Staying on the right TRACWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Often in tough times, we’re reminded in the wake of disappointment with that somber, old adage that “all good things must come to an end.” Such will be the case once spring sports in the Toledo City League wrap up in the coming weeks and mark the end of an era in Northwest Ohio as Whitmer, Clay, Central Catholic, St. John’s Jesuit, St. Francis de Sales, Notre Dame Academy and St. Ursula Academy bid farewell to their former league and await competition with Findlay, Fremont Ross and Lima Senior in the new Three Rivers Athletic Conference this fall.
While the disbanding of the City League as the area knows it is still a tough pill to swallow for many, the newly-formed TRAC is striving towards creating a top-notch conference in the state of Ohio with sportsmanship firmly rooted at its’ base. On May 4 in the Student Union Grand Ballroom at Bowling Green State University, more than 200 student athletes, coaches and school administrators came together for the first time as members of the TRAC for the league’s “Kick Off and Sportsmanship Day.” Student athletes from each TRAC member school took part in roundtable discussions by their respective sport on the importance of making the conference a model for sportsmanship.
“We think it’s very vital and very important to do that because the student athletes are our best representatives,” Fremont Ross Principal and TRAC President Jose Hernandez told Toledo Free Press. “They’re our ambassadors. We have to understand they’re not professional athletes, but we also expect them to understand what competition means [and] understand the friendships that can be forged through competing at the highest level with other students.”
The competition, rivalries and players over the years in the City League are what helped make it so great. Coaches like St. John’s Ed Heintschel and St. Francis’ Dick Cromwell not only helped put their schools on the map in their respective sports, but also the league itself. Underneath all that success, however, was an ongoing tension within the City League between the public and private schools.
While Heintschel knows that tension will always exist to some degree, he hopes that it will dissipate in the TRAC as the schools develop a rapport with one another, as well as through the conference’s emphasis on sportsmanship.
“Nothing’s worse than not knowing somebody and making judgments about them, so I think as we get to know each other better, I think it will be a better situation,” Heintschel said. “Years ago, we had a summer basketball league. You only had two kids from your school, so we draft kids from Scott, from Maumee, and you have all these kids coming together. Again, when you break down those barriers and you get to know each other, you can appreciate other people.
“I think this kind of thing jumpstarts that process, and the kids get to see each other off the court, off the field, off the wrestling mat—whatever it might be—and they get to know each other as people.”
With 34 years of coaching experience under his belt—26 of which were spent on Bancroft St. with the Knights—Cromwell has seen the City League at its best of times and worst of times, contributing to those better days with 11 City League titles and two state championships as the head football coach at St. Francis. Like Heintschel, Cromwell was disheartened to see the demise of the old City League, but also is excited that the Knights will be part of a conference that has the potential to be one of the best in the state.
“You look at how these schools have done over the past 10 years statewide, we stack up real well with the big conference in Columbus with the Hilliard’s and the Pickerington’s, the Catholic school league down in Cincinnati and the big metro conference that the public schools in Cleveland [are in],” Cromwell said. “We stack up very well. It’s a unique situation where the public schools and the private schools are together. We had that thing with the City League, and now we have it with the TRAC. It’s a unique situation, and we’re going to do very well with all the 10 schools competing statewide in all our sports.”
For Northwest Ohio’s sake, here’s to hoping the combination of leadership and sportsmanship will keep the TRAC from derailing.