A. C. Cain

Finding the major stories in the minor leagues

Category: Local Sports (page 1 of 2)

From athlete’s standpoint Title IX has a long way to go

Since its creation in 1972, Title IX has made a lot of progress for gender equality in high school athletics. Girls are receiving more opportunities to play sports, and funding for girls’ and boys’ programs has begun to balance out.

Perhaps the most notable change Title IX has created is making others, coaches, athletic directors and administration, aware of the need for equality.

TitleIX

Infographic created by Ariane Cain at easel.ly

Thomas Legath, Exeter Township School District’s athletic director, thinks that the secret to being successful as far as Title IX is concerned is to view all of the teams simply as sports teams, without focusing on the difference between boys’ and girls’ teams.

“I treat every coach how they should be treated, and they don’t feel that they’re not getting something someone else is,” Legath said.

While those in charge focus on the big changes and see how far they have come, the student athletes are looking at the little things, and see how far they still have to go.

Jessica Stout, a senior at Exeter Township Senior High School, played varsity softball for three years and is currently a member of the track team. Her participation in the two sports has given her a unique perspective on these equality issues, and she notices the things that seem minor, but mean a lot to the students.

“Some of the products that we have for softball weren’t quite the same as baseball. Not a huge issue, but I would say, it would be nice. Just a little bit more equal,” Stout said, looking at the differences between baseball and softball.

Legath tries to stay ahead of Title IX by balancing out as much as he can from his end.

“I try to make sure the things I can control, which are the spending of the money for the teams, are consistent for our girls’ and boys’ teams,” Legath said.

Legath also makes sure that every team has an equal number of home and away games, and an equal amount of opportunities to play on the shared playing surfaces, such as the stadium and basketball courts.

For the students, it isn’t really a game of numbers.

The scoreboard at Exeter's varsity baseball field. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

The scoreboard at Exeter’s varsity baseball field. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

“The boys definitely have the scoreboard functioning pretty nice, the girls don’t,” Stout said, providing a clear example.

The empty scoreboard frame at Exeter's varsity softball field. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

The empty scoreboard frame at Exeter’s varsity softball field. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

The scoreboards in question are drastically different, with the baseball field boasting a fully functioning electronic scoreboard. The softball field hosts a wooden frame, which used to have a simple scoreboard that has since been removed.

As Stout pointed out, it’s the small things that matter.

The view from the pitcher's mound, looking towards the outfield wall at Exeter's varsity baseball field. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

The view from the pitcher’s mound, looking towards the outfield wall at Exeter’s varsity baseball field. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

The baseball field has a permanent outfield fence and wall, while the softball team has a temporary snow fence erected each season. A permanent fence on the softball field would prevent the outfields of the back-to-back

The temporary fence constructed for the softball team each season. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

The temporary fence constructed for the softball team each season. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

softball fields from becoming a Jr. High football and field hockey field during the fall season.

 

The majority of high schools in Berks County have nicely constructed dugouts on their baseball fields, while the softball fields have only benches for the teams.

The home dugout at Exeter's varsity baseball field. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

The home dugout at Exeter’s varsity baseball field. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

“It’s pretty equal with track,” Stout said, “because we’re all together. We use the same blocks, we use the same javelins and stuff like that. There’s not much that could be different.”

The field sports all use the same field, same stands, same benches and same scoreboard. Those sports that are forced to use different playing surfaces and equipment are the ones

The home bench at Exeter's varsity softball field. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

The home bench at Exeter’s varsity softball field. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

that suffer, and because there are few sports in this situation, at Exeter baseball and softball are the only sports that cannot share a playing field, the differences tend to be overlooked.

Some differences can’t be helped, such as the fact that the school was built with the baseball field front and center while the softball fields are tucked away behind the Jr. high. Even Stout said that while it would be nice to be closer to the action, it’s not really an issue. While she admitted that the softball team loses some fans due to their lack of proximity to the high school, that isn’t really what matters the most to the team.

“I would like to see the equipment, stuff like that, especially along baseball, softball, more of stuff along those lines, balanced out a little,” Stout said.

