Lexington and Holdrege high schools are located about 40 miles apart in Nebraska and have a longstanding relationship through friendly competition in athletics. Recently, Lexington High School was realigned into the Central Conference, alongside Holdrege.
This fall, instead of simply playing the new conference school in a football game, the principals at both schools agreed to come together and do something more special.
The Lexington High School student body received permission to welcome students from Holdrege to a tailgate before the game where the new conference members could mingle and exchange conversation.
Holdrege’s student body and faculty signed a banner that read, “Lexington High School, Welcome to the Central Conference” and presented it before the game started. Students from Holdrege and Lexington met at midfield, despite the rain and cold, to shake hands and exchange the banner.
“We have always had a great relationship with Lexington and a long history of good competition, so it was easy to welcome them into our conference,” Holdrege Principal Robert Drews said. “The tailgate and exchange of the banner was a great way to show our welcome and sportsmanship toward Lexington.”
Kyle Hoehner, the principal of Lexington High School, was proud of his students’ willingness to share the night with their so-called rivals.
“In a time when our country can seem divisive, and the world of sports might seem like it’s only about winning, things like this happen that snap us back into the right frame of mind,” Hoehner said. “One of the most important aspects of high school sports are the relationships that are built among teammates, coaches and opponents.”
The focus of this event was not for attention or to create a larger sense of rivalry with a standoff at the 50-yard line. This event took place to remind athletes, parents, coaches and students that high school sports is about making relationships and unifying one another.
Sportsmanship is something that these two principals implement throughout their schools and hope for it to be an unspoken rule during competitions.
"When schools work together to support one another and welcome each other, as Holdrege did for Lexington, it makes an impact on all those who are involved,” Hoehner said. “I applaud the Holdrege administration and student body for reminding all of us how athletics can serve as a vehicle for unity across our state, and nation.”
The schools will follow up with another student event before the teams play each other in basketball where the pep bands from each school will have a special performance together.
Madi McGuire was an intern in the NFHS Publication/Communications Department and a junior at Butler University in Indianapolis.