JIM PETERS: Little guys have big dreams, too

2012-05-23T19:00:00Z 2013-05-09T17:24:08Z JIM PETERS: Little guys have big dreams, tooBy Jim Peters Times Columnist nwitimes.com
May 23, 2012 7:00 pm  • 

With an enrollment of 100 or so students, LaCrosse High School has about the same number of kids walking the hall as a school like Valparaiso has on its boys track team.

So when the Tigers, whose roster numbers less than 15, have an athlete advance to the regional, it's a pretty big deal.

"Nobody's expecting anything in sports out of LaCrosse," distance runner Nate Rhodes said. "We make it regional, it starts to get our name out there."

Rhodes, who qualified for tonight's Valparaiso Regional by finishing fourth in the 1,600 at the Rensselaer Sectional, will be joined on the ride over by long jumper Tyler Bailey, who took second.

"It feels really good," Bailey said. "People say big schools go on to do big things. They don't look at the small schools. It just goes to show that a school our size can go on to the regional or even further. It means a lot."

The beauty of a sport like track is that kids like Smith and Rhodes from dots on the map like LaCrosse can rub elbows with kids from schools 25 times bigger than theirs, and compete on a level playing field. It happened in Tuesday's girls regional, where South Central's Kyleigh Werner (1,600) and Westville shot putter Savanna Jackson both qualified for state.

"That's definitely the advantage of track," said Tigers coach Todd Dermody, who played basketball at LaPorte. "You get exactly what you put into it. We'll take anybody who wants to give it a try. We'll find something for them. It's not always about competing with other guys. It's about doing better every time."

Dermody raves about Bailey, a strong student who also golfs in the spring.

"I've never seen a kid work as hard as him," he said. "Anybody with a lot of ability who worked as hard as him, they'd be leaps and bounds ahead of everybody."

Bailey jumped a personal-best 19 feet, 8 1/2 inches in the sectional.

When talent is relatively close, effort is a great equalizer. It also takes stepping to the line not worrying about the name on the front of the jersey of the kid next to you.

"You have to look at it like you're on top of the world," Bailey said, "like you're somebody big."

Rhodes got the idea last year, when he was part of the cross country team that advanced to the regional. Last fall, he qualified individually.

"Schools go against us, they think, 'Oh, LaCrosse, it's an easy win,'" he said. "Cross country has done well and now it's starting to carry over to other sports. People will have to start worrying about getting competition from our school. It makes you want to do good."

After running a PR of 4:43 in the sectional, Rhodes knows it's going to take a significant drop in time for him to extend his season. From the sounds of it, he's already cleared one important hurdle -- believing that it's not about what's on your uniform, but who's in it.

"It's going to be a long road," he said. "It's going to be hard to do, but I think I can do it. Deep down, I know I have it in me."

This column represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at jim.peters@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Follow The Times

Fan Poll

Loading…

Which school has the area's best boys tennis team?

View Results

Follow your school

Duneland Conference

Chesterton Trojans
News
Crown Point Bulldogs
News
Lake Central Indians
News
LaPorte Slicers
News
Merrillville Pirates
News
Michigan City Wolves
News
Portage Indians
News
Valparaiso Vikings
News

Greater South Shore Conference

Bishop Noll Warriors
News
Calumet Warriors
News
Lake Station Eagles
News
Michigan City Marquette Blazers
News
North Newton Spartans
News
River Forest Ingots
News
Wheeler Bearcats
News
Whiting Oilers
News

Great Lakes Athletic Conference

Clark Pioneers
News
Gavit Gladiators
News
Hammond Wildcats
News
Morton Governors
News

Hoosier Conference

Rensselaer Bombers
News

Northwest Crossroads Conference

Andrean 59ers
News
Griffith Panthers
News
Highland Trojans
News
Hobart Brickies
News
Kankakee Valley Kougars
News
Lowell Red Devils
News
Munster Mustangs
News

Northwestern Conference

Lew Wallace Hornets
News
Roosevelt Panthers
News
West Side Cougars
News

Porter County Conference

Boone Grove Wolves
News
Hanover Central Wildcats
News
Hebron Hawks
News
Kouts Mustangs/Fillies
News
LaCrosse Tigers
News
Morgan Twp. Cherokees
News
South Central Satellites
News
Washington Twp. Senators
News
Westville Blackhawks
News

Independents

Bowman Academy Eagles
News
Calumet Christian
News
Campagna Academy
News
Covenant Christian Knights
News
E.C. Central Cardinals
News
Hammond Baptist Swordsman
News
Luther East Eagles
News

Chicago Catholic League

Mt. Carmel Caravan
News
Seton Academy Sting
News
St. Francis deSales Pioneers
News

Chicago Public League

Washington Minutemen/Minutewomen
News

East Suburban Catholic

Marian Catholic Spartans
News

Metro Suburban

Illiana Christian Vikings
News

River Valley Conference

Beecher Bobcats/Ladycats
News
Illinios Lutheran Chargers
News

South Suburban Blue

T.F. North Meteors
News
T.F. South Rebels
News

Southland Athletic Conference

Bloom Twp. Blazin' Trojans
News
Crete-Monee Warriors
News

SouthWest Suburban Blue

Homewood-Flossmoor Vikings
News

SouthWest Suburban Red

Thornridge Falcons
News
Thornton Wildcats
News
Thornwood Thunderbirds
News