Title IX has helped schools make a lot of progress in terms of gender equality, but, when the little things are considered, there is still a long way to go.

 

 

 

An expectation to win: How Exeter girls’ tennis changed from unnoticed to undefeated

Abby Rutt (Photo: Dr. John Pankratz)

Abby Rutt (Photo: Dr. John Pankratz)

At first glance, Abby Rutt looks more like a high school student than a teacher. On the tennis courts during practice she could easily be mistaken for a member of the team, not the coach. With a petite frame and a nearly permanent smile, she isn’t often described as intimidating. Underestimating her as a coach, however, could be a big mistake.

In the nine seasons Rutt has been a coach, the Exeter girls’ tennis team has gone from being one of the weakest sports programs in the school district to one of the strongest tennis teams in the state.

The journey began in 2007, when Rutt filled the new assistant coach position.

“I needed a job,” Rutt says, laughing at the unglamorous start to the story. “Plus I was going back to school for teaching, it would look good on my resume, and it was kind of the same thing as teaching, coaching, so it was a good way to step into it.”

Abby Rutt coaches a player in her first year as head coach. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

Abby Rutt coaches a player in her first year as head coach. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

Rutt’s carefree attitude as a coach matched that of her players, even when she became the head coach in 2008.

“A lot of those girls at that point were just doing it to have fun and be part of a team. They didn’t expect to win,” Rutt said.

Not only did the players have low expectations, a lack of success throughout the program’s history had formed very low expectations for the team in general.

“I think part of it is that nobody else expected them to win, so they didn’t have that kind of motivation, so it was a little hard to motivate them to push themselves harder to get better and try to get those wins,” Rutt said.

The path to the high school from the courts at the community park. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

The bridge toward the high school campus from the courts at the community park. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

When Rutt began coaching, the team practiced and played on courts owned by the school, but located in a neighboring community park.

“We were literally over the river and through the woods,” Rutt joked, thinking of the trek the girls had to make to get to practice each day.

The community park courts, marked as property of the school district. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

The community park courts, marked as property of the school district. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

On their isolated courts, the team received occasional cheers from the cross-country team passing by, but very few other spectators a part from parents. Several times the police had to be called to settle disputes happening elsewhere in the park during matches.

When Exeter made the unexpected decision to resurface the courts on the high school campus, Rutt made the decision to shift the practices and matches out of the park. While the high school only had four courts compared to the park’s five, Rutt felt the move would be beneficial for the team. While her thoughts were about safety and convenience, the move paid off in more ways than she anticipated.

The high school tennis courts lie just past the football field as a spectator approaches the school.

The high school tennis courts lie just past the football field as a spectator approaches the school. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

“I fully believe that made a huge impact,” Rutt said emphatically. “As far as mentality, and attitude . . . and just feeling part of the school, of the whole athletic program. And having a lot more support. You have the football team walking by and their coaches are calling out to you, and field hockey. There’s so much more support and motivation, and just that sense of belonging that motivates you to want to be a good part, a successful part, of that community.”

Slowly, the team began to improve. As Rutt realized that the team could be competitive, she knew something had to change for them to succeed. That change began with her mentality. Rutt transitioned from being admittedly uncompetitive to creating what she refers to as “an expectation to win.”

“Not just that we as coaches expect you to win, or, you know, the district expects you to win, but you want the players coming into the team to already have that expectation. I’m joining this team and I expect to be a winner and I expect that I will contribute to that winning record for the team,” Rutt explained.

New players joining the team helped to bring this expectation to the players who had grown accustomed to not winning.

“It took a couple years and having one or two really strong players that brought that mentality with them, and set that example. In a lot of ways it’s easier for a player to motivate other players than it is for a coach to motivate the players, in different ways,” Rutt said.

Team members celebrate and commemorate their first county championship in 2014. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

Team members celebrate and commemorate their first county championship in 2014. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

The expectation paid off. Rutt’s proudest memory as a coach is the first Berks County Championship her team won.

