Archive for Thursday, July 19, 2007

League shakeup will benefit Lansing

July 19, 2007

The Kaw Valley League will receive a minor facelift with the addition of Turner High School and the loss of Immaculata from the league lineup, but this is a move that should prove beneficial for Lansing High and the KVL for years to come.

Lansing is growing; that much is undeniable. A story in the June 28 edition of The Current reported that the Census Bureau population estimate for the city grew by 4.8 percent from 2005 to 2006. That's an increase of almost 500 people.

Chris Wristen

Chris Wristen

We're not alone in the population boom, either. KVL cities Basehor and Tonganoxie also have experienced significant growth during the past few years, and both continue to promote growth with the building of more homes. The same goes for Bonner Springs, the Piper community and the part of Shawnee immediately surrounding Mill Valley.

The cause of this growth - be it the expansion of Kansas City or the development of the Kansas Speedway - is unimportant as far as athletics are concerned. What is important is how these schools respond to this unavoidable growth.

Will they continue to play schools that have a small student base to draw from when fielding teams? Will they upgrade their schedules and play schools with larger student populations? Will they take the necessary steps to become more competitive at the state level?

Fortunately for the larger KVL schools, the decision was made easy when Immaculata officials turned in a letter at the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year detailing their desire to leave the league.

The league's smallest school, IMAC cited size issues as its primary reason for wanting to leave the league.

The downside of losing Immaculata is that it brings to a close a friendly local rivalry between the Lions and Raiders. In addition, IMAC always has taken pride in having student-athletes that play hard and make sportsmanship a priority. Their fans also have been among the classiest in the Kaw Valley League. As far as KVL schools are concerned, you never want to lose a combination like that.

Still, the move benefits both Immaculata and the rest of the league as far as competition is concerned. IMAC now will have the freedom to fill its schedule with schools that are similar to its size. As a result, the Raiders likely will have more success throughout the year instead of taking constant lumps during the regular season - lumps that could easily be traced back to a lack of depth.

Meanwhile, the rest of the league will benefit, too. Turner joins the league with an enrollment of more than 1,200 students. That will make the Golden Bears the largest school in the league and bump the list of 5A schools in the KVL to four.

Size isn't everything on the sports field. Bishop Ward is proof of that now that the Class 4A juggernaut has won five consecutive state titles and went undefeated this season. The 2005 KVL champion IMAC boys basketball team is another exception. Still, these examples are rarities as far as size is concerned.

Lansing will continue to grow for quite some time, and the odds of LHS dropping back down to 4A are slim to none. That leaves only one clear course of action if the Lions are going to remain competitive at the 5A level: Play larger schools that will prepare them for the postseason.

That's where Turner fits the Kaw Valley League perfectly. Turner routinely is a strong football and baseball school, and its boys basketball team has had winning seasons for most of the last decade. Its soccer program also has made major strides during the past few years.

Lansing has routinely played Turner in a number of sports as a non-league opponent, so the schedule will change little in that regard. What will change, however, is that LHS now has another vacancy on the schedule that it can fill with a big school. Lansing has displayed a desire to upgrade its schedules in recent years to prepare its athletes for the postseason, and I don't expect that to change now.

What I do expect is to see is the KVL become a whole lot tougher with the addition of Turner, and a tougher league is good for Lansing.

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