Saying goodbye to a legendary program

Kali Price

After the Kent State men’s basketball team’s loss to Pittsburgh in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Kent State coach Jim Christian said, “I just said goodbye to four kids that for the rest of my life will be in my heart.”

As I said goodbye to DeAndre Haynes, Jay Youngblood, Kevin Warzynski and Nate Gerwig, I realized that they — along with the rest of the team — will for the rest of my life be in my heart.

Christian’s words have stuck with me since and are a constant reminder that this semester has been one of the most successful and amazing semesters for Kent State athletics.

I don’t think I could have picked a better semester to be the sports editor of the Stater. After a less-than-enjoyable semester covering football, I had extremely high expectations for the basketball team.

And I couldn’t be more than happier that I was there. One of the greatest experiences of my life was the moments after the team won the Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship. As hundreds of fans stormed the court and Haynes did backflips across the court, I didn’t know what to think.

The team was going to the NCAA Tournament. I was going to the NCAA Tournament.

Granted, the team didn’t make it past the first round, but the sports world knows who Kent State is now.

The team’s four seniors — Haynes, Youngblood, Warzynski and Gerwig — made an impact on Kent State that will be remembered for years to come. As Haynes and Youngblood have now signed with an International Basketball team, their basketball careers are far from over and their futures are bright. And no matter what Warzynski and Gerwig do, whether it’s continue playing or pursuing another career, they’re destined to succeed.

And under the leadership of Armon Gates, Omni Smith and Mike Scott, I’m more than positive the team will be back to the NCAA Tournament next season.

But it wasn’t just the men’s basketball team that made a major impact on the future of Kent State athletics.

The women’s basketball team made its second-consecutive MAC Tournament Championship game appearance. It lost to Bowling Green for the second time in a row, but it didn’t matter. In her four years playing under Kent State coach Bob Lindsay, Lindsay Shearer became one of the best athletes to be involved with the Kent State program.

Shearer racked up numerous honors including MAC Player of the Year, the 2006 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American of the Year. She was named to the All-MAC First Team, the Academic All-America First Team and was an honorable mention to the 2006 NCAA Division I Kodak/Women’s Baksetball Coaches Association All-American Basketball Team and the Women’s Basketball News Service All-America Third Team.

Next season will be hard without her, but Shearer has set a high standard for the future of women’s basketball. Her work ethic, her spirit and her game will be truly missed.

Although most of the spotlight was on basketball this semester, other teams have made an effect on the future. Five wrestlers made it to the NCAA Championships, women’s golf won the MAC Championship and will compete in the NCAA Central Regionals, baseball is No. 1 in the MAC and countless members of both men’s and women’s track and field have broken records and will soon be competing in the NCAA regionals.

I can’t be more than proud that I was around to experience a semester filled with wonderful moments that have helped Kent State become one of the most powerful programs in the MAC.

Now I’m saying goodbye to not only my position as sports editor but to an athletic program that has helped me become a better writer and a better person.

This semester has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I will never forget running onto the court at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland to interview basketball players swarmed by fans or watching President Carol Cartwright cut down a piece of the net. I’ll never forget sitting on press row at the Palace of Auburn Hills or standing side-by-side with players from Kansas, who were seriously the tallest men I’ve ever seen. I will never forget the looks on Christian, Haynes and Youngblood’s faces as they sat at the post-game press conference after the team’s first-round loss.

And now, I’m saying goodbye to working with a program that, for the rest of my life, will be in my heart.

Contact sports editor Kali Price at [email protected]