“At that point, it was a huge achievement, and it was still somewhat unexpected. Very much unexpected as far as anyone else in the county went, but even as far as us, there was definitely still some part of me that didn’t quite fully believe that we could do it or would do it,” Rutt said. “To see them achieve that, and to see how excited and how happy they were just with that, not even realizing how much more they would go on to achieve.”

Now, the team boasts back-to-back county and district championships, the county and district singles champion and the county double champions. The county singles and double championship matches boasted only Exeter players. Under Rutt’s guidance, the team has gone from unnoticed to unbeatable.

“People know we have a tennis team, for one thing,” Rutt said. “People come to see our matches, which never happened, other than parents. People start following our scores in the paper.”

The girls' tennis team has earned its own corner of the trophy case.

The girls’ tennis team has earned its own corner of the trophy case. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

The team has been recognized at school board meetings and football games. They’re garnering attention for more than just their ability to win, however.

Rutt’s focus on team building and having fun has created one of the tightest teams in the school.

William Cain, Exeter High School principal, is impressed with their development as a team, more than their ability to win.

“How they all pull for each other,” Cain said, when considering what has impressed him the most. “It’s almost as if being a team is more important for them than being winners.”

With numerous players graduating this year and next, the future of the team is uncertain. Rutt takes a stance that all sports teams need to understand when faced with a rebuilding period, and she hopes their fans will understand as well.

“No one’s gonna win forever, everybody has a down year,” Rutt said, but even if the team doesn’t reach the same level of greatness, they now know what is possible and Rutt now has an expectation to win.

Reading Fightin’s begin celebration of 50 Phillies seasons in Reading

Fans root for a Fightin's victory on Opening Night, April 9, 2016. Photo by Ariane Cain.

Fans root for a Fightin’s victory on Opening Night, April 9, 2016. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

On Thursday, April 7, 2016, the Reading Fightin’ Phils Officially began the 50th Phillies Season in Reading.

The celebration of the 50th season of affiliation between the two clubs will last through the entire 2016 season, but the opening weekend festivities served as a great beginning for the fans and employees.

The weather seemed to be working to spoil the celebration, with a 54-degree game-time temperature on Thursday night being the warmest of the 4-game series against the Portland Sea Dogs, but the Reading fans brought hats, gloves and blankets. Vendors switched from cold drinks to hot chocolate, and the celebration began.

Ben Smith, the Fightin’s Music and Sound Coordinator, said the cold weather was unfortunate, but seeing the fans return to Baseballtown after a long winter was exciting.

The Reading Fighting' Phils and the Portland Sea Dogs line up for the National Anthem prior to the opening game on April 9, 2016. Photo by Ariane Cain

The Reading Fighting’ Phils and the Portland Sea Dogs line up for the National Anthem prior to the opening game on April 9, 2016. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

“Even though we did have, not the greatest weather, it’s amazing to see the fans that do come out regardless of what the weather is around here,” Smith said.

Opening night featured a T-shirt giveaway for adults, with shirts representing the 50 greatest players in Reading’s long history with Philadelphia. The 50 players were chosen in a fan vote, and will be honored in various ways throughout the season.

The Fightin’s players wore special jerseys covered with photos of the 50 greatest players. Replicas of these jerseys will be given to fans at later games.

Former players from the All-American Girl's Baseball League pose for photos after Ruth Hartman's Reading Baseball Hall of Fame induction on April 10, 2016. Photo by Ariane Cain.

Former players from the All-American Girl’s Baseball League pose for photos after Ruth Hartman’s Reading Baseball Hall of Fame induction on April 10, 2016. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

Friday night was dedicated to the memory of Ruth Hartman, a former Queen of Baseballtown and member of the Fightin’s family. Fans received a bobble head of Hartman in her All-American Girls’ Baseball League uniform.

Hartman was inducted into the Reading Baseball Hall of Fame in a ceremony that brought together some of her former softball players, current softball players from across Berks County, Hartman’s family and other members of the All-American Girls’ Baseball League.

