Welcome Back, it is time for the fun to begin
Do you realize that the last time Rocky River high school was not in the Southwest Conference was when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the president of the United States? In fact in 1937, Ganhdi was starting his protest, Hitler was named Chancellor, Sea Biscuit was winning races and something called a television was demonstrated.
Put in those terms, I guess it is a big deal that the Pirates are now in the West Shore Conference.
I have resisted for a long time to write about the break-up of the SWC or maybe more accurately the small school secession. When the story first broke, I was still covering the city beat and not in sports. And that seemed like the time to write about the hows and whys and what nots. Now it is just a reality to deal with.
For personal reasons, I am not a fan. It was good to have six of my eight teams battling in the same conference. I used to only have to venture out to Lorain County for postseason tournaments, but that might change now.
I have heard the argument that the smaller schools just could not compete. Maybe in football but some of the other programs seemed to do just fine. Both Bay soccer programs had no trouble competing. Kyle Schultz started a dynasty in swimming at Rocky River and Dana Artman-Cajka's Fairview volleyball has had a great deal of success. With the right coach and the proper program, success was possible.
My favorite quote of last school year belonged to Fairview soccer/basketball/track captain Christine Rehnert. She was happy she finished her career in the SWC where "a win meant something." And that is not a knock on the new schools in the WSC, but rather she loved the challenge of facing up against the traditional big school neighborhood rivals. Christine's teams may not have won conference titles in basketball or soccer, but they played their hearts out. So when Fairview won the 4x400 relay three years in a row, it meant even more to the school and the community.
But I also understand the sigh of relief of other athletes. Fairview cross-country seniors Matt Kurz and Bruce Sundberg shared with me this week how they never conceded defeat, but when they would see a team of 50 runners line-up against their ten, it was only human to think "how can we beat that?"
The football programs at Bay, Fairview and Rocky River are also filled with hope again. My intern asked me how Fairview coach Leo Spagnola could be thinking of competing for a conference title after going 0-10. I told her moving Avon Lake, Amherst, Olmsted Falls, North Olmsted and Westlake off the schedule will do that for a coach.
I won't pretend to understand the politics of what goes into making a conference. It seems to me that Midview has more students than Olmsted Falls. But hey, whatever.
What this really signals, besides longer bus rides and later nights, is the end of long term conference affiliations. It will be musical chairs from here on out. At least the banner-makers will stay in business.
I’m sure new rivalries will develop, but the importance of North Olmsted vs. Bay in soccer will never mean the same. And North Olmsted/Brecksville or Bay/Vermilion will never have the same ring.
The split however will at least cause one change here at West Life. We are altering our sports coverage philosophy. The most obvious change is a move to the front of the B section. This will allow us to showcase Larry Bennet's award winning photos in color and really celebrate the student athlete. Another change is who we cover and how. Before, the focus was on coverage of the SWC, now we will focus on individual teams. A subtle difference maybe.
We declare ourselves as the hometown paper of these schools: Fairview, Bay, Lutheran West, Magnificat, North Olmsted, Olmsted Falls, Rocky River and Westlake. All of which are located in one of our Westshore communities.
We begin this week with a sports preview of all 67 fall sports teams. A big thank you to the coaches for taking the time to fill out the forms and the athletic department secretaries who helped keep me sane collecting them. Each school has its own page this week. Included on each page is a profile of a senior student athlete from that particular school. The idea was to show not only a talented athlete, but a well-rounded individual with interests outside of the athletic fields. It was interesting to see how some top athletes already have their priorities in order but at the same time are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed this fall.
One aspect that won't change is our coverage of every sport. I love high school football and Larry Bennet and I are geared up for Friday night lights starting with the neighborhood clash this week between Fairview and Lutheran West. But high school sports is not just what happens on the gridiron. We want to cover every sport with the same amount of passion and zeal. Now I am not saying you will see me bright and early at every cross-country meet, but we love all high school sports and believe every one is important to the community and deserves recognition. Every sport demands sacrifice and dedication, it is our honor to try and reflect that as best as we can.
Since I am back to being a one-man sports department, it will be nearly impossible for me to cover all 67 teams on a weekly basis. So we have offered to provide a weekly space for every varsity coach in the form of the View from Row Z sports chatter column, which will return next week. Many coaches took advantage of this last year and we hope to expand the column to two pages this year. It will be a great chance for student-athletes to get recognized on a weekly basis. So starting next week, if your favorite team does not appear, encourage your coach and athletic director to send us an email of results, stats and miscellaneous information to email@example.com.
We will also cover individuals from the Westshore communities who attend St. Joseph Academy, St. Edward, St. Ignatius and Lake Ridge Academy. St. Joseph has already graciously sent us a list of every varsity athlete on their fall sports teams. If you are a proud parent of a Westshore athlete at one of the other schools, please drop us a line and we will do our best to keep on eye on their accomplishments. Again, I can only write what I know about, so emails are always appreciated.
Another returning feature will be another seasonal sports journal. Bay's Kelly Moore has retired as our most popular sportswriter and is off to Yale. So we have selected Rocky River quarterback Zach Haudenschild to keep a journal of his senior season of football. Check out my feature story on Zach on page 4. I don't know if any other local athlete has more pressure on his shoulders this season. His weekly journal should be a remarkable insight into the mind of a high school athlete.
And so this week begins a remarkable ride of nearly non-stop sports action until the second week of June. Many of our favorites athletes from last year have graduated including Mo Ali, Alex Bagi, Jon Bartuccio, Pat Braddick, Jessica Brady, Greg Conners, Mike Corrigan, Hallie English, Josh Grossman, Danielle Hale, Chris Hibinger, Allison Kay, Jessica Lauerhass, Derek Lindsay, Lea Lockhart, Jackie Mahon, Jason Mahon, Chris Marsh, Mike Milano, Addie Mental, Kelley Moore, Jessica Moses, Katie Niksa, Bobby Pampush, Halle Plagens, Christine Rehnert, Derek Riedel, Mo Salem, Caroline Sanker, Kurt Schnittger, Kelsey Slater, Corey Sparks, Hanna Wilde and Nael Zayed.
It will be fun to see who steps up to fill the void.