The athletes representing Kingman Academy of Learning High School are to be commended for their outstanding performances this fall season.
The Tigers won both the boys and girls cross country state championships, the volleyball squad finished fourth in the Charter Athletic Association's state tournament, and the football team has clinched a playoff spot with a legitimate shot at winning the Arizona High School Football Federation's championship.
KAOL fielded four teams and each finished, or will finish, in the top tier. That's a powerful fact to ponder. The institution and its kids are doing something right.
I believe that it all starts with the athletic director, Eric Lillis. His ability to understand situations while being a voice of reason is to be lauded.
I have seen Lillis' interactions with the students at KAOL several different times. I have witnessed his uncanny ability to be a stern disciplinarian and at the same time have the kid he was addressing want to be around him. It's my hunch that his personal skills have played a large role in surrounding his KAOL students with a quality coaching staff.
KAOL coaches Laura Nelson, Heather Amenhauser and Bill Prichard are deserving of praise because of the performances of their athletes. These coaches are obviously able to convey attainable goals to their players and lead them to achieving them. Congratulations!
Unfortunately, there are critics of the KAOL program about the level of competition. Whether or not these criticisms have any measure of validity, the athletes at KAOL have succeeded in the arena that was chosen for them.
That is all one can ask of these athletes. Their opponents showed up to play KAOL, and the Tigers, more times than not, clawed them to shreds. This is what was asked of them and they delivered. It's as simple as that.
During one conversation with Lillis, I learned that joining the Arizona Interscholastic Association might be on the far-distant horizon for KAOL. The AIA governs most of the high schools in Arizona, including Kingman High School. I have to admit that my eyes lit up when Lillis told me that KAOL was contemplating a move to AIA.
His statement told me that KAOL wants to compete at the most appropriate level so that his athletes have the best experience possible. It is possible that KAOL will petition the AIA to play in Class 3A. That would mean some of their opponents could be Parker, Wickenburg and Winslow.
Playing against schools like this would bring instant credibility to KAOL. If anyone had a hard time seeing the successes that KAOL has had on the playing surfaces, those concerns should be alleviated if and when the Tigers move to AIA.