It's no secret to the city of Lawrence whenever Lawrence and Free State high schools have an intracity athletic event coming up.
Cars painted with crude sayings dot the streets. Toilet paper covering trees, houses or vehicles can be common sights. Also, the Chesty Lion statue in front of LHS has been seen wearing a dress. But is the rivalry spurred by animosity?
Judging by some of the things said about the "other side of 15th Street" from students of either school, one might guess so. However, for every obscene sign, there are probably five signs supporting Free State and vice versa. The rivalry seems to be, for the most part, good-natured school spirit.
Tyler Morgan, a junior and varsity football player at Free State, enjoys the rivalry and the way it excites him for games against LHS.
"I would say that the rivalry is a good thing since it creates so much spirit in the schools. I think part of what makes it so great," he said, "is the contrast between a tradition-rich Lawrence High School and Free State, which is still new."
Indeed, Free State, which is in its sixth year, is still trying to lose the unofficial title of "the other high school" in Lawrence.
The opinions of LHS students echo those of Morgan's.
"I think the rivalry is important because it makes the teams work twice as hard to impress their friends and have something to brag about," LHS junior pom-squad member Sam Hamm said. "It's fun to have rivalry between the two schools. I think it's pretty big because Free State's a new school, and with two talented schools, it's fun to show off to each other."
However, it's not all smiles between the two schools. Violence and serious vandalism have occurred in the past, but many suggest it's not because of any rivalry.
"I think violence between the schools usually is rooted in some personal problem," suggests Free State's Wallis Romzek. "It doesn't make a whole lot of sense for kids to start a fight over who is going to win a baseball game or something."
Lawrence's John Parker agrees: "I think that the rivalry is more athletic, because socially it is not a big deal."
|The first matchup of FSHS and LHS girls basketball is at 7 p.m. Dec. 20 at LHS. The LHS boys basketball team plays FSHS at 7 p.m. Dec. 21 at FSHS.|
The occasional pranks and jokes are usually well-received by either school with a healthy yearning for tasteful but demoralizing vengeance.
Morgan said, "I don't think it's ever been taken too far. Actually, I find pranks from both sides to be funny; only if it really hurts someone is it taken too far."
Romzek provides good concluding wisdom on the Lawrence rivalry.
"I think the rivalry's fun, if you don't take it too seriously. LHS is always going to be a big game in any sport, but it's not going to be the life-and-death situation that some people hype it up to be."
- Caleb Powers is a junior at Free State High School.