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Archive for Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Seabury moving up

April 25, 2001

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The fieldhouse is, for want of a better word, Spartan.

The soccer practice field -- a rented acre carved into a neighboring corn field -- is a rugged patch of clumpy grass, a growing season away from regressing into part of somebody's south 40.

And the baseball field, built meticulously by hand -- from the concrete dugouts to the single-plank wooden benches -- by Seabury athletics director/baseball coach/science teacher Brian Clyne, is marred by dandelions poking through the infield grass. An orange snow fence serves as the outfield "wall," separating sport from harvest.

But what the Seahawks' facilities lack in aesthetics, they more than make up in metaphor.

Seabury's digs and its athletics programs are better than they were in 1997, when the school opened, and both are getting better.

"That first year, we had 30 students and six teams," Clyne said. "We had 15 boys in the whole school in grades 7-10. All 15 kids were on the team. A few had played before. It was tough. No one expected us to win a game in anything. One of the players from that first year came back later and said, 'I don't see a lot of highlights from that first year, but I see it as being a starting point. It's when we learned teamwork and sportsmanship.'

"You can't be successful overnight, but you can start a philosophy, and that's what we did. Now we're starting to get that philosophy along with some wins. We're up to 12 teams and we're getting some wins. It's been a long road, but we've still got a long ways to go. We may not be a varsity program in Class 6A, but here we come."

Genesis

Before Seabury opened in 1997, then-headmaster J. Kristian Peuschel tracked down Clyne, who in 11 years as AD at the Hotevilla-Bacavi Community School on the Hopi reservation in Arizona had developed a reputation as a builder of athletics programs.

"Before the school opened, (Peuschel) told me athletics would be a big part of the school," Clyne said. "We built a good tradition in Arizona. I was excited about coming here and building an athletic program."

That first year, Seabury fielded six teams; all six competed as junior high programs.

The following year, the school added junior varsity boys and girls basketball teams, hiking the total to eight teams. A year later, with the addition of boys and girls cross country, JV boys soccer and JV girls volleyball, the total was 12 teams.

By 2002-2003, Seabury plans to add varsity programs in all seven sports and become a full-fledged member of the Kansas State High School Activities Assn., competing in the KSHSAA's smallest class, 1A. The Seahawks have been competing in the 32-member Kansas Christian Athletic Assn.

"It's not by their choice we're not a member," Clyne said of the KSHSAA. "It's by our choice. We wanted to wait until we had a full senior class. We wanted to compete at state like we belong. A lot of people view us as a little parochial school that has a couple of teams that we throw together. But really we're a college prep school that wants to have as good an athletics program as we have an academic program. Athletics is in our mission statement. We want total a total student, a total person. We want to expose them to the arts and athletics. We want the same reputation in athletics that we have in mathematics, and we're not afraid to say it."

'Human sacrifice'

Seabury has had its share of athletics highlights.

Its boys basketball team never has had a losing record. It claimed its first baseball victory in 1998-99. Seabury won its first home baseball back in 2000, and its girls JV basketball team finished with a 10-1 record, despite the fact it had just six players.

Just this year, the Seabury girls JV cross country team entered five public-school invitational and won four team titles, and the boys JV basketball team placed third in the KCAA state tournament.

"That was really huge for us," Clyne said of the third-place state finish. "The basketball team is extremely young. It has one junior and two sophomores. The rest are younger. We were playing in a varsity tournament. To go into a state tournament where there are 32 teams and take third " it's not the pinnacle of where we want to be, but it's a start."

The start was predictably rocky.

"That first year, players would come up to me and ask who we were playing. I'd say, 'Lansing,' and they'd say, 'Oh, man, another human sacrifice. How can you do this to us?,'" Clyne recalled. "I told them we had to do it. We had to go through that. Now there isn't a name I could throw out there they'd have that reaction to."

Seabury started small by necessity. It opened as a junior high and gradually added classes as its students aged. About 30 students were in the charter class; enrollment now is 100, with projections calling for 150 for 2002-03.

Seabury -- currently located between Lawrence and Eudora in the old Kaw Valley elementary school -- plans to move to a new, but as yet undetermined, permanent site about the time it makes the jump to the KSHSAA.

The fact a fieldhouse will be among the first buildings built is proof of its commitment to athletics.

'Decent athletes'

Seabury plays most of its competition against other junior varsity squads, but because it schedules many smaller schools that do not field JV teams, the Seahawks often compete against varsity teams.

"We have seventh- and eighth-graders playing ninth-12th, so their youngest girls are two years older than us," said Baldwin's Coy Weege, a Kansas University student who serves as the Seahawks' soccer coach. "I have 16 kids. Eight are seventh-graders, and a lot of them haven't played before."

Though it puts the Seahawks at a competitive disadvantage at times, Clyne relishes Seabury's no-cut policy.

"We try to give everyone an opportunity to play," he said. "Everyone that wants to be on the baseball team is on the baseball team. I don't think we'll ever have to cut anyone.

"Our hope is that everyone who wants to be on a team can be on a team. Maybe, with some of these kids, if they'd gone to Southwest, they wouldn't have the opportunity to be on a team, but here they're on the team and they grow. You're a big fish in a small pond. I have no doubt we have some kids who could play at Free State or Lawrence High. I've got a first baseman I'd put up against anybody. He'd be a starter for anybody. We've got some decent athletes. But our strength is, these kids are teammates in a lot of different sports. They know each other, know each others' strengths and weaknesses and play well together."

Clyne credits coaches like Weege for building the Seabury foundation. Clyne regularly taps KU for coaching prospects.

"We've been able to get some wonderful kids from KU to coach for us," he said. "It helps them out and helps us out. We pay them. We don't have a faculty that has a lot of coaches on it."

Clyne likens his work at Seabury to that on the Hopi reservation.

"By the fourth or fifth year, we started to win championships," he said. "We may need an extra year or two here, because there I went to an established school. Here we were starting from scratch."

For evidence, Clyne points to the Seahawks' baseball diamond.

"It's a real labor of love," he said with a chuckle. "I hope when I die they at least name it after me. But when we move into our new place, I hope that there's somebody to at least mow the grass."

-- Associate sports editor Andrew Hartsock can be reached at 832-7216.

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