A thought occurred the other day, and quickly, so that it wouldn't die of loneliness, it was run past the track and field coaches from the two city public high schools.
Why not have an annual varsity dual meet between Free State and Lawrence?
"You're not the only one who thinks that would be a great idea," Free State coach Steve Heffernan said. "I've thought that for 10 years."
Jack Hood, in his first year as head coach at Lawrence, wasn't as prepared to start printing fliers and pinning up posters hyping the first track and field dual meet between the schools, which could take place as soon as 2008 and would draw a big crowd.
"We'll see what we can do," Hood said. "Steve and I talked about it a little last year. Steve and I need to have a discussion about it before I talk about, in an open forum in the media, changing a schedule that's worked well for Lawrence High for the past 15 years."
Surely Lawrence, which has such a long, championship tradition in track, could tweak its schedule without weakening its chances of winning yet another state title.
It's enough to arouse suspicion as to whether the failure to have an annual dual could be evidence of bad feelings still percolating over the decade-old split. Now that athletes too young to remember when there was only one high school are competing for both schools, it's time for everyone to move on and realize there are two separate but equal high schools in town. That goes for athletic boosters who live on both sides of 15th Street.
On that note, there is no reason one football stadium, rich in tradition and filled with character, can't serve both high schools, regardless of what results from any cleverly worded survey show. Here's a question I'd like to see asked in a poll: Given the choice, would you rather see, say, $24 million of your tax dollars spent on renovating Haskell Stadium ($2 million for new turf, refurbished and new bathrooms and concession stands) and improving the city's infrastructure ($22 million) or all $24 million spent on constructing a new, antiseptic Stepford stadium indistinguishable from thousands of others? Sure it would be complicated for the school district and Haskell Indian Nations University to determine who controls what, but it's certainly worth a try.
That whole deal's a much trickier proposition than breaking from tradition to drop one dual meet in favor of adding a more interesting one. For example, LHS could drop its meet with Leavenworth and add Free State to stay within the eight-meet limit.
"I think that would be a lot of fun," LHS distance star Kelly Renfro said of a dual meet with Free State.
Both Heffernan and Hood are dogged promoters of their athletes, and the coaches have a good relationship, so the timing is encouraging.
"I'm receptive to discussing it with Steve," Hood said.
Said Heffernan: "The kids would love it, and I guarantee their performances would be better. You see it now. When they see someone from the other school, the race takes on a whole new meaning, and it makes them try that much harder."
On your mark, get set, go ... get it done.