“Titletown USA” – LHS ranked top athletic program in state

By Cuyler Dunn, Staff Writer

Lawrence High School was ranked No. 1 in the state for its athletics programs.

The Lions currently have the most state titles in Kansas and one of the highest totals in the United States, which caught the attention of national media when Stadium Talk ranked LHS as the best athletics program in Kansas.

This isn’t the first time LHS has gained national attention. In 2008, Sports Illustrated named Lawrence High as the best athletic program in the state, and also in 2008 Lawrence was a finalist for ESPN’s “Titletown USA.”

“That was one of the reasons I came to Lawrence High last year,” Athletic Director John Hilton said. “The great history, pride and tradition that this high school has.”

Hilton has only been at LHS for one year but knew about Lawrence’s rich history for its athletic programs in the community long before he came to Lawrence.

“The community has forever evolved around Lawrence High and Lawrence High athletic programs,” Hilton said. “We have great support from the city, the alumni are very passionate about Lawrence High and all of our programs. That’s what attracted me. It was important to me to come some place that had a tradition where the community understood how important athletics and activities were a part of the high school experience, and I’m lucky to be apart of it.”

Coaches appreciate the ability to represent Lawrence High.

“It is awesome to be a part of Lawrence High School as a teacher and a coach,” Jack Hood said.

Hood led the girls’ track team to back-to-back state titles and received a coach of the year award. He knows the pressures faced by students and staff to achieve athletically and academically.

“The expectations for student success, in all areas — not just sports — is tremendous,” Hood said. “The banners with 111 state titles make the expectation for the sports teams clear. Other programs display their trophies or examples of student awards and that certainly sets a clear expectation for those programs and the school.”

Along with facing these pressures, Hood has seen what can make students succeed at the highest level on the track, field, court and in the classroom.

“We do not lower our expectations, we try and lift every student to be the best that they can,” Hood said. “When that is your building expectation, it becomes your program’s culture.”

Junior Aubrey Fischer said being part of the state championship swim team last year had a positive impact on her.

“I think it’s mostly because it’s been a long time since we’ve won at state, so it was more about getting to that point where we had enough people to get there,” Fischer said.

She stressed the importance of working with teammates.

“A lot of it is just knowing what you’re putting into the team and watching what you’re doing matter and being there for each other,” Fischer said.

Fischer is excited for this year but is not letting last year’s success impact her focus for this season.

“We’ve lost a lot of our seniors so hopefully we can still place at state,” Fischer said, “but I’m not expecting too much yet.”

Hilton wants LHS to continue to grow and thinks the best way to do this is to continue to involve more students.

“We have a lot of kids involved, but I want to see even more kids getting involved,” Hilton said.

Hilton knows LHS is more than just the No. 1 athletic school in Kansas. He believes playing and coaching the right way is what LHS athletics have been about for decades.

“I’m proud of how hard our kids compete and how our coaches model appropriate behavior for our fans, students, and for our athletes. I’m proud of the perception that people have of Lawrence High and how we do things the right way.”