Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Everybody loves KateLynn and Shannon (And those like them)

Last week, many seniors ended their high school athletic careers. On the Westshore, I am aware of just nine senior-athletes who will compete next week at the state track meet. For everyone else, their high school athletic careers are over. I would hope every team in every sport has their own version of KateLynn Riley and Shannon Eccleston. But then again maybe not. I once had a coach tell me how much two of his seniors meant to him and his program as the team celebrated senior day. A week later, the playoffs began without either senior as they both had quit the team. Not everything is always as copasetic as it seems.

But I am positive that Westlake's KateLynn Riley and North Olmsted’s Shannon Eccleston are the real deal. All track season, I have heard glowing report after glowing report from the pair's teammates and coaches. I am sure I would get the same from their coaches and teammates in basketball and soccer respectively as well. In fact, Westlake track coach Duane Miller even got choked up a little on the phone before Riley ran her final race at the regional meet. What made them both special is that besides being talented, they worked hard and were immensely likable. It would be easy for someone talented to think just about themselves. Riley won three straight SWC 100-meter hurdle titles. Eccleston won eight SWC titles, but from everything I’ve heard, you would never know it with how they handled themselves. We have all seen have how sometimes success changes a person. The work ethic falters while self-importance rises.

As a former high school coach, I have first-hand experience on how some seniors can treat freshmen. Often a talented freshman takes a spot of a senior and they can become resented and excluded. Being on varsity as a freshman is tough enough, but it can be nearly impossible if you don’t feel as a part of the team. Imagine the pain of being trashed on the Internet by the bitter parent of a senior. Great senior leaders can make life easier on a freshman.

Every underclassmen I have talked to about Riley and Eccleston raves about not only their support, but just how nice they are. Never underestimate the power of nice from the team's leader. Many of those quotes have appeared in this paper the last few weeks and in Shannon's case, last fall for soccer. I got so many there wasn’t even room for all of them.

North Olmsted assistant track coach Lisa Pochatek is also the school's cross-country coach. However, her freshman daughter Morgan is a sprinter rather a than distance runner. Pochatek told me how she let Morgan learn from Shannon.

"Morgan is a pure sprinter and I've had to entrust her training in the hands of the other coaches and Shannon," Pochatek said. "She has been learning so much from Shannon, she's really taken Morgan under her wing and is really showing her how to prepare for her races and how to be focused."

A few weeks ago in this paper, Miller echoed the belief of coaches everywhere when he shared how you just can't stress how important it is to have your best athlete also be your hardest worker and your team leader.

When you have a great senior team captain it often creates future great team captains. And that is exactly what KateLynn Riley and Shannon Eccleston brought to their schools. May every coach be so blessed.