By HOWARD BALABAN email@example.com
Medina Journal-Register — The past few years have seen the Medina and Lyndonville Central School Districts merge a variety of different extracurricular student activities.
A handful of Lyndonville student athletes have joined Medina’s varsity football and boys soccer teams. Some have also participated in marching band.
Meanwhile, a bunch of Medina students have acted in the Lyndonville musical the past two years.
Next school year those combinations will continue, and the districts will add a shared varsity track and field program, too.
So how do the students feel about all of it? What if it leads to something bigger in the future?
At this time it is too soon to tell what will happen down the road. However, a small sampling of students in both districts seemed to feel what has been done so far has been successful.
Last fall Lyndonville sophomore Brandon Schoolcraft had the opportunity to play varsity football with the Medina team. It was a chance he did not think he would get again after playing in youth leagues.
“It was really fun and exciting and the Medina kids were really accepting of us,” he said. “I’m really excited for the upcoming season.”
Meanwhile, on the soccer pitch, James Ianni played on the merged varsity boys soccer team. “It was a lot of fun and a great experience,” the sophomore said. “It was nice to get out there. I had played with them during the summer so we knew each other. It was kind of like a family.”
The latest joint venture was the all-school musical Anything Goes. (Last year’s show was Legally Blonde.) The show played in Lyndonville and featured almost a 50/50 split in cast members.
“Merging means we have a larger cast, so we can do bigger shows,” said Medina senior Connor Gardner, who played the role of Sir Evelyn in the show. Indeed, with a larger pool of students to choose from, the competition for a starting spot on a team or a lead role in a show is stiffer.
“It can be a little intimidating with more people,” said Heather Mufford, a Lyndonville junior cast as Reno Sweeney. “But we’re all friends in the end.”
Junior Jenna Brien of Medina said the drama boosters in Lyndonville are “great” and that the people are generally nice. She agreed that while the combining of schools did create some tension at first, but it did not last.
“Everyone was welcoming,” she said.
One cast member, Tom Follman, also played football. A Tiger freshman, Follman said he has heard some negative feedback regarding the shared services but not too much. He recalled that during football season, the players worked to win and there were few gripes about playing time. With the show, he said there was no favoritism shown and the casting of leads wound up pretty even.
Mufford agreed, adding, “The people who played the leads fit their roles, and it was a good experience for all of us.”
The Medina students also agreed that casting proved to be spot on and even helped create some new friendships.
“It even brought (the Medina students) closer. For example, I never thought I’d be friends with Connor, but in the show we were dancing together,” said Mustang junior Nate Hodgins.
Regarding the melding of students, he said by the end of the show (and football season) everyone seemed to be on the same page.
WIth shared teams and shared shows, there has been some adjustment necessary for those students who participate in extracurriculars. Mufford said the the biggest change to having a joint venture with Medina is that it creates a stronger work ethic for the students involved based simply on having more competition. Many of her classmates seemed to be used to just showing up to be on a team, rather than trying out and earning a spot.
However, as Lyndonville senior Jordan Dixon noted, the students are friendly throughout competing with each other because of their proximity to one another.
“We all know each other,” she said. “It’s not like Medina is that far away.”
Gardner said the opportunity to work with other students was a “good learning experience” and Brien said that she now has as many friends from Lyndonville as from Medina.
Mufford said the availability of social media like Facebook has allowed students to keep in touch with one another.
Moving forward, with the possibility out there for more shared services, the students said both schools would face a few issues.
“We were introduced as the Medina/Lyndonville team last fall, not the Mustangs,” recalled Hodgins, who played football. “Were we the Mustangs, or the Tigers?”
Mufford said the smaller numbers in Lyndonville create more one-on-one time among teachers and students. Sharing more services could take away from that time, but Follman predicted the teachers who need to will make the time when they must.
Zac Karp, a Tiger junior, said economically sharing more services would be beneficial.
“Businesses in Medina were more likely to support our show with Medina students in it,” he said, leading one to assume that Lyndonville businesses would be more inclined to sponsor Medina sports with Lyndonville athletes.
Another issue would be that of class size, which has already taken effect with football, soccer, and drama. With ever-changing state guidelines, combining teams and other departments could move the student athletes and thespians up a class.
But, as Gardner said, the right combinations will bring success.
“If the interests are there, then merging services should continue and they’ll be successful,” he said. “The results will be there.”
Mustangs Stella Russo, a freshman, and Addison Zavitz, a sophomore, both acted in Anything Goes and played field hockey. They said they would welcome more players to their squad.
“We could use the help,” Zavitz joked.
Russo agreed, saying the common refrain among the students, “There would be more talent to choose from.”
Overall, the students agreed that they and their neighboring classmates have done well together. Should more services merge, Brien said she would welcome it.
Speaking of the Tiger athletes who had the chance to play something not offered in Lyndonville, Tiger Athletic Director Lee Dillenbeck said, “It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”
Added Boys Soccer Coach Steve Luksch, “The kids were excited to play with each other and we’re excited in looking toward the second year.
“It’s good for both schools.”