On Friday, fans and players alike were forced to deal with snow before and during the game, but the festivities continued with a golden Jimmy Rollins Bobble head, the first of a series of golden bobble heads that will be given out throughout the season.

The golden bobble head series is contributing to an unprecedented number of bobble heads being given out this season. These, along with the other giveaways commemorating the 50-season affiliation, are certain to keep fans returning throughout the season.

Smith thinks the giveaways and promotions, which are very different from previous years, are helping to get people excited about the season.

Reading's Crazy Hot Dog Vendor performs for the fans on Opening Weekend. Photo by Ariane Cain.

Reading’s Crazy Hot Dog Vendor performs for the fans on Opening Weekend. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

“Being that it is the 50th season, we have a lot of cool giveaways, a lot of cool promotions going on,” Smith said.

50PhilliesSeason

The organization is proud of their historic affiliation, the third longest in Major League Baseball,

The 50th Phillies season in Reading is commemorated on employees' lanyards and hats. Photo by Ariane Cain.

The 50th Phillies season in Reading is commemorated on employees’ lanyards and hats. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

and the pride is evident throughout the ballpark. Employees sport 50th season crests on their hats and lanyards. Various video clips highlight and celebrate the affiliation before each game. The pitcher’s mound is covered in gold sand in honor of the golden anniversary.

Fans are invited to join the celebration at every opportunity with merchandise, giveaways, and special themed nights.

The 50th season my have had a cold start, but as the weather warms up the celebration will too, and the season is sure to be one to remember.

Audrey Dickman keeps Exeter’s athletes safe and moving forward

Every sports team deals with its share of injuries. When Exeter High School’s athletes get injured, they turn to Audrey Dickman, Exeter’s head athletic trainer.

With a training room full of laughter and smiles, Dickman keeps the students moving forward through injuries. She approaches every student and injury in a way that keeps the students positive and optimistic.

Dickman refers to the students as her kids, and makes sure to keep them as safe as possible.

Thanks to her work, and her dedication to protecting the students, Exeter was recently awarded the NATA Safe Sports School Award, 1st Team.

The award is an initiative by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association to ask schools to raise the bar when it comes to sport and athlete safety.

“It was like a five or six page double-sided checklist of things and requirements that we had to meet, and do like a self- assessment of whether we met them. There was so much on there,” Dickman said of applying for the award.

Her determination to achieve the standards set forth by the NATA got the entire school involved.

“Thank goodness for administration, the coaches, everyone made becoming eligible for this very easy for me. And it was because everyone was so into it that we could write these emergency action plans and have the coaches train with us on it; that we could have concussion protocols in place with administration, teachers, and guidance counselors. Without that, without everyone else collaborating, we wouldn’t have won it,” Dickman said.

The efforts of the trainer and the entire school paid off.  As Dickman said, “The school won the award, I just facilitated it.”

“It was kind of like the culmination of the last decade of my work here,” Dickman said, “Which was neat that it all came to fruition at once in time for the award.”

Exeter athletes take the stage

At Exeter Township Senior High School the spring musical gives many student athletes the opportunity to perform in a different way as they take to the stage.

Rehearsals general have some students running in late, fresh from practices or games, stopping only long enough to change their shoes, and sliding into their spots on stage. Other students are quietly slipping out early for dance lessons.

With so many different schedules to coordinate, director Kathy Galtere admits that planning rehearsals can be difficult.

“We have so many people running in so many different directions. It can get pretty crazy,” Galtere said.

Exeter’s community and administration has always strongly supported both athletics and the arts, and students are given every opportunity to pursue numerous interests.

The students in the musical cast represent numerous different sports, including wrestling, basketball, tennis, lacrosse, soccer, cheerleading and more.

The students are grateful for the opportunities they receive from their teachers, coaches and directors, work hard to make the final product the best it can be, whether on the stage or on the field.

Exeter is presenting Anything Goes! Friday, April 15 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, April 16 at 2:30 pm and 7:30 pm. For tickets, call Exeter High School at 610-779-3060, or visit the high school website. All tickets are $10.00.

