Mansfield students participate in Waterville’s sports program. From left, are Collin Pate, C.J. Wall, Maria Bustos, Zane Salcido and Logan Cooper. (Adrienne Douke photo)
By Joel Harding and Adrienne Douke
The combined effort of Mansfield and Waterville students to play sports has become a successful merger of skill, determination and teamwork. Initially there was some concern that the traditional rivalry between Waterville and Mansfield would adversely affect their cooperation, but that concern appears unfounded and the kids are playing well together.
“Our kids are getting fair playing time and sportsmanship is evident both on the teams and with the coaches,” Mansfield Athletic Director Ric Bayless said.
Mansfield School Superintendent Cora Nordby noted that, “It’s a new generation of parents and a new generation of kids and we need to remember that.” Opting for the school sports combination allows the Mansfield kids to participate in sports. “We want to do what’s best for the kids,” Nordby added.
Bayless noted that, so far, Waterville has won most of their games and said, “Mansfield athletes are an asset to the Waterville team.”
Coach Tayn Kendrick agreed. “The four Mansfield football players complemented what we tried to do with the team this year. CJ Wall got more rushing yards over the season than anyone and Colin Pate was a definite defensive presence. Zane Salcido and Logan Cooper developed well during the year and made their contributions. The Mansfield guys were committed to the team and helped provide quality depth which we haven’t seen for a while,” Kendrick said.
It’s been over 20 years since the two schools combined their athletics departments. “Mansfield combined with Waterville and Bridgeport back in the 90s and, from what I remember, it was a positive experience,” Bayless noted.
There was some concern about the arrangement in the beginning, especially since change — even a good change — takes a little while to get used to, “But it is working out well,” Bayless said.
Logan Cooper said that the Waterville team made it easy going in. He knew a few of the other players and “we caught on quick.”
Mansfield student Maria Bustos, who plays volleyball with the Waterville team, also agreed that the merger has been a positive experience for her and she’s really enjoyed meeting new people and making new friends.
Nordby commented further that since both schools have embraced the Leader in Me program, “Both schools share similar values and this helps to make the sports combination a successful arrangement for our students.”
The Waterville-Mansfield sports combination was a compromise that has proven beneficial for both the players and the teams. “The kids are making new friends in Waterville and they are participating in other activities besides sports, so it really is a learning curve for all of us,” Bayless said. “The kids are leading the way,” he added. Mansfield player CJ Wall agreed that the arrangement is working out well, and he said the coaches are good and the atmosphere is also good.
Wyatt Mires, senior captain from Waterville, said, “It has been great having the Mansfield guys with us this year. It wouldn’t have been the same team without them.”
“Although we combined with Pateros last year, the enrollments of both Mansfield and Pateros prevented the same arrangement from taking place this year,” Bayless said.
For Colin Pate, the sports schedule is working well. “I really like it. I think it’s awesome fun. Everyone is really nice and I like the coaches.”
The combined sports teams of Waterville and Mansfield will probably be a long-term arrangement, with Mansfield combining with Waterville next year and probably the following year as well, Bayless said.
Since the focus is on playing sports, everyone worked together to make the combined efforts for the team a successful one and it looks like the arrangement is working out better than anyone could have hoped for. Alex Ludeman, also from Waterville said, “The Mansfield guys are good athletes and strong leaders. They were a huge asset to the team.”
Bayless concluded by saying, “I think that this year is the start of many good things to come.”