Over the past year, Southwestern High School welcomed in new principal Mark Flynn and Somerset High School announced a new athletic director in Kevin Burkett.
In the earlier part of their educational careers, both men had spent many years coaching various sporting teams. And both Flynn and Burkett knew they had to resolve a local sporting issue that had been festering for nearly a decade.
Disagreements between the two administrations, of Southwestern High School and Somerset High School, had led to a sporting boycott that would not allow the two schools to compete in sporting events against each other for nearly a decade in some sports. An array of issues in different sports led to some of the two schools' athletic teams not competing against each other since 2011. After 2017, a Warriors' athlete or a Briar Jumpers' athlete not were allowed to step foot in the same athletic arena.
However, both Flynn and Burkett wanted to put an end to the two local schools' athletic feud and start fresh with a renewed local cross-town rivalry between Southwestern and Somerset.
"A productive conversation between Southwestern High School and Somerset High School administrations has led to the option of athletic events between the two schools being scheduled," stated Flynn. "It was agreed that renewing the sports rivalry is in the best interests of student athletes at both schools and the option to play (each other) should be a part of their high school athletic experience. Southwestern coaches have agreed to make room available in all sports every year for the scheduling of athletic events with Somerset."
Although no athletic contests have yet to be officially scheduled between the two local schools, Somerset AD Kevin Burkett was optimistic with future sports scheduling between Somerset and Southwestern.
"We're just really excited to be able to play Southwestern again," Burkett exclaimed. "For the kids it's special, and it's special games for them. We're all members of one big giant community and they all know each other, and they grew up playing youth sports together. So, of course, they want to play each other when they get to high school."
"I'm really looking forward to renewing that rivalry and having good contests between the two schools," Burkett added. "It makes for special memories for the kids. When they come back for high school reunions and get together, that's the games they talk about is those cross-town rivalry games. Those are always special nights where you did something special and your whole community got to celebrate it."
Not that Flynn or Burkett had any reservations about renewing the rivalries between the two local schools, the two educational administrators got to witness the rivalry in action in the semifinal round of the 12th Region Volleyball Tournament, last month in Mt. Vernon. The match drew one of the biggest and energetic crowds of the tournament. Both schools had a large turnout and both cheering sections celebrated every scored point - all 131 of them.
Burkett, who started the Lady Jumpers' volleyball program back in 2003, was extremely pleased with the local schools' athletic rivalry prelude.
"It was an electric atmosphere, and a really well-played, high-level match by both teams," Burkett stated. "There's no doubt it's the right thing to do, and it's time for us to go back to play Southwestern. I think all the parties are in agreement that it's best for our kids. And at end of the day, that's what we're supposed to be doing - what's best for the kids."
STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.