STEVE HANLON: Yes, there are two Lighthouses in Gary

2011-08-25T22:00:00Z 2012-08-30T23:58:13Z STEVE HANLON: Yes, there are two Lighthouses in GaryBy Steve Hanlon Prep Beat nwitimes.com
August 25, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

Sometimes life throws you a curve, right? Sometimes one needs to take more than a quick glance at something before fully understanding. Duh, I say.

Two weeks ago the IHSAA announced that West Gary Lighthouse charter school was becoming a member of the state association and would be allowed to compete in the postseason in four years. Then, one of my colleagues said, "Steve, you're a dope. Gary Lighthouse is participating in sectionals this year."

She was correct. I was confused. A headache, too.

So some clarity on this issue is needed. West Gary Lighthouse will compete in postseason play in four years. Gary Lighthouse will compete in sectionals this school year. The Lions will play their first varsity football game tonight against Lew Wallace.

Gary Lighthouse is now. West Gary Lighthouse is in four years. Got it?

Kristi Spears is the Director of College Transition at Gary Lighthouse. She is also overseeing athletics and is the school's cross country coach. Spears went to Warren Central and was the one who did not score a touchdown against Merrillville last Saturday.

Spears ran cross country at Warren, swam and also ran track. She knows how important athletics are to the overall academic structure for any teenager.

"Athletics definitely motivated me as a teenager," Spears said. "It was one of the reasons I got to school every day. It pushed me to get the best grades I could. It taught me time management and discipline. And that's what we're hoping it teaches our kids here now."

The school of 175 students -- in grades 9 through 11 -- has 70 students participating in sports this fall season. The Lions have 25 cheerleaders, 25 in cross country and 20 on the football team. They will also have boys and girls basketball and boys and girls track.

The Lions' football program will not be eligible for sectional play until the next reclassification, which will take place in 2013-14.

With only 20 athletes on the football team, staying injury free will be key. Keeping your head in the books will be even bigger.

"We are very strict in our grading policy," Spears said. "If any of our athletes flunk one class, they cannot participate."

Wow, what a novel idea. Maybe this will catch on?

Spears has seen great growth in her cross country athletes in the three years since the program started. At the first practice the run wasn't completed until 45 minutes had ticked off the clock. This year the slowest runner covered the same distance in 23 minutes.

"We've had some growing pains," Spears said on the athletic end, "but our school has doubled in size, which means there are going to be more opportunities for more kids to compete and I think that's a great thing."

And who would disagree with that?

OK. I think I've got it now. Gary Lighthouse starts IHSAA sectional play this school year. West Gary Lighthouse begins in four years. To make matters more confusing for knuckleheads like me, East Chicago Lighthouse has its first freshman class this year.

Went to sleep in Indiana. Woke up in Maine.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at steve.hanlon@nwi.com.

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