Guy Ellis

Ridgerunner culture

Christmas break is over and much to the chagrin of some kids, and joy of most parents, school is back in session.

The return to the classroom also marks a return to the gymnasium for winter sports and this past Tuesday night was a busy one for a lot of Ridgerunner fans.

I started Tuesday night in Vinita watching the GHS wrestling team battle the Hornets and the Pryor Tigers in a triangle competition.

At the conclusion of that I headed back over to Grove to catch the final few minutes of the Lady Red basketball victory over Miami and then the Ridgerunners/Wardogs game.

And I wasnít the only person making that trek. A lot of the faces I saw at Vinita were also present back in Grove to watch the basketball games. That, for me, is one of the best things about attending Ridgerunner sporting events. Besides getting a chance to see competitive teams and superior student-athletes I also get a chance to visit with parents, fans, school faculty, and other coaches. Itís always a good chance to catch up with folks and to swap a tall tale or two.

Yesterdayís newspaper had the results from everything that happened Tuesday night (sorry about the delay but I have no control over the way deadlines are structured, and sorry that there was only a half-page to put it all on, I have no control over that, either) but there were plenty of stories behind the stories that I thought to be compelling.

Iíll start with the wrestling team. Iíve got a lot of respect for the grapplers. It must be a lonely place out there on the mat; alone in a crowd so to speak, and thereís no place to hide. The sport must require a level of mental discipline and physical conditioning that goes beyond any other sport. The duals can generate a lot of drama, not only regarding what is going on in the individual matches but also regarding how those matches affect the overall team scores.

As anyone who has seen the í08-í09 Ridgerunner wrestling team can attest we have a great squad this season. The returning starters from last year are as good as ever and the new faces on the team have already made a lot of progress since the season opened with the Stilwell dual last month.

Next Friday and Saturday the wrestlers will be competing at the Jay Dual Tournament and I encourage everyone to attend. Last year the Ridgerunners swept the event going 10-0. That will be a hard act to follow but, in any event, the team is going to be highly competitive.

Readers who might be unfamiliar with the sport are encouraged to make the short drive to the county seat and discover a true sporting spectacle.

Tuesday night the Ridgerunner Marching Band, the band that pride built, was in attendance at the basketball games. Everyone I spoke with at the game loved the fact that the band was there. They really added to the atmosphere and the excitement. Of course, logistics dictate that the band canít be at every home basketball game. But it would be nice if they could make it for games against rivals like Jay. Whatever happens, they were there Tuesday night and everyone enjoyed it.

The í08-í09 Lady Red team continues to show improvement every week. Last season the team was young and inexperienced. But now, after a year of seasoning, the team is beginning to really come together. In the games that I have seen it is obvious that the players have a lot more confidence this year and they are making really smart decisions with the basketball.

The Ridgerunner team has impressed me, as well. The squad has benefited from some new players who have added a dimension of physicality and hustle. That, combined with the finesse players who have returned from last seasonís team, has produced a troupe with some real potential. The thing that has impressed me the most about the Ridgerunners this season is that they truly fight to the finish. I have never this season seen the team fold, give up, or quit trying. A team with that kind of spirit and fight is bound to find success.

The big date for Ridgerunner basketball is Tuesday January 27 when the Jay Bulldogs come to town. The boysí game last year featured two overtimes and was a real thriller. Iíve seen a little bit of the Jay teams this year and they are both highly competitive so everyone will need to turn out at the gymnasium to help cheer the home team.

I havenít had an opportunity to attend as many Jay events this season as I did last year. I really enjoy going down to Bulldog Country to attend their events. The people are really great and they support their teams one hundred percent. I have some great Jay memories from last year and I hope before the season is over Iíll get an opportunity to make some new ones.