|Shown above are the recipients of the 2013 National High
School Spirit of Sport Award (students and administrators from
Salyersville [Kentucky] Magoffin County High School and
Russellville [Kentucky] Logan County High School) during
the 2013 NFHS Summer Meeting Opening General Session
in Denver, Colorado.
Two Kentucky high schools from opposite ends of the state – separated by nearly 300 miles and until recently strangers to each other – are the 2013 recipients of the NFHS’ National High School Spirit of Sport Award.
Those two high schools – Magoffin County High School in Salyersville at the foothills of the Appalachians in the eastern part of the state and Logan County High School in Russellville out west – had not traditionally been opponents or rivals in sports, nor do they have much in common. However, they were brought together in a manner that changed both schools and communities forever.
On Friday, March 2, 2012, a series of deadly tornadoes ripped through the Salyersville area causing major devastation. Although nobody in Salyersville was killed, the townspeople emerged the next day with their community in shambles.
That Friday was the night before the scheduled Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) 15th Region girls basketball game between Magoffin County High School and Paintsville High School. The game was moved to Monday night and, before a very small contingent of Magoffin County fans, the Lady Hornets defeated Paintsville, 49-40. Following the game, then-Magoffin County girls basketball coach Steve Miller captured the unwavering resiliency of the basketball team and the entire community of Salyersville when he coined the inspirational phrase “One team. One goal. One promise. We Are Magoffin.”
“In the two or three days after the tornado, I drew upon some things from my coaching experience and the ‘We Are Marshall’ movie to come up with that,” Miller said. “The rallying cry is ‘You may knock us down, but we will come back, as We Are Magoffin.’”
Two days later at the KHSAA Sweet 16® state tournament at Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Magoffin County was pitted against much-larger Ashland Blazer High School. Prior to the game, the two teams gathered at center court for a moment of silence. After trailing in the second half, Magoffin County came back to win, 63-59.
As Logan County girls basketball coach Scot MacAllister watched the game from the stands, he became both inspired by the undersized but feisty Magoffin County players as they upset Ashland Blazer, and moved by the stark realities that they dealt with both inside and outside the confines of the gymnasium.
“I’m watching the game and seeing those kids out there battling and playing hard. But when they go home, some had no homes to go to,” MacAllister recalled. “I looked in the crowd and there’s nobody there from Magoffin to support them. Your heart just goes out to them.”
As a result, MacAllister decided to offer his facility to the Magoffin County players as a “home away from home” in which they could practice, seek refuge or just get away. When the Lady Hornets arrived at Logan County, they were amazed to be greeted by 300 students who had organized a pep rally and a pizza party for them. MacAllister’s daughter, Shannon – who was a basketball player for Logan County – played a key role in that event.
“I was a teacher’s aide and I grabbed another teacher’s aide and we made at least six signs for Magoffin,” Shannon said. “One of them was a big poster that said ‘We Believe.’ We ate with them, talked with them and did the ‘We Believe’ cheer before they went to the tournament.”
“When we walked in there, it was basically like being a rock star,” Miller said. “They rolled out the red carpet for us – it was neat. It gave you goose bumps and it was just amazing.”
Giving up their time and at their own expense, the Logan County students donned Magoffin County school colors and drove 30 miles from Russellville to Diddle Arena, where they filled one of the end zones. Throughout the game, the Logan County group enthusiastically supported Magoffin County with voracious cheers and chants that they had practiced both at school and en route to the game. The emotion in the arena was electric. Although Magoffin County lost that game to Lincoln County, Logan County’s selfless support and involvement became the big story of the tournament.
Nine months later, the Magoffin County administration and students decided that they wanted to repay the Logan County group’s kindnesses by making a surprise visit to their first home game. On December 1, 2012, two busloads of Magoffin County students made the long five-hour drive from Salyersville to Russellville.
“The trip was Principal Tony Skaggs’s idea,” said Magoffin County girls basketball coach Scott Castle. “I knew coach MacAllister from coaching the Kentucky Blast AAU team with him in the summer, on which my daughter, Jamie, and his daughter, Shannon, were teammates. He was completely unaware that we were coming to their season-opening game.”
As the Magoffin County contingent poured into the gym that night, it became very apparent the impact that had on McAllister, who was moved to tears by what he saw.
“I have to walk through a classroom that doesn’t have any windows to get to the gym, so I didn’t know what was going on out there,” MacAllister said. “I walk out there and I see all those Magoffin kids walking across the floor. When you do the right thing like we did in March, you really don’t expect anything in return. I think it’s really cool to create friends and then people go out of their way to reciprocate. That’s what high school sports are all about.”
|Shown above are NFHS Executive Director Bob Gardner,
Russellville (Kentucky) Logan County High School Athletic
Director Hugh McReynolds, Salyersville (Kentucky) Magoffin
County High School Principal Tony Skaggs and 2012-13 NFHS
President Kevin Charles during the 2013 NFHS Summer
Meeting Opening General Session in Denver, Colorado.
About the Award
In addition to the selection of Logan County High School and Magoffin County High School as the national award recipients, the NFHS National High School Spirit of Sport Award Selection Committee chose eight individuals for section awards. Following are the 2013 National High School Spirit of Sport section winners:
Section 1 – Kendra Cimaglia, cheerleader, Johnston (Rhode Island) High School
Section 2 – Russellville (Kentucky) Logan County High School and Salyersville (Kentucky) Magoffin County High School
Section 3 – David Goldstein, student-athlete, Miami (Florida) Ransom Everglades High School
Section 4 – Todd Hollis, teacher/coach, Elmwood (Illinois) High School
Section 5 – Justin Volkman, student-athlete, Chapman (Kansas) High School
Section 6 – Charlotte Brown, student-athlete, Emory (Texas) Rains High School
Section 7 – Carson Jones, student-athlete, Queen Creek (Arizona) High School
Section 8 – Kory Puderbaugh, student-athlete, Boise (Idaho) Centennial High School
Nominations for this award were generated through NFHS member state associations and reviewed by the NFHS National High School Spirit of Sport Award Selection Committee composed of state association staff members. While the national winner will be recognized June 24 at the NFHS Summer Meeting in Denver, Colorado, the section winners will be recognized within their respective states and will receive awards before the end of the current school year.