KINGMAN - When Giancarlo Narvarte failed to clear the 6-foot, 2-inch mark on his final try at the Division III State Track meet at Mesa Community College, it ended what was a very successful first year of athletic competition for Lee Williams High School.
The school opened last year to just freshmen and had 60 percent of the student population participate despite having just three varsity sports, the rest being junior varsity.
"I think the neatest thing for Giancarlo is he represented Lee Williams well," said LWHS athletic director Cory Williams. "He is a perfect example of what we stand for here. You work hard and good things happen to you. I'm glad he got to experience that. He's carried that work ethic and that experience over to the entire track team."
Hard work is something that the school will have to do next year as they take a major step in fielding varsity teams in eight sports, including football and boys basketball.
"We are extremely excited. It's back to Friday night football," said LWHS football coach Eugene Kramer.
Williams said the decision to move to varsity was something that was carefully considered with Kramer and assistant coach Ray Smith, as they had to ask if freshman and sophomores could handle playing up against bigger, stronger juniors and seniors.
"That has to be in the back of everybody's mind," Kramer said. "Our goal is by the end of the summer with our weight room sessions, physically we want to get the kids to be ready to go up against those kids. No matter what, it is going to make you stronger and a better person."
The other factor in the decision to move to varsity, especially for football, was scheduling. Originally, LWHS was scheduled to play at the junior varsity level again in the fall and then move up to varsity beginning in the 2014-15 school year. However, that would put the school making its varsity debut on the back end of a two-year scheduling block by the Arizona Interscholastic Association and make it difficult for Williams to schedule varsity football games.
"We just sat down with coach Kramer and coach Smith and thought we could handle ourselves next year when we go varsity," Williams said.
Besides football and boys basketball, the Volunteers will compete at the varsity level in cross country, golf, spirit line, wrestling, tennis and track.
This past year, LWHS only competed at the varsity level in cross country, golf, and track, while fielding junior varsity teams in football, volleyball, soccer, wrestling, basketball, tennis, baseball and softball.
Next year, the school will still have JV teams in volleyball, girls basketball, soccer, baseball and softball.
While the school did have 60 percent participation levels, a couple of sports struggled, including cross country and girls soccer. Williams had to combine the soccer team into one team and play coed, despite having to play teams mostly with all boys.
"Our numbers were a little low, but that's something that we need to work on," Williams said. "We are going to work on it and get those numbers up."
The motto for the school year at Lee Williams was "Tradition starts now," and with the individual successes of athletes like Narvarte, the school is certainly on the right track. But it's also the traditions that are taking place off the field that is making Lee Williams a special place - the close relationship with the Kingman Fire Department, the bagpipes leading the football team on the field, the axe and helmet awards and the fire cart displayed at the 50-yard line.
"We tried to work close with (the fire department) and it's because of our name and who Lee Williams was and who he represents," Williams said. "We want to represent him and the fire department well."
The school is re-educating a community on the legacy of Lee Williams and what the true spirit of being a Volunteer really means. Come this fall it will be on full display.
"Our kids and our coaches that we have in place are focused on making Lee Williams a great place," Williams said. "Beginning with football we are going to dive into this and get after this. It's going to get ugly but it's going to give them a good experience on what Friday nights mean. Friday night at 7 p.m., that's what everybody works towards and gets excited for. When they start their football career they want it to be Friday night, 7 p.m., and that's where we want to be. We just have the opportunity to do that sooner than some other schools."
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