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Archive for Thursday, September 1, 2005

Keegan: J-W Cup spices up rivalry

September 1, 2005

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No such thing as a friendly rivalry in sports, but in many ways the one between the two biggest high schools in town comes close.

Kathy Johnson coaches Lawrence High's gymnastics team. Free State's coach? Kathy Johnson. The teams practice and travel together.

Laurie Stussie, an English teacher at Lawrence, is an assistant volleyball coach at Free State. Dirk Wedd, Lawrence's football coach, and Jack Schreiner, the basketball coach at Free State, golf in the same foursome regularly in the summer months.

In American Legion baseball, the Lawrence Raiders have banked on stars from both high schools to win three consecutive state titles. The Lawrence Aquahawks swim team draws from both schools. Central Junior High and Southwest Junior High feed both high schools. Friends become opponents and remain friends.

Back when Free State opened in 1997, athletic director Steve Grant knew right where to turn for advice. He picked up the phone and dialed the number of Lawrence AD Ron Commons.

"He was very helpful," Grant said. "What do I do now? How should I handle this?"

They remain friends and golf buddies.

"We like to go out and chase the little white ball," said Commons, who works part-time at Alvamar. Grant works part-time at Eagle Bend.

To an extent, the coaches and administrators getting along so well is beside the point. They aren't what high school sports are about. Ditto for parents.

"It's for the kids," Commons said. "That's what this is about."

And that's what the new Journal-World Cup challenge is all about. In keeping with the spirit of a rivalry getting bigger by the year, this newspaper will run Journal-World Cup standings of head-to-head varsity meetings between the rivals and (white gloves, please) award the Cup to the school with the most victories. That high school will keep the Cup until the next school year's winner is determined.

The first events to count toward the Journal-World Cup standings take place one week from today, when the schools compete in volleyball and boys soccer at Lawrence High.

In sports where the schools don't meet head-to-head, the higher finisher in the league meet will be awarded a victory.

All 22 sports will be included, and if the friendly foes meet in the postseason, those results count, too.

Enjoy the competition, and remember, as Commons and Grant both were eager to remind us, it's about the kids.

If you're a parent, consider yourself lucky your child competes in Lawrence. Believe it or not, I've lived in towns where parents are too petty to feel good for a student-athlete from another school who gains publicity for his or her athletic achievements. Parents in other towns - I'm not lying about this - actually gripe that their children are being short-changed and that so-and-so gets more coverage. Doesn't it just make you blush for them? They don't even realize their children would be mortified if they knew their parents were doing that, supposedly on their behalf.

I'd be shocked and dismayed if that were the case in the town my family and I have found so welcoming so far.

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