Leavenworth is synonymous with a lot of things and the Pioneers are definitely a big constellation in the local universe.
Home to a renowned military installation and a federal prison, Leavenworth is Kansas’ first city and home to a trail mix of peoples ranging from all types of civilians to an even broader background of military folk.
It is a unique place and the young people that represent the town and its high school have their own views as to why they play sports for Leavenworth High School and just exactly who they represent.
It’s not just playing for the city of Leavenworth, but it represents more.
What does it mean to be a Pioneer?
Joey Hancock, sophomore, wrestling: “Being a Pioneer means the first to establish a city, so it means trying to be first and the best that you can do. Try to accomplish more than anyone else. From a wrestling point of view, we come in here every day and grind and beat each other up and it makes me better and better. It’s elevating me to a new level.”
Hartwell Taylor, freshman, wrestling: “You have to be outspoken, do your own thing, don’t be like everybody else and set your own standards. I am representing Leavenworth High School, to be a better academic student and wrestler, because I have a lot of people to look up to.”
Etena Tuivaiti, junior, wrestling: “The main thing is heart. The other schools know us as the first school in Kansas, but others think we’re not any good other than girls’ basketball. No matter what we do, we are always going to strive to do better. It’s more of a work ethic than anything else at Leavenworth High School.”
Curtis Colston, senior, wrestling: “(Civilian or military), we are all together as one. I feel like the military presence is really known. It spreads around and it’s all about respect (in the community at large).”
Jacob Zilmer, sophomore, wrestling: “Being in a military town you have your duties as a student and a civilian, but also as a student-athlete you have more to represent and be proud of. You adopt those values that come from the military families, but you represent them in things we do. We try to make them feel good and look good. They do enough for us, so we need to give back to them.”
Jordan Berry, senior, boys’ basketball: “It means playing for coach (Larry) Hogan who has coached (great players) and will hopefully being doing more things in the future. It’s about representing the team.”
Devin Johnston, junior, boys’ basketball: “It means to represent Leavenworth, Kansas, your community, your peers and represent the sport that you play while wearing the blue and white.”
Kevin Payne, junior, boys’ basketball: “I am a military child, so going from one military town to another like Leavenworth, you see it is a diverse kind of place and it translates into the locker room and onto the court.”
Kenny Campbell, junior, boys’ basketball: “Everybody I know who lives here, they take pride in the town they live in. A big identifier in this town is that we are proud. Being the first city, it makes for a lot to build up on.”
Alyche Brown, sophomore, girls’ basketball: “We are representing change. Once we were considered a (lower achieving school) and now we are one of those schools people are looking at as being superior. ROTC is amazing, girls’ basketball grew and track …”
Alexis Cole, sophomore, girls’ basketball: “We are representing our hard work and dedication because we are all here for the same reason. We are here to get stuff done. We are not here, not just for ourselves, but for each other, the team and the school. After every (girls’ soccer) game, the baseball team, after every game, would come out and support us. They were so hyped for us and so excited for us (after a win).”
McKenzie Brown, sophomore, girls’ basketball: “We all empower each other and we work off each other. We have great chemistry. The basketball team brings people together. This school is also so welcoming. Everybody shows love to everybody. (The transient nature of the town) has the opposite effect, because I want to get to know them while they are there, to the fullest, I want to know everything about them before they leave.”
Jailah Bowen, sophomore, girls’ basketball: “I feel that coming into Leavenworth (as a freshman) I was nervous, but everyone here has welcoming arms. I didn’t know if I was going to fit in to the way people did things, but actually being here and actually being able to be myself around everyone and having them except me helped me a lot. Everyone just wants to be happy and to be together as one instead of being individuals. No one singles anyone out. Our principals and teachers push us to all be a team, but it’s up to us to actually act on it. When I came here, you felt automatic love. Everyone is nice and not judgmental.”
Cierra Robinson, junior, girls’ basketball: “It’s family, we all work together, it’s hard work, but it’s worth it at the end of the day. We want the best for each other and we may not always like each other, but we are always going to be there. Everybody here has the idea of togetherness and trying to work together to reach a common goal. We have been looked at as a ghetto school and I think, at least through girls’ basketball, we have given some hope back to the community where people just want to see us win. Everyone wants to have that winning environment. It’s an acceptance of diversity.”