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11:10 PM Tue, Dec. 18th

Lee Williams coaches returning to their roots

For Lee Williams coaches Joan Abraham, Stephen Shuffler, Eugene Kramer and athletic director Cory Williams, returning to Lee Williams is like returning home.

All four have some sort of connection the school's past, either as a student when the school was Kingman High or as a teacher. Now all four are in a position to provide a link from the school's rich history to its future when it opens under a new name next month.

"I ran here. This is my home course," said Abraham, who will be the school's cross country coach "I ran these streets for four years. This is my Kingman High School. This is where I went to high school and I don't want to let my school or my community down."

It's a commitment that isn't lost on them when it comes to the name the new school carries.

Lee Williams was an athlete, coach, principal and volunteer with the fire department. Williams was one of 11 firefighters killed on July 5, 1973, in the Doxol Explosion.

"We have some high standards to follow because of our name," football coach Eugene Kramer said. "We are represented as volunteers and the people that have lost their lives for what we are representing so we have a stronger direction to go. We have a legacy to follow."

Cory Williams echoed Kramer.

"It's who we represent as a school. The tradition and the legacy and the volunteers and who Lee Williams was," he said. "Lee Williams represents everyone from that day. We represent everybody from that day on."

In addition to Abraham, Kramer and Williams, the remaining staff includes Shuffler, the boys and girls golf coach, and Jillian Fierro as sprit line coach.

The school will open its doors to freshmen only on Aug. 9. The coaches will be having meetings with those students interested in participating in athletics in the days leading up to the first day of school.

Shuffler and Abraham will be having meetings for golf and cross country at 3 p.m. on Aug. 6 with the first official practice Aug. 13. Kramer will hold a meeting for incoming football players at 3:35 p.m. on Aug. 9 with the first official practice Aug. 10.

"It's a little unknown for me in not knowing how many are going to show up or are going to be interested," Shuffler said. "I know that there will be some people interested and we are going to do good with whatever we've got."

According to Cory Williams, the incoming freshmen class is expected to have 220-240 students. Those numbers aren't set in stone, as there are still a lot of variables that could change those numbers.

"We don't know everyone who is coming in for sure," Williams said. "We know White Cliffs (Middle School) is our feeder school and KMS is KHS's feeder school. But being freshman ... we have open enrollment, so as freshman they can choose to go where they want to go."

It's a question that coaches at Lee Williams and Kingman High are facing: Just how many freshmen will they have?

"We really don't know, so we are in the same boat as they are," Cory Williams said. "There is a lot of unknown right now, but we will know more Aug. 9."

Williams is also facing the same challenges as his counterpart at KHS, John Venenga - which is how to handle the Arizona Interscholastic Association's bylaws on boundary lines and recruiting, issues that have never cropped up before.

"We are going to have bumps in the road. We know that, but we are all good people and we are going to do the right thing," Williams said. "Will there be growing pains? I think we are going to have some."

Lee Williams will field varsity level athletics for individual sports this year and next, and will gradually field varsity level team sports in three years once the school's student population grows.

In the meantime, Williams is pleased with the group of coaches he hired as the school starts to build a foundation for what they hope will be a successful athletic program.

"This is a good group," Williams said. "I'm thrilled with these four. The parents are going to be trilled. The students are going to be thrilled to be able to participate with these guys.

"It's a good base. All four of these individuals put their athletes and their students first and that's why we hired them."

And for Shuffler, Abraham, Kramer and Williams, it answers the old question: Who says you can't come home?

"There is a sprit here, there is a history to it," Abraham said. "This is our school."