I was not the star of my high school basketball team.
As I like to tell people, "I held down my end of the bench pretty darn well."
Or "That 13 seconds at the end of the game made all the difference."
But, as I look back, maybe it really did make all the difference.
Last weekend, the Kansas State High School Activities Association celebrated 100 years of providing service to schools throughout the state. To commemorate their 100th anniversary, KSHSAA invited past state championship teams to this year's tournament sites.
The 2A women's teams gathered at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan and were recognized prior to the championship game between Moundridge and Ell-Saline.
My alma mater, Skyline High School, was state champ in 1973, 1974 and 1977. I was on the 1973 and '74 teams, as well as the 1975 team that took 3rd at state. My sister, Darci, was on the 1977 championship team.
And here's the other sister act:
The 1973 tournament was the very first state tournament for Kansas' high school girls' teams. I was a high school sophomore at the time. So we Skyline Thunderbirds have the distinction of winning the first state 2A girls' championship trophy during the tournament, which, at that time, was held at Emporia.
That meant we were the first ones on the floor of Bramlage on Saturday afternoon.
This photo was from my senior yearbook, 1975, when we got 3rd at the state tournament in Hays. (I don't have a 1973 or '74 yearbook here at my house.)
I must admit I wasn't the first one to sign up for the reunion. After all, what difference did my 13 seconds at the end of the game really make? I wasn't the reason that we won basketball games.
I wasn't really part of the team, was I?
My dad encouraged me: "Those girls had to practice against somebody, didn't they?" he told me. (I may have heard that a time or two 38 years ago, too!)
I probably rolled my eyes then, but after nearly four decades later, I have discovered that my dad is wiser than I gave him credit for during my teen years.
Yes, I was part of the team. And yes, my role was important, whether I scored the winning bucket or not.
I have an example of what happens without that in my own backyard. Stafford High School didn't have enough girls for a basketball team this year. Our girls were absorbed into the Lady Greenbacks team at Pratt High School this year.
I hope it won't be forever: We had several 8th graders who played basketball, so I hope there will be enough for a Stafford Trojan girls' team next year and in years to come.
I hope so because it is important to be part of a team.
We gathered at the home of Debbie Pinhero Farmer, one of my '73 & '74 teammates, before the KSHSAA event. And it was like the years melted away.
Yes, some of these "girls" were now grandmas. Instead of awkward high school females, there were teachers, a nurse and a veterinarian. There were people who worked in banks, in lawyer's offices, for pharmaceutical companies, in offices and in corporate boardrooms.
But it was like coming home. I'd seen some of them through the years. But even with the ones I hadn't seen in 30-plus years, it was kind of like picking up where we left off.
(And, if I'm honest, there was that remnant of high school insecurity as I got ready: Why would my hair not cooperate on today of all days? What should I wear? Come on, ladies ... surely I'm not the only one!)
But the momentary anxieties were outweighed by the renewal of friendships. And some things never change.
As we stood on the court at Bramlage, I looked across the the court. And there were my parents, in their Skyline Columbia blue, smiling and snapping photos. And even my husband - raised with Trojan red and black - was there in Skyline blue, recording the moment for me and my sister.
Yes, those are people who are part of the team, too. They are the people who cheer you on - in victory and defeat.
Kari Jones (who, by the way, was a basketball star) made a video for us to look at before we went to the ceremony. She posted it on Facebook on Monday. And as I read comments from others, it made me realize something else: People didn't have to sit at the end of the bench to be a part of the team either.
They were the ones in the stands, cheering wildly, that flooded onto the floor when the game was over. It was that feeling of pride at being a Skyline Thunderbird.
As Kari said: "There is NO WAY we could have done any of that without everyone's support. It was TOTALLY a school effort."
And that's what it means to be a champion - on and off the court.
I can't resist adding something that made me laugh out loud. I was walking off the Bramlage Court with Cindy Howell Robertson. She was one of the "young ones," as the 1977 team kept telling us all day.
As we walked past the Moundridge and Ell-Saline players who were lined up and ready to play the championship game, we told them good luck.
And then Cindy told them, " Just think: In 30-some years, you'll look like us."
I purposefully turned away and didn't watch the sheer panic wash over their faces!
But girls, I hope you are just like us. I hope you will get together and share the memories (and maybe discover a thing or two you never knew went on behind the scenes)! The memories and the emotions will be hidden in a few more wrinkles. But they'll still be there.