Monday’s Altamont homecoming basketball game was much like those of the past.
The coronation was held between the JV and varsity games, the pep band was in full force and the student section was raucous and euphoric.
But then there was one big difference.
When it came time for the teams to enter the floor, instead of boys, there were girls.
Yes, for the first time in school history, Altamont commemorated the homecoming season with a girls’ basketball game instead of a boys’ contest.
“It was just an awesome opportunity not just for the girls but for the entire school and community,” said Altamont head coach Katie Lurkins. “I understand how it is traditionally at a boys game, but we were awarded this opportunity and the girls took it.”
Now, perhaps in a lesser dramatic fashion than one might expect, the decision to have the girls host the homecoming game wasn’t because of new-age thinking.
No, instead, it was because of a simple scheduling discrepancy.
“We’ve done a lot of changing with the boys’ schedules the last two or three years,” explained Altamont athletic director Todd Arnold. “This year we were looking at our first home boys’ game not being until December 16, so that pushed us to the point where we just couldn’t find anything closer for Homecoming.”
Arnold added that with Windsor and Stew-Stras’ full sports coop going into effect in recent years and other schedule changes, this year’s dilemma arose.
But what was at first problematic quickly became a groundbreaking idea thought up by the student council.
“It was their decision,” said Teresa Lee, the student council advisor. “They were afraid that Christmas parties and family get-togethers would interfere with people coming to the dance if we pushed it back, so then they came up with the option for the girls to host Homecoming and they said, ‘Awesome.’”
There was some concern ahead of the game that a Monday girls’ contest wouldn’t draw the same size crowd that a Friday boys’ game would–and it didn’t, but, says Arnold and company, the environment was still more than up to par.
“I’ll be honest with you, it was just like any other year,” said Arnold. “The crowd was down a little, but there was a lot of the student body there, a good crowd and the band played like they always do. You really couldn’t tell a difference until the introductions.”
Ironically enough, senior basketball player Keidron Duckwitz was one of the homecoming queen candidates. So before the varsity game, she was escorted out onto the floor, dressed in a formal gown, as were others, ahead of the homecoming court announcement. And, in fitting fashion, Duckwitz was named queen.
“It was definitely exciting getting homecoming queen, but then I just tried to collect myself since it was time to play ball,” said Duckwitz. “I was just trying to get focused on the game.”
And rightfully so since she had less than 20 minutes from the time she was crowned in her homecoming dress to tip-off, which doesn’t exactly allow for high-heels.
“I just tried to keep all my emotions under control and play ball,” she added. “I just tried to transition really quickly.”
The Lady Indians welcomed Dieterich to Altamont Monday and didn’t disappoint with a 61-31 win.
But perhaps more important than the irony of a Lady Indian earning homecoming queen or the girls hosting the event, Lurkins and Dieterich head coach Donetta Ohnesorge agreed that there was more to it.
“Katie and I have been coaching together forever,” said Ohnesorge. “I think this says a lot and I think it’s going to bring a lot more crowds. People are going to see what girls’ sports are all about whereas other times they may not come out and see the girls.”
“It doesn’t matter what gender you are, everybody needs to make sure you’re embracing the sport and your teammates and your community,” added Lurkins. “But it is a great milestone that we have the first homecoming game. And Donetta does a great job at Dieterich and she’s been there for a long time. I remember her when I was playing and then as I’ve come up coaching. So it’s great to see these female mentors in area schools. These girls can see that you can be a female in a head coach position and have a family and that support system. There is just so much opportunity. Nothing is limited anymore.”
“It shows we can compete with the men and everybody can do their part,” added Duckwitz.
Arnold says that barring any further changes to the schedule, he expects the girls will host Homecoming again in two years and every other year thereafter.
“Two years from now, we’re going to be sitting right back here again unless we get a boys' game on the schedule, which I can’t see happening,” said Arnold. “I think it’s pretty much set in stone. We’ll see two more years from now.”
And that isn’t a bad tradition to begin, says Lurkins.
“I think it’s a great forefront of how both boys and girls basketball has evolved in this area,” she said. “It’s something we look forward to alternating every other year now with the boys and making that our tradition.”