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THE END OF AN ERA AT NE HAMILTON

This is a column I’ve had a year to write and, believe me, I’ve tried on multiple occasions. But where do I start? What do I say? Is there anything I can say that will make anyone feel better?

The doors at Northeast Hamilton High School are officially closed. The Trojan logo that I have pulled onto the Daily Freeman-Journal sports pages hundreds of times over the years is now retired.

May was a difficult month as the final graduating class put on the caps and gowns and eloquently spoke about what their peers, teachers, community members and, yes, their school had meant to them.

Still, it wasn’t over then, not for me anyway. I still had the summer to watch and report on the Trojans as they stepped onto baseball fields all over central Iowa. But that also ended too quickly with a 2-1 loss to CAL in a Class 1A district quarterfinal on Tuesday in Belmond.

And just like that, here I sit in front of my computer. Trying to think of something – anything – that I can write that will make the pain go away just a little.

I didn’t grow up in this neck of the woods. I didn’t attend Northeast Hamilton, so I know I cannot comprehend the profound sadness that so many in the burgs of Blairsburg, Kamrar and Williams feel at this time. A school is oftentimes the identity of a community in the rural parts of Iowa; it’s been that way for generations.

Truth be told, I’ve identified more with Northeast Hamilton than I have the two other Hamilton County schools since I took this position almost 16 years ago. Like all of you past and present Trojans and Trojets, I grew up in a town (North English) that was no more than the tiniest of dots on any map, and I graduated from English Valleys High School with 40 kids in my class.

Just like many of you, I played sports. Not one sport like you see from a large section of athletes in metro schools across the state. Not two sports. I played sports; whatever was in season, I was playing.

And do you know what? I wouldn’t want it any other way. I didn’t play in front of thousands of fans, nor did I get the chance to wow college scouts (not that I would have anyway), but I was able to try it all. That small-town, small-school environment made me into the person I am today.

As I think about my own school, I wonder what it will feel like when the day inevitably comes that I hear that it, too, will be shutting off its lights for good. With state funding for schools the way that it is and with families flocking to the cities and suburbs, it would be naive of me to think it can’t or won’t happen.

It would leave a pit in my stomach, I know that. But what it would do is motivate me to keep the memories, my memories, alive for as long as I could.

I hope that’s what you do, Northeast Hamilton alumni. Remember your time there. Reminisce. Those memories will never disappear unless you let them.

There are many things that I’m going to miss about Northeast Hamilton. The athletes and coaches have always treated me with kindness and respect, and I hope I’ve helped to tell your stories that will be remembered for generations.

I’ll miss the passion – the special kind that only comes from small towns. It’s something that I can’t explain; you just had to live it to understand it.

I’ll miss talking to football coach John Seiser on Sundays in the fall. Win or lose, he always brought humor to the conversations that made them a welcome addition to my weekly schedule. Watching his Trojans win the 2006 Class 8-man state championship remains one of my favorite moments on the job.

It’s been a few years, but I still miss talking to the two Brandons – Frowhein and Kelley. Frohwein had a calmness about him as the girls’ basketball coach, while Kelley, well, was Kelley (again, you just have to know him to understand). There were many nights in the winter and summer that he called my cell phone at 1 or 2 a.m. to give me statistics on his boys’ basketball and baseball squads. And as he’s told me on several occasions, there was a lot of “talking him off the ledge” during those calls.

But most of all, I’ll miss the kids. The classes were never large, but Northeast Hamilton always had great athletes. There’s no way I can put all the names down in this column, but just know that I won’t forget.

So I say goodbye, Northeast Hamilton, and thanks. I’ve certainly enjoyed the ride. I hope you have, too.