment for Class 5A schools. They are the only non-6A schools in the six-team I-70 League that includes Manhattan, Junction City, Topeka West and Topeka High.
Central and South offer football, boys and girls basketball, track, cross country, wrestling, volleyball, boys and girls swimming, baseball, softball, and boys and girls golf.
The only sports not offered in Salina that are available at Lawrence High are gymnastics and soccer.
Gordon has been at South for 21 years, including the past 11 as the Cougars' athletic director. There were approximately 550 students in his Salina High graduating class.
"By going to the two high-school system, it gives twice as many kids an opportunity to participate," he said. "In that respect, that's been an outstanding concept.
"It was highly competitive when we first split and still is. Game night, whether football, baseball or basketball, there's an intense rivalry. As soon as the game is over, there is a camaraderie that develops between the two teams."
Siegrist has spent his entire teaching career in Salina. He taught one year at Salina High before the split and has remained at Central ever since. He's in his first season as the school's AD.
Your place or mine?
Central and South share the district-owned swimming pool, football stadium and track. The swimming pool is at South. The stadium and track are at Central.
"If Central is at home Friday night, we have to be on the road," Gordon said. "We have had really good working relationship. It takes a lot of coordination between the two of us and our opponents."
South and Central advanced to the state football semifinals in November and were to play host to games on the same weekend. A coin toss determined that Central played on Friday and South on Saturday.
The baseball teams and softball teams play on city-owned property. The rent for use of Dean Evans Stadium is $70 per date, which includes non-varsity games as well. The rent for Burke and Crawford softball diamonds is $55 per date.
Scheduling for baseball is tricky because Dean Evans Stadium is also used by Sacred Heart High, Brown Mackie Junior College and Kansas Wesleyan.
Each January, the city-owned Bicentennial Center serves as site of the Salina Invitational basketball tournament. Central, South and Sacred Heart, a private school, rotate as hosts of the tourney.
Boys and girls basketball games between Central and South also take place at the Bicentennial Center. The bigger facility helps with crowd control and financially benefits both schools.
"The sportsmanship was worse the first couple years of the tournament than it is now," Siegrist said."We were always worried about stuff getting thrown on the floor. The last six or eight years, the sportsmanship has been good."
Central and South each received an $1,800 check after this year's tournament.
One for all
School officials are so determined to maintain impartiality that Salina Stadium on the Central campus is painted in a neutral color -- blue. There's not an inkling of the green and gold of the South Cougars or the maroon and white of the Central Mustangs.
The stadium could be easily mistaken for a facility used by I-70 League schools Manhattan or Junction City, both of which have blue as their dominant school color.
The Salina administration also makes certain both schools are treated fairly.
"Everything is tried to be evenly split without one school getting advantage or favoritism," Siegrist said. "The administration has gone out of its way to make the budgets equal. If one school gets something, it's almost automatic the other school gets something. Whether its special equipment, a weight machine or whatever, you get it even if you don't want it."
Trimming the budget
A couple of years ago, the athletic budget for Central and South was cut by 20 percent.
Because of the sliced budget, both schools avoid long road trips, no longer pay for meals on the road or provide insurance if a student is injured.
"Instead of going to Derby, we've been fortunate to find people like Abilene that will play us," Gordon said.
In their own hands
Because the district won't pay for new softball diamonds, supporters of South softball are raising money for fields. Construction is under way on South's school grounds for the facility, which is planned to open in the spring of '96.
According to a sign northeast of the diamonds, the money needed is $35,000. A phone number was available to anyone interested in donating.
"Our softball coach (Daryl Hoelting) is a real promoter," Gordon said.
Don't expect Central's softball teams to play on those fields.
"I don't anticipate sharing that facility," Siegrist said.