COLUMBIA STATION — The smallest public high school in Lorain County packed quite an athletic punch this school year.
While the Columbia High School softball team will play Columbus Bishop Ready today in a Division III state semifinal, that success is just the latest, and the biggest, in an impressive list of athletic accolades earned in 2012-13.
Columbia started out with a Patriot Athletic Conference golf title. Then the football team took over, going 10-2 and racking up the most wins in school history in a season which included the first home playoff game and the first postseason win.
In the winter, the boys basketball team went undefeated in the PAC to win its first conference title in 21 years. The Raiders made it a clean sweep on the diamond in the spring, winning division titles in baseball and softball, with the softball team also going undefeated in conference play.
“The community is always here for us,” senior softball player Nicolette Kunath said. “If you go to the football games or basketball games, it’s always packed and all the teams support each other and that pushes everybody to work even harder. When we came back on Saturday (after winning regionals) they had a parade for us. We were escorted back to the school by the fire trucks and ambulances.”
While the football team made a big splash with its playoff run, it’s been the softball program that has been the beacon of consistency, winning the Stripes Division in six of the last seven seasons.
“We kinda got the year off on the right foot, but the softball team has been so successful for so long we’ve been chasing them for a long time,” Columbia football coach Jason Ward said. “To see the softball team get this far is a great moment for our school, and everyone in the athletic department is really proud of them. I hope the football guys are looking at them and saying, ‘OK, we made it to the second round last year. If they can go all the way so can we.”
Senior Christine Lyzen, who is a member of the softball and basketball teams, said the sports teams have helped unite the school and community.
“Small-town Columbia, we’ve really been getting our name out there in the past year,” she said. “It’s a great feeling and everyone is supportive of everyone else, but you see what the other teams have done and you think you want that too.”
First-year softball coach Ken Lugo agreed that community involvement and a culture of success have propelled all of the Raiders’ athletic successes.
“The community involvement here is huge,” Lugo said. “So many of the alumni are still here, still involved. They played sports and now when their kids are coming through the school system they have been taught what it takes to be successful.”
Lugo also believes championship seasons in one sport can carry over to the next.
“Football had a great year this year, the boys basketball team had a tremendous season, the girls basketball team has consistently been one of the best in the conference, so the softball girls come into practice saying, ‘What about us? It’s our turn now,’” Lugo said.
Once the facilities are in place and the fan base and student-athletes are ready to go, the final piece of the puzzle is a coaching staff that can help push the teams over the top. According to senior softball player Emma Sullivan, the Raiders have the edge there as well.
“We have good coaches top to bottom throughout the school,” she said. “All of the coaches have had success here or in other programs. Our football coach is a really great guy. Even Mr. Hodkey (Columbia athletic director Todd Hodkey)is always at our games and supporting us. We’re all lucky to have so many great coaches in the building supporting us. They give us so much of their time for us, it pushes us to work hard every day because we don’t want to feel like we’ve let them down.”
- WHAT: Division III state semifinal
- WHO: Columbia (28-4) vs. Bishop Ready (15-15)
- TIME: TBD (fourth game of the day; first starts at 9 a.m.)
- WHERE: Firestone Stadium, Akron
- RADIO: WEOL 930-AM
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.