Come out and support your local athletes as they trade their uniforms for costumes and their cleats for tap shoes.

Warm temperatures draw large crowd for final Shiver by the River

With a race-time temperature in the mid-50’s, the March 3 Shiver by the River didn’t live up to its name, but runners still flocked to Dietrich Park to participate in the conclusion of the annual 4-race series.

The warm temperatures encouraged every runner to get out and participate in the friendly, simple, 5K/10K road race.

The Pagoda Pacers Athletic Club hosts the series, and encourages runners of all levels to participate, though the weather scares away all but the most devoted runners.

The weather didn’t scare anyone away from this race. There were participants from every age and skill-level, from walkers to hard-core runners, and children in strollers to a 95-year old man who participates in the series every year.

The running community was in full-force. When a young runner fell just around the corner from the finish, a group of racers who had already finished were quick to help him up and hold his hands to pull him across the finish.

Boyertown Junior High West teachers could be heard encouraging their students from the Road Warriors after-school running club, refusing to let them give up and quit before the finish, and even had one student run the 10K in an adapted wheelchair.

The runners weren’t only helping those present, though. Donation bins were set up inside and outside of the registration building for Girls on the Run. Girls on the Run is a youth development program for girls ages 8-13 that encourages girls to be healthy and confident through a program that incorporates running. The Pagoda Pacers had bins for monetary donations, but also had bins for donating items the program needs, such as running shoes for the girls.

Though prizes were awarded at the post-race party, the atmosphere was not competitive, but supportive, as the runners took advantage of the early spring weather to run by the river without shivering.

Mascot Mania takes over Santander Arena

On Saturday, March 5 Santander Arena was crawling with all sorts of animals and objects and the Reading Royals celebrated Slapshot’s birthday.

The special day was celebrated in the best way possible, with Mascot Mania. The event drew mascots from dozens of local professional teams, colleges and businesses, as well as the Fur Circus, a professional mascot entertainment group.

Attendees included Melvin from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Ferrous from the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, Cylo from the Lancaster Barnstormers, Avalanche from Kutztown University, and many more.

While it seems odd, sending mascots away from their home field or arena is not unusual. Most notably, Major League Baseball teams send their mascots out on goodwill tours frequently, whether to gather more fans or to maintain the fans they already have.

While the night was a special celebration for Slapshot, the fans were the ones who got the real treat. Mascots roamed the stands throughout the game, taking photos with fans and providing endless entertainment.

From spilling popcorn, to rubbing heads, and leading cheers, the mascots emptied their bag of tricks to entertain the Royals’ fans.

And there were plenty of fans. The birthday celebration coincided with Scout Night, and a January snowstorm forced the Wall of Honor induction ceremony for Gordon Kaye to be rescheduled for this game. The three events led to a nearly sold-out arena.

Fur Circus added to the entertainment by roaming the stands with the other mascots, and giving two performances: a dance off between two young fans, and their own dance performance.

The impact of the mascots was apparent throughout the entire game. The arena was filled with the sounds of various cheers breaking out across the stands as individual mascots encouraged sections of fans. Children could be heard calling out for their favorite mascot, or darting after them in the concourse trying to grab a hug or a picture.

Even fans stuck waiting in-line for food were included in the fun, with various mascots passing by and offering high-fives as they journeyed from one portion of the arena to another.

The mascots set the perfect tone for the evening, and fans were cheering and dancing through the entire game.

Exeter Wrestling Makes History with State Win


For the past three years, the Exeter Township Senior High School Wrestling team has been rather successful. The team earned a spot in the PIAA State Tournament each of the past two years, but was unable to bring home a win. This year, coming off of a county team victory and six individual county victories, the team had a third opportunity to win a match at the state level, something no wrestling team from Exeter has ever done.

On February 8th, fans packed the Exeter High School Gymnasium for a match against Downingtown East, all hoping for the chance to witness history.

The wrestling team gave them what they were waiting for. The Eagles won the match 51-15.

