By Neil DePew
For those whose only interest in local sports is either Skyline or Pratt Community College, you may want to stop reading right now. This column is going to be about my recollections of what, in my mind, Pratt High School sports have come to stand for.
I feel certain that Thunderbird and Beaver supporters have reflections that are every bit as valid and as relevant. It’s just that, as a Greenback for 28 years, I have a lot more direct, personal insight into Greenback sports than I do to either Skyline or PCC.
So with no disrespect or slight intended to the other sports programs in the community, I continue with my own thoughts on what it means to be a Greenback. If anyone wants to write a column on being T-Birds or Beavers, I will run it—I’m just not qualified to write one myself.
For those who don’t know, I was a coach at PHS for 28 years, the majority of that time serving as an assistant in cross-country and track. My two children both attended Pratt High, my son playing football, basketball and baseball and my daughter cheering on the spirit squad. So I have a long-standing direct, personal insight into Greenback sports IMHO.
The first things that you might think come to mind when I reminisce about PHS sports are the moments of triumph along the way. Just to name a few: Sitting in the stands in 1995 in Emporia with thousands of other Prattans, cheering as our Greenbacks won the state football championship. As assistant coach, being a part of two state championship girls’ track teams in the early 2000s. Watching my next door neighbor, after all she had been through, win the 2011 state crosscountry title.
Yes, there have been some glorious times. But what defines PHS sports for me, and what made me stick with it as long as I did, were some of the OTHER things I associate with them.
#1) Pratt athletes always represented our community well. I cannot begin to tell you the number of compliments I received or overheard about our PHS kids during my time there. Other PHS coaches and sponsors would tell you the same thing. It doesn’t matter whether it is the athletes, or the band, or forensics kids or whatever-Pratt could always be proud of the way our kids conducted themselves.
As just one illustration, a restaurant manager of a place one of our teams used to frequent once told us coaches, “I wish I could afford to feed those Pratt kids for free. They come in here, they’re always so nice and respectful and polite. And when they leave, the place is cleaner than it was when they got here.” That’s the kind of kids we have had in Pratt, ones that brought credit to the community and ones that I wanted to continue to be associated with.
Page 2 of 3 - #2) Greenbacks keep trying to improve. I remember one regional track meet in particular. The way they run field events there, with prelims and finals, it can drag out. All competitors must complete prelims before finals can start, and if someone is in multiple events, people can sit around a long time waiting for everyone to complete their prelims.
I had a girl thrower that year who was a senior. She was a hard-worker and a good kid, threw all 3 implements decently, though was never outstanding at any of them. At regional that year, people had been waiting at the shot put for a long time waiting for this girl to get there—she had gotten hung up at javelin and discus.
Finally she gets there, has to throw probably 34, 35 feet to make finals. She’s never thrown even 33 in her life. But she gets a chance to throw in prelims just like everyone else. On her last throw, she throws one like 32-something, and I, her coach scream “YESSSSSS!!!!” People are looking at me like I’m insane, probably thinking, “We’ve been waiting for this girl forever, then she comes over and throws a lousy 32 feet, and her coach is screaming like an idiot?”
What those people didn’t know was that, no she didn’t ‘win’ anything. She didn’t even make finals. But on the last throw of her high school career, that girl had thrown a PR. Greenbacks know that you aren’t going to ’win’ every time on the scoreboard. But you keep trying to do your best. As long as you work hard and keep trying to improve, you are a Greenback and you are a winner.
#3) Greenbacks never quit, Greenbacks never give up. There are probably dozens of examples of this from every sport in the time I have been familiar with Pratt athletics. For some reason, though, one that always sticks in my mind is a football game the Greenbacks played against Pittsburg, who at the time was a 5A power.
The Greenbacks had put up a valiant effort, but it was apparent throughout the game they were a little bit overmatched. Although not getting thrashed, they were down by a couple of scores late in the game. Pittsburg had the ball and was driving down the field for an exclamation point TD. But inside the 3-yard line, the Pratt D dug in for a goal line stand.
Time was running out, Pratt was going to lose, but you couldn’t tell that from the way the Greenbacks played. Twice Pittsburg ran the ball at the Greenbacks, and twice the Greenbacks turned them aside. Finally, on the last play of the game, Pittsburg just took a knee. When our coaches asked theirs after the game why they hadn’t tried to punch it in one more time, the Pittsburg coaches said simply, “We had to respect your kids.”
Page 3 of 3 - No matter what the score, no matter what the situation, Greenbacks never quit, Greenbacks never give up.
So that’s my little trip down memory lane here as 2012 draws to a close. I have no way of knowing what the future holds. What I do know is that for Pratt High School Greenback athletics to continue as we have known it, we are going to keep needing kids who #1) bring credit to the community through their behavior; #2) continually strive to improve and #3) never give up and never quit.