The Press Box: State Champions
The elusive state championship is something that every high school athlete sets as a goal as they begin their career. I know from playing high school football, baseball, and basketball, as well as college football, the ultimate is a title. Fortunately for some kids they reach that goal, some multiple times. But for the majority of high school athletes they don’t ever make it to the big game. It doesn’t mean they don’t work as hard as those few that accomplish state championships. It just means that for many different reasons they don’t reach the top of the hill. The same holds true for coaches. Their goal every year is to win a state championship. Yet for reasons like lack of size, talent, support and financial limitations of the program the goal eludes them.
In college athletics winning a championship is a giant infusion of cash for the school financially. Millions of dollars are gifted to schools that have teams participating in championship games, while bowl game winners can count on hundreds of thousands. High schools on the other hand are not given sums of money for their achievements, but there are great benefits to winning state titles. Since there is only one championship trophy for the school to display, championship rings are awarded to players and coaches as a personal symbol of the victory. Anytime a school of any size brings home a state title it injects energy in the student body and creates a school-wide feeling of unity.
I never had the experience of winning a state title in high school in any sport. We advanced in post season play in basketball but always got turned away by Barrackville in regional play. My son, Troy, didn’t get to experience a state title during his years at Grand Haven High School in Michigan either, but leave it to his sister to bring home the title. My daughter, Megan, was a powerhouse competitive cheerleader in Michigan in 1999. The work ethic and dedication her squad and coach put in everyday was unmatched, and it showed in their performance. The stunts, the tumbling, the jumps, the precision and chemistry of the team made them unstoppable. I will always remember watching her squad wait on the giant gym floor at Saginaw State University as the top five places were awarded. My wife was sitting beside me. When they awarded state runner up to last year’s champion, we knew. Megan’s team had done it. I’ll be honest. Just typing this brings tears to my eyes remembering the joy and fulfillment that fantastic moment delivered to our whole family, especially to this proud cheerleader dad!
This valley we live in has produced its share of state champion teams over the years. Schools like
Magnolia, Paden City, Sistersville and Tyler County all have won a state championship in either Football, Basketball, Baseball or Track. Coach Vance Ash, assistant baseball coach to the 2006 State Champion Magnolia Baseball Team, shared his feelings. “Winning a state championship in Baseball is the hardest thing to accomplish, because it takes luck to be on your side. Every game there is a key hit or call that has to go your way. We found that in 2006,” explained the coach. Coach Ash went on to say, “I wish every athlete and coach could just walk onto the field at a state championship game. It is unbelievable, and once you get it you want it even more.”
Let’s fast forward to the relative new history of Tyler Consolidated High School. TCHS can boast two wrestling state champs: Jason Snider in 1999 and Cullen Glover in 2009. Tyler Consolidated Silver Knights have produced one team state championship; girls volleyball in 2007 under Coaches Richard and Tracy Summers. To truly understand the meaning and value the experience of winning a state title holds, who better to ask than an athlete that has earned the accomplishment?
Kylee Evans Reed was an important member of the Silver Knights Girls Volleyball State Champion team earning 1st team all state, 1st team LKC and WVSSAC All Tournament Team. I had the chance to talk with her about her experience as a state champion. “At the beginning of our senior year 2007, we had made it to state 2 years prior falling short of the title each time. Walking into each season the ultimate goal was state,” explained Kylee. She also shared that back then TCHS was Class AA, and their competition was stiff. Teams like Magnolia, Oak Glen, Weir and Ritchie were just a few in their region. Because their region was home to such well known area talent, anything could happen during the season. State was never an expectation but something her team worked toward all season.
Kylee’s expertise was able to shed more light on the subject. “If you’ve ever been to a volleyball game you’ll notice the team moves together like a dance. If one person misses the beat we fall
out of rhythm. Previous years we missed the title by a fraction. The more we got a taste of the state tournament the more we wanted it,” said Kylee. She also shared the team had been there 2 years in a row and remained hungry. “I remember working so hard. Coach always said, ‘If you’re early you’re on time, but if you’re on time you’re late,’” Kylee remembered. Her team lived by this motto and it served as a constant reminder of their hardships, losses and struggles. Kylee added, “We worked for years getting past our competition only to fall short at the state tournament. But this was our year, our right now!”
Ever wonder how it feels to play at the civic center in Charleston? Kylee recalled the excitement she and her teammates shared. “There is nothing like stepping onto the civic center floor as an athlete; there is something magical about that place. The lights are so bright and the building is so loud. You can feel the adrenaline through the air,” exclaimed Kylee. She added that the team’s emotions were running high as they approached their final game, but the discipline they had learned as athletes made it possible to set those feelings aside, and Kylee along with her teammates had the best dance of their lives. “We won that game and became the first team sport at Tyler Consolidated to have won a state title. We finished our season 43-7, won the LKC championship, never lost a set in the sectional, regional, or state tournament. Finishing the season off with a state championship title was the cherry on top,” informed Kylee.
As state champion athletes transition into adulthood, they often reflect back about their unique experience. For Kylee looking back today, the sweetest memory she cherishes is sharing the event with family. “Two of my grandparents that are no longer here with me on this Earth got to witness one of the most exceptional days of my life. I will never forget the hugs, ‘I love yous’ and ‘you made us proud’ that were shared that day. It was a great day for many reasons but to get to share it with the ones that are no longer here with me makes it that much more special,” Kylee fondly reminisced.
Each of the schools in our coverage area has experienced either team championships or individual championships at one point or another over the years. Some of our schools have had multiple champions as well. In this column we looked at a few from Tyler Consolidated. Our hopes are to highlight athletes from the past of each school in Wetzel and Tyler County in our Press Box column every couple weeks.
In closing I believe one of the biggest benefits to winning a state championship like the one Kylee Evans Reed shared is getting the entire student body excited about participating in after school activities. The support from our communities and our school districts seen from winning title games helps build the after-school programs that keep our kids engaged. When our kids are active and engaged in school activities, the whole community at large is better because of it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Enthusiasm is contagious! Our job as parents and fans is to generate it.