Sports: Lakenheath High School's teams gear up for winter season
Fans of the Lakenheath Lancers have a lot to look forward to during the winter sports season. The school boasts a defending European championship cheerleading squad, a promising wrestling team and a pair of upstart basketball teams.
The season began the first weekend of December and runs through February when the teams will participate in Division I European championship tournaments.
The following is a brief overview of the winter sports teams at Lakenheath:
Boys basketballCoach John Gilmore leads a team that is short on experience but long on heart.
“They are very green, but they are good, hard workers,” Gilmore said.
He entered the season with a few talented athletes who are showing promise and a grueling schedule that includes away games at SHAPE, Würzberg, Heidelberg, Ramstein and the European championship at Mannheim.
“It’s a bigger challenge because there are more obstacles involved,” Gilmore said. “We don’t like to use them as excuses. We use them as motivation.”
The season began with a tough series of games at SHAPE that saw the team exit 0-2. But Gilmore said he saw massive improvement between the first and second game and expects the team to continue to mature.
“I can’t say anything bad about these kids,” he said. “They just want to work hard and learn the game. And when they do, it will be a different team.”
Girls basketballLast season, Lakenheath boasted a player who will soon wear the famed North Carolina blue. Trinity Bursey was a standout athlete and student who helped lead the team to a European championship last season.
This year’s team lacks a similar standout but has a handful of promising athletes and a great attitude, according to coach Janis Ready.
“We have a young team and we are trying to figure out who’s going to fit in where,” Ready said. “We have lots of potential, but a lot to learn.”
Ready said one of her main goals is to have the players abandon their street ball traits.
“Boys and girls both learn a lot playing street ball,” she said. But street ball and organized ball are not the same, she said.
Ready said she will focus on teaching the players the importance of commitment — on and off the court.
WrestlingLast season, coach Darryl Brock had a problem filling in the middle weight classes. This season, he’s having difficulties finding wrestlers for the low and high end of the 14 weight divisions.
“We had a kid to go at 275, and then he just quit after he found out that he has to have knee surgery,” Brock said. “We picked up some freshmen and they are actually going to help us fill in some holes.”
If the first tournament of the season is any indication, Brock feels his team can remain competitive. In a tourney that matched up all the U.K. schools, Lakenheath had four wrestlers claim their weight class.
No matter what the season’s outcome, Brock hopes the student athletes learn skills more important than takedowns and reversals.
“We try to teach them all to become better sportsmen and of the importance of discipline,” Brock said.
CheerleadingCoach Jennifer Henderson has been leading the squad for two seasons, both of which have concluded with the team being named the European champion. But she refuses to accept any credit.
“It’s all these kids. These kids are absolutely driven to win and now they are absolutely driven to hold the championship,” Henderson said. “They would practice every night until 9 if I would let them.”
She coaches 20 cheerleaders between the varsity and junior varsity squads and tries to ensure all of her athletes are active outside of cheering. For the majority of the cheerleaders, that isn’t a tough sell.
“I try to work on the fact that they are not just here to cheer,” she said. “For most of these kids, they have to pick and choose … they want to do so much.”