Changes may lead to brighter future for IHS athletes


June 7, 2013 - 12:00 AM

Two things have occurred the last couple of years that have given Iola High School athletes competitive advantages.
First, board of education members agreed to switch leagues two years ago, taking the Mustangs and Fillies from the nine-member Southeast Kansas League to the Pioneer League. That meant instead of having one of the smallest enrollments — some years the smallest —  of schools in the SEK, Iola High became the largest school in the Pioneer League.
What a difference that makes. Instead of beating its head about a wall of numbers going against schools such as Pittsburg and Coffeyville, Iola now competes against schools about its size or smaller.
The immediate result was football, golf and baseball championships for the Mustangs in their first year of Pioneer League play, a trifecta that would take years to accomplish in the SEK. History has made that abundantly clear.
While winning isn’t the end-all in high school sports — opportunity to compete and camaraderie are important — there certainly is something to be said for the thrill of victory. And, winning isn’t diluted by having an edge in numbers.
Ten years from now — even next school year — having Pioneer League championship trophies in the showcase will be a source of pride for Iola High students.
The second occurrence was just this week, when the Kansas State High School Activities Association announced that class 4A would be split into two divisions. Iola’s enrollment has it in division II, the 32 smaller schools.
That makes sense, more in 4A than anywhere else. From top to the bottom the ratio of largest enrollment to lowest was 2.8 to 1. No other classes have such a disparity.
Iola’s baseball team came within a whisker of winning the state championship last month, falling to Topeka Hayden. In the next alignment, Hayden would not have been in Iola’s division.
Naysayers like to rail that having two divisions some how waters down the significance of “winning at state.”
That’s malarkey.
Skip past the negativity; there always are those who find the glass half empty, who prefer the dark cloud to its silver lining. Being the best no matter the magnitude of competition is a sterling accomplishment, and brings unbridled joy to those who accomplish it.

COMPETING in itself is a thrill, and if our kids have a better chance of winning that’s all the better.
— Bob Johnson

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