The match, which was expected to be tight, turned out to be one-sided with Exeter winning 11 of 14 bouts, including a run of 8 consecutive bouts after losing the first bout. Downingtown won 2 of the final three bouts, but by then it was too late.

As Exeter Athletic Director Thomas Legath pointed out, the amount of success the wrestling team has had is surprising to almost everyone, except, perhaps, the wrestlers and coaches.

“Anytime you accomplish something for the first time it’s surprising. But also, when you see how hard these kids worked and trained in the off-season, you can now kind of appreciate that they expected this. And the way their coaches worked them, they expected it,” Legath said.

This winning mentality, this expectation to win, has been brought to the program by Coach John Rugg, who has managed to make Exeter’s wrestling program a program to respect. Legath said that everything begins at the top, and with the wrestling team that means everything begins with the coaching staff.

“With our wrestling program it starts with Coach Rugg, and he, and his coaching staff which is probably about 8 people, work and train these kids very tough every day, and all that hard work, in this case, when you say hard work pays off it did for the Exeter Wrestling team,” Legath said.

Legath continued to point out that the team works so hard, the competition in matches is almost easier than the practices. The team trains for success, and they found it with this victory.

The Eagles made history with the match, and brought their school the state-level victory they had been fighting for. Exeter lost the next two matches in the double-elimination tournament at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA, but for their fans the triumph at home was the victory they had been waiting for.

As the team continues to showcase its talent and determination to succeed, next year the Eagles may be fighting for a State Championship instead of merely a state-level win.

Twin Valley Raiders’ season ends with County Tournament loss

On February 6, 2016, the Berks Catholic Saints defeated the Twin Valley Raiders in the BCIAA Girl’s Basketball quarterfinals by a score of 51-23.

The Twin Valley Raiders played the Berks Catholic Saints in the quarterfinals of the BCIAA Tournament at Exeter Township Senior High School. (Photo: Ariane Cain/Full Sail University)

The Twin Valley Raiders played the Berks Catholic Saints in the quarterfinals of the BCIAA Tournament at Exeter Township Senior High School. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

The Raiders appeared to be easily overmatched. At halftime the Saints led by 18 points, and scored the first 14 points of the third quarter. The Saints Devon Merritt was the leading scorer for the game, despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter.

Twin Valley’s bid for the championship ended quickly, while the Saints are projected to go deep into the tournament. Twin Valley was the 7th seed in the tournament, out of 8, while Berks Catholic was seeded 2.

The Raiders didn’t have a bad season, with a league record of 5-5 and an overall record of 14-9. They finished third in their conference, behind Berks Catholic with a 10-0 league record and 17-4 overall record, and Conrad Weiser.

The Raiders' bench watches the game as Berks Catholic scores again, increasing their lead. (Photo: Ariane Cain/Full Sail University)

The Raiders’ bench watches the game as Berks Catholic scores again, increasing their lead. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

The Saints seem to have been the Raiders weakness all season, winning both regular season games. The first game was tight, with a final score of 31-27. The margin grew in the second meeting, with a final score of 56-36. The story between the two teams culminated on Saturday afternoon, with the Saints winning by their largest margin yet.

Despite being overmatched and outplayed, the Raiders kept fighting. Mark Morrow, the Raiders’ coach, refused to let them give-up, searching for anyway to motivate the disheartened team.

Raiders' fans look on as Mark Morrow attempts to rally his team before the fourth quarter begins. (Photo: Ariane Cain/Full Sail University)

Raiders’ fans look on as Mark Morrow attempts to rally his team before the fourth quarter begins. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

Despite a lack-luster student section, the Raiders continued to compete through the entire game, lessening the Saints’ lead during the fourth quarter when all of the starters had been replaced. They drew fouls from the Saints’ second-string, and slowly chipped away at the insurmountable point margin.

The Twin Valley student section watches the second half of the game. (Photo: Ariane Cain/Full Sail University)

The Twin Valley student section watches the second half of the game. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

When the game finished the team was understandably upset, unable to see the pride they should have. The odds were stacked against them, but they were able to make their season last long enough to qualify for the County Tournament, a tournament only 8 schools were able to participate in. Twin Valley’s season may have ended sooner than they wanted, but it lasted longer than many other teams. Only one team can end the season with a win, and maybe the Raiders will soon be able to say that they lost to the County Champions.

