United as One

Some schools offer only a limited selection of sports, so their athletes compete for other schools, such as City High

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Julianne Berry-Stoelzle

Shyan Skriver ’24 and Shaylin Brown ’22 smile as they pose in their City High swim gear. They both go to West Branch High School but swim for the City High girls swimming and diving team.

By Julianne Berry-Stoelzle, Iowa City High School

Teammates train together, compete together, and work together towards a common goal. For high school sports teams, this often means representing their school. However, not all athletes are enrolled in the school that they represent in competition. Some athletes go to schools such as City High to participate in sports that are not offered at their own school.

Each year, a handful of City High athletes come from schools such as West Branch, Lone Tree, Regina, and Solon, which have a limited sports capacity due to their smaller size. Cooperative sharing agreements enable these athletes to participate in City High athletics and represent The Little Hawks in competition.

“Having the experience to run at City High is amazing and I love to do it every year,” Avery Schultes ‘23 said.

Schultes goes to West Branch High School and started cross country at South East in seventh grade. She has run cross country as part of the City High girls team for the last two years. While she would like for West Branch to have its own cross country team, she realizes the small size of the school would make it difficult. 

“I would always like to try and have one at West Branch, but that may not be possible,” Schultes said. “City High has a chance so I’m just gonna take a look and see what happens.”

In the fall, City High has around two to four athletes on both girls and boys cross country teams, as well as the girls swim team, who are enrolled in other schools.

“High school athletics is all about learning life lessons through the sport you participate and compete in. I am extremely glad we are able to provide these opportunities to students at our neighboring schools when they do not have the opportunity to compete at their sport in their home school,” City High athletic director, Philip Hansen, said.

Having to go to a different school for athletics can make starting a new team seem daunting. Shaylin Brown ‘22, who also goes to West Branch, worried about not knowing anyone on the City High girls swim team the first day she showed up to practice.

“I was very nervous because some of these people go to schools with each other, so they know each other. The first day I definitely felt like a little bit of an outsider because I was from a different school,” Brown said.

It’s weird for me to go to City High and just run cross country and leave because I don’t actually go to school [there]. Other people will see me at the school and see me running and be like ‘I don’t recognize you. You don’t go to City High.”

— Schultes

Schultes felt similarly nervous about her first practice with the cross country team and she continues to feel out of place in certain situations.

“It’s weird for me to go to City High and just run cross country and leave because I don’t actually go to school [there],” Schultes said. “Other people will see me at the school and see me running and be like ‘I don’t recognize you. You don’t go to City High.’”

Brown feels like she has to act more conscientiously than athletes that go to City High.

“I don’t feel treated differently [because I go to a different school], but I feel like I have to have more respect because I’m coming from a different school. I want to make sure that our school looks good. I’m representing my school,” Brown said.

However, despite their concerns, both girls feel like they have found a spot for themselves on their respective teams. 

“It is a cool experience to have, especially if you don’t have a cross country team [at your school],” Schultes said. “Seeing your friends [from City] is just amazing because you really only see them once a year.”

Ryan Ahlers is the City High girls cross country head coach. He considers it important to create an environment that attracts student-athletes from West Branch.

“Even though the student-athletes go to a different school for the academic portion of their day, they are Little Hawks 100% when they join our women’s XC program. Our family atmosphere helps a lot with that!” Ahlers said.

Brown has also found some advantages to participating in sports at a larger school.

I am so glad I am a part of the City High team. It is like my little family, my swimming family.”

— Brown

“I’m also kind of glad we don’t have a swim team because then I get to go to City High and make new friends and be a part of that team,” Brown said. “I think it’s a great opportunity because you’re swimming for a bigger school so you get to go against bigger schools.”

Looking back, Brown is happy with her decision to go to City High for athletics.

“It is so much fun now. I’m glad my little nervous freshman self went to that [first] practice because I am so glad I am a part of the City High team. It is like my little family, my swimming family,” Brown said.

This story was originally published on The Little Hawk on January 4, 2021.