By Steve Robinson | September 26, 2019 - 10:54 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Players and parents associated with the local lacrosse team in the Twin Cities must have felt as though they scored a goal at the regularly-scheduled meeting of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board on Sept. 25. That’s because Board members unanimously approved adding the sport to the spring schedules of both Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High School starting in 2020.

With their vote, Board members agreed for the district to enter into an agreement with Friends Of Bloomington-Normal Lacrosse to assemble two varsity teams — one boys’, one girls’ – for competition beginning next spring. The teams will incorporate players from Bloomington High School into their teams

The students representing the organization and their parents listened as Nic Kearfoot, athletic director at NCHS, and Stan Lewis, athletic director at Normal West offered to address any issues Board members may have had. The teams will practice at the practice field at Kingsley Junior High School, the former home of NCHS, and games will take place at Ironmen Field at NCHS and Wildcat Field at Normal West. The ADs explained boys’ games will be played at NCHS while girls’ games will be played at Normal West. Lewis said the reason for that is because fields for girls’ games are marked differently than they are for boys’ games.

Lewis said since the schools got a bit of a late start in getting the organizational matters taken care of, more than likely the teams would travel to Chicago suburban schools for some games rather than playing host to those schools this time around.

Board Member Meta Mickens-Baker asked about what amount of class time would students be absent from if they are playing on the road. Lewis said that is a “valid concern for any of our sports,” adding if games are in the Chicago suburbs or St. Louis, he envisioned doing those games on Saturdays to prevent any class time from suffering as a result.

He said the teams’ options for local contests are a little more limited, but would be looking to play “during as many Saturdays as we could get within the confines of the season. The regular season runs from mid-March through mid-May followed by playoffs which run through May and part of June.

Bloomington-based District 87’s School Board was to have a presentation given to them to consider related to this venture. That meeting took place the same time Unit 5 met in the cafeteria of Normal Community West High School for their Board meeting Wednesday.

The sports conference both NCHS and Normal West belong to, Big 12 Conference, has no schools competing in lacrosse, Lewis said, but there are a couple coop teams within driving distance of the Twin Cities, including in Washington and Dunlap.

During public comments Mike Buelow, president of Friends of Bloomington-Normal Lacrosse, told Board members the group began in 2011 and only had 15 kids when it started and now has ten times that number now. “The dream of these athletes to play for their school is real, and with your help, it can become a reality.”

Layne Scheck, an NCHS sophomore and a member of the girls’ team associated with Friends of Bloomington-Normal Lacrosse, told Board members playing the sport has been beneficial to her in a number of ways including gaining close friends in the six years she has played the sport. She said the sport has taught her, among other things, perseverance, hard work, teamwork, and leadership skills.

After the meeting, Dr. Ray Epperson, assistant superintendent, explained Lewis and Kearfoot will next turn in a cooperative agreement with Illinois High School Association to have this team added to IHSA’s ranks in this sport. Epperson added the schools will post ads to seek coaches for the teams. There will be a varsity team and a junior varsity team for each of the schools being combined in this effort, he added.

Lewis and Kearfoot submitted applications with IHSA to have a two-year agreement for both boys’ and girls’ co-op teams once District 87’s Board approves the agreement.

Epperson said costs involved with this sport will include transportation, equipment, and coaches’ pay. Friends of Lacrosse, he added, will do fundraising and will turn proceeds from that over to the schools. The schools, in turn, will pay for officials, uniforms, and other related expenses.

Taking this approach, Epperson added, going forward should any other group wish to add a sport, a similar process for how it financially gets started could be used.

Normal West Girls Junior Varsity Basketball Team Honored In “Good News”: The resilience of Normal Community West High School’s girls’ junior varsity freshmen basketball team was honored in a ‘good news” item presented by the team’s head coach, Corey Ostling. On December 5, 2018, the school’s junior varsity “B” girls’ team was heading home from a game against Champaign Central when the bus was struck by a semi-truck heading the wrong way, resulting in a loss of life for two of the individuals, the driver of the truck that hit the bus and the team’s scorekeeper, Charlie Crabtree. The team’s head coach, Steve Price, and bus driver, Mark Kuhn, were injured in the accident and were both hospitalized.

“I cannot express enough gratitude to the counselors and the resources that Unit 5 have put into social emotional learning into understanding the importance of it,” explained Ostling. Explaining there is no test the girls could take in handling this, that this was an event which tested the girls’ character. In explaining how the girls handled the circumstances, Ostling added, “Time and time again, these girls rose above their challenge.”

“They showed strength not to give in to pain,” Ostling added in his addressing Board members. “They could have gone into a really dark place, but instead, were selfless and kept each other going. They also showed great self-awareness when they needed to reach out for help, and they did.”

The girls on the team are: Jori Bishoff, Abby Hoeft, Moni Howard, Kirsten Lellelid, Jess O’Brien, Olivia Reed, Grace Storm, and Haley Willan.

To honor Crabtree, the school has redecorated the entrance to the school’s large gym to honor the 72-year-old. The doors to the gym have been given a shiny new coat of black. Above the doors are draped the words “Westside Wildcats…Eat ‘Em Up, Eat ‘Em Up.” On the adjoining wall is a full-size black and white photo of the gym. In the upper right corner of the photo can be found the words, “In Memory Of Charlie Crabtree.”

Budget For 2019-20 School Year Approved: Board members unanimously approved a budget for the 2019-20 school year. It was the same budget shown them during a Board session in August. The district has a budget of $192 million but shows a deficit of $12.8 million. The district’s education fund from which most dollars used come from has a small surplus.

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