A Twin Valley player prepares to leave the court immediately after the game.

A Twin Valley player prepares to leave the court immediately after the game. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

Exeter’s athletic success causes the community to pay attention

On January 29th the Exeter Eagles defeated the Wilson Bulldogs to win the school’s first County Wrestling title. For a school that, until recently, was never known for its athletics, the maiden championship seems to be a symbol of the school’s recent successes. As far as Exeter is concerned, winning is certainly contagious.

The front of Exeter Township Senior High School with its signature eagle.

The front of Exeter Township Senior High School with its signature eagle. Photo: Ariane Cain.

In 2014 the girl’s tennis team won the schools first district title in the sport, and repeated as District III champions in October.

The football team won the Berks County Championship, and hosted the school’s first home district playoff game in November.

In the past few years Exeter has begun to emerge as an athletic threat, and the effects are being felt throughout the entire community.

William Cain has been the principal at Exeter Township Senior High School for five years, after joining the district as an assistant principal in 2007. He has had a front row seat for the athletic transformation. In his first two years at the school the football team had a 1-19 record.

The trophy cases outside of the senior high gym celebrate all of the school's athletic accomplishments. Photo by Ariane Cain

The trophy cases outside of the senior high gym celebrate all of the school’s athletic accomplishments.
Photo: Ariane Cain

“It’s really amazing when you look at it,” Cain said. “What the tennis team has done, and the football team, and now the wrestling team. It’s great.”

According to the 2010 US Census, Exeter Township has a population of 25,550. It is a large community, and boasts the 4th largest school district in Berks County. Exeter Township Senior High School has just over 1,400 students, with a senior class of 388 students according to the 2015-2016 school profile.

Exeter Township School District Athletic Program supports 14 different sports and boasts 67 different teams within these 14 sports. According to the 2014-2015 Interscholastic Title IX Disclosure Form, the high school alone has 757 student athletes.

These student athletes have recently brought their community together to support the athletic program and the schools.

Now when one drives down Rt. 422, the central road in Exeter, signs of the school district’s presence are everywhere.

The Exeter Dairy Queen sign congratulating the wrestling team on their recent championship. Photo by Ariane Cain

The Exeter Dairy Queen sign congratulating the wrestling team on their recent championship. Photo: Ariane Cain

The electronic sign outside of the local Dairy Queen boasts of recent athletic accomplishments and honors specific student athletes each week. Every team that wins a championship is honored on the Dairy Queen sign, as well as specific athletes being honored each week. The restaurant’s owner, Hamid Chaundry, donated a new video scoreboard for Exeter’s Don Thomas Stadium over the summer.

The local Giant grocery store has a spirit wear display, where it offers Exeter Eagles merchandise alongside Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Phillies merchandise. With the recent rise in success, the community of Exeter has found new home teams to rally behind.

The rack at the local Giant selling Exeter spirit wear. Photo by Ariane Cain

The rack at the local Giant selling Exeter spirit wear.
Photo: Ariane Cain

Abigail Rutt, Exeter’s girl’s tennis assistant coach and an Exeter alumna, has noticed the impact the athletic success has had on both the community and the students.

“It gives them a sense of belonging, of being part of something,” Rutt said. “For all of them it provides a shared experience that gives them a connection to each other, to the school community, to the athletic community, the list goes on.”

The Reading Fightin’ Phils have hosted “Exeter Night” for the past two seasons, and will again this coming season, to recognize the school’s athletic accomplishments. Residents are offered free tickets, and it has become one of the busiest nights each season.

“It has even been more unifying within the school community,” Cain said. “It has brought together all different groups to support each other and share the success.”

This past season, for the first time, the high school had to pre-sell football tickets in order to eliminate a backup at the gates on game night. The athletic program’s recent successes have given the community something to brag about, and all of Exeter Township intends to make the most of it.

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