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Is Shorewood High Emerging As A 'Sports School?'

Shorewood schools are widely known for their strong focus on the arts, and with that has emerged the perception that it isn't a "sports district." But, is that a false perception, given recent success by several teams?

The Shorewood School District is widely known for its strong focus on the arts, with celebrated theater, band, orchestra and choral programs, churning out right-brained graduates.

With that, some argue the district's sports programs have suffered over the years as a result. A perception has emerged that Shorewood isn’t a "sports district," and doesn’t put an emphasis on athletics, high school track coach and Lake Bluff physical education teacher Dominic Newman said.

“I feel that Shorewood is not recognized as a sports district,” Newman said. "That's a perception that every coach is trying to change."

But athletics in the district seem to be on the verge of a revival. 

Shorewood High School was ranked third in the Wisconsin Sports Network Cup standings for the fall sports season, behind Madison Edgewood and Arrowhead, and was in the top five for medium schools for all sports seasons last year. The WSN Cup totals points earned in both men's and women's sports, awarded for finishes in the state tournament of every sport sponsored by the WIAA. Generally, the top 32 teams in each sport are awarded points. 

Shorewood has long been a powerhouse in sports like girls swimming, with that team winning its seventh state title last season, and boys cross country, with that team capturing its eighth state title since 2000.

High school boys track team member Justin Rabon won the 200-meter and the 400-meter titles last summer. He also anchored the first place 4 x 400 relay team along with Alec Grimmer, Taylor Dennis, and Jacob Goldberg, setting a new state record in the process. 

Also a running back with the Messmer/Shorewood co-op football team, Grimmer, who rushed for 901 yards and 16 touchdowns with Messwood last season, said he was on the team his freshman and sophomore year when they picked up just one win.

Before merging football squads with Messmer High School in 2001, Shorewood’s team lost 63 straight games. The Messwood team has re-emerged as a winning team, reaching the playoffs the past two years under coach Drake Zortman.

"It has been really trying at times, especially those first couple seasons, but it's been really fun lately, because we are on a good path," Grimmer said. 

Grimmer, who also plays basketball at Shorewood, said the basketball programs are on the same path as football — getting better each season. 

Dating back to 2008, the girls basketball team went winless for two seasons in a row, but finished this year with its first winning season in more than 15 years.

Boys basketball head coach Phil Jones said he has been working to eliminate a losing mentality, with the team going 13-33 over two seasons, before improving to 24-22 in the past two seasons.

Additionally, the boys soccer team came up just short of a state tournament berth, losing to Pewaukee in a penalty shootout following two overtime periods. The girls went 12-5 last season, losing in WIAA sectionals to Catholic Memorial. 

"There's a new sense of excitement, because many programs are seeing success," Newman said. 

Shorewood does, however, continue to struggle in programs like baseball, where the team when 4-19 last season and softball, where the team had a 2-17 record. 

Newman said a lot of schools link the success of their athletics to their football and basketball programs, but as those popular sports become more successful, it has a residual effect on participation in other sports. 

"Shorewood athletics are on the rise," Newman said. "We are seeing more athletes participating. Just within cross-country, I have 36 athletes this season, 99 for track, that's the highest we've ever had. Our programs are getting stronger."

Among the 11 Woodland Conference schools, Shorewood is third in participation behind Cudahy and Pewaukee. Girls and boys cross country, and swimming, have seen a huge uptick in participation since 2008-2009, along with small strides in football, girls soccer. However, baseball, girls softball and golf have seen declining participation, while interest in other sports generally haven't changed. 

Student athletes like Grimmer, Bobby Kohl (soccer, football and basketball) and Donovan Freeman (basketball and football) have crossed over into multiple sports and become leaders on those teams, Shorewood Athletic Director Bill Haury said. 

"The college coaches really wants kids to be able to do different things and know how to make decisions in different settings," Haury said. "If you are always playing soccer, yeah, you know what to do on the soccer field, but if you're playing different sports, when you're confronted with a quick decision, it really broadens your ability to perform."

The key change in Newman's eyes was the work Haury has been doing, and his passion for all sports programs in the district.

"Over the last eight or nine years, he is always at the games, and really devoted," Newman said. 

“As you can see things are starting to change and we are fairing well in sports for a school our size and by divisions."

But with Haury retiring after at the end of the school year, Newman said he worried about what that will mean for Shorewood athletics, and if the next director will be as devoted to all sports programs as Haury is. 

CowDung March 28, 2013 at 02:11 PM
I'm happy to see Shorewood excel in activities other than music/drama. I hope the sports program continues to grow and get stronger. Add some basic engineering, design and drafting classes, and we will have a top notch school system creating students with a diverse range of interests and knowledge prepared for their futures.
Pete March 28, 2013 at 05:01 PM
I agree with CowDung!!! Now THAT is crazy
Jory Pradjinski March 29, 2013 at 12:58 AM
Sports is great, but, in all honesty it isn't enough to prepare kids for their futures. It's an awesome opportunity for many kids. I know one young man that really found himself due to sports. However, I agree with CowDung that Shorewood really needs to add in basic engineering, design and drafting classes, and much more that has incredible potential to help kids find a possible career path or at least an interest. They all aren't going to get sports scholarships and many don't see anything worth their time in the other class offerings. America is vastly behind in creating strong people for our future, Shorewood needs to change and provide better opportunities for kids. Maybe less of them will get into booze and drugs. Having a nickname of "Shoreweed" isn't wonderful but apparently fitting.
N. Peske March 29, 2013 at 11:57 AM
Beautifully stated. We definitely have some great sports opportunities with cross country and swimming, and sports can help kids stay off drugs and teach teamwork and relying on others, which is really important. However, we also have to look at how we are serving ALL students. Not everyone's a liberal arts type and book learner or into COMPETITIVE sports. What happened to dance (folk dancing used to be part of p.e.)? Why no yoga in p.e.? Also, when children have no outlet for expressing their strengths, and feel that "school's a place where I stink at everything," they become at risk for self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. Savvy parents will try to find outlets outside of school of course, but we need to be more aware of the needs of all our students including the ones destined for STEM fields who are best with hands-on learning. How would the future Steve Jobs or Bill Gates do in Shorewood schools? And let's not forget the girls in this category, either! That said, there are other underlying reasons for students using drugs and alcohol that we need to be more adept at addressing when it comes to how we teach about risky behaviors. There are multiple reasons the "Shorewood" nickname, which reflects the behavior of a very small number of students, persists and we need to look at them.

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