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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)
If you build it, they will come. Or, in this instance, stay.
Evansville Christian School's new high school off Epworth Road in Newburgh welcomed its first students last week. Its inaugural class actually started last year and will graduate in 2020, but school officials are optimistic this is only the start.
There are currently about 30 students between the freshman and sophomore class despite having 800 others in grades K-8. ECS knows it needs athletics in order to grow.
"The thing is, obviously, if you have a high school without extracurricular activities, the kids and athletes who play basketball and soccer or whatever go on to other high schools," athletic director Paul Dunham said.
ECS isn't fielding any teams this school year but is allowing individual boys and girls to compete in cross country, swimming and track and field. It's the first step toward becoming an official IHSAA school to compete in Class A like Evansville Day School does.
It can't apply for accreditation until the freshmen and sophomore classes have completed this school year. Then, if approved, there will be another four-year wait before teams can compete in state tournaments.
Much of the ground work must be done at the elementary level. There were 13 basketball teams grades third through eight last year and Brandon Carr, a former player at the University of Southern Indiana, was hired over the summer with the intention of him eventually coaching high schoolers.
He will coach the eighth-grade boys during the school year before leading seventh graders in the spring and summer at tournaments. The goal is to have