Archive for Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Guest column: KU student caught up in send-off

March 14, 2007

There is something uniquely special about belonging to a community, and Thursday there was no better community to belong to than Tonganoxie.

If I didn't know better, I would have believed Thursday morning that I was a high school basketball player on my way to play in the state tournament. And, I am sure that I am not the only person who was feeling this way.

As I stood in Tonganoxie, having only been here four times previously, I felt as though I was at home and all the children around me were family.

The sirens blared as the bus carrying the Tonganoxie High girls basketball team neared Tonganoxie Elementary School during a send-off for the Chieftain team. When the bus stopped right in the middle of the street, the team joined the children in the crowd. The players high-fived the youths and hugged the adults while the group formed a circle around them. The players stood in the middle and yelled for the crowd. The young boys in front of me were chanting, "Let's go Chieftains" as loud as they could -- stomping their feet and clapping their hands. The rest of the crowd chanted "Go Big Red," with signs and hands waving in the air.

There was nothing but noise as the girls returned to the bus and followed their police escort out of town.

This was a moment you don't experience every day, and a moment completely missed in some places. But not in Tonganoxie.

Thursday morning, I felt the true spirit of belonging. Nothing says community like an achievement in a small town.

Thursday, the No. 1 seed for the girls 4A state basketball tournament headed to Salina, practically taking the whole town with them. Some went along with them in person and some only in spirit. But, one thing was for sure: Thursday it was the girls playing the game on the court and all of Tonganoxie playing the game in their hearts. Because, when a small town team goes to state, everyone in the community goes to state.

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