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High school sports are back and better than ever

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Monday marked the first day of the high school sports season and, appropriately, the fields, courts and gyms at Lawrence's local high schools were filled with eager athletes, smiling coaches and loads of optimism. But then practices began and all of that went away. OK, not really. The optimism remained. And isn't that the beauty of the first day of practice? Everyone has a shot. Everyone's in the running. Everyone can dream big. That vibe certainly was plentiful on Monday, and likely will be again today when the teams get after it for Day 2, but as I made my rounds to different practices, I found that the day meant a little more to a handful of athletes for different reasons. First there was Free State High wide receiver Preston Randolph, who missed the second half of last season with a broken leg but was back in uniform looking bigger, stronger and faster than ever.For Randolph, just the idea of being back in action - tightening a chin strap, running routes over the middle, going deep and hauling in bombs - made Day 1 memorable. In the not-too-distant past he wasn't sure if he'd ever be doing those things again. Then there's Free State volleyball player Melissa Burch, a senior who transfered to FSHS after her sophomore season at Seabury and spent all of last season being punished for it. Not literally. Burch was able to play last season, but transfer rules dictated that she only was allowed to compete at the junior varsity level. Too bad, too. From everything I've heard, she's more than capable of playing at the varsity level. And that's what pushed her to give everything she had on Monday, even though it was only Day 1. "I just want to show people I can actually play varsity," Burch said. "Because a lot of people thought I wasn't good enough last year." Speaking of volleyball, Lawrence High senior Tayler Tolefree made Monday memorable by announcing a verbal commitment to play the sport at Kansas University. Less than a week after fellow-LHS senior [Tania Jackson verbally committed][1] to the KU women's basketball program, Tolefree kicked off her senior season with a similar bang. Don't expect that to be the last you hear from Tolefree this season. The all-state senior has become a force at the net for the Lions and figures to have a monster senior year. So there it is. All of that - and surely much, much more - after just one day of practices.It's going to be a great year. [1]: http://www2.kusports.com/news/2008/aug/13/lhs_girls_basketball_standout_commits_ku/?womens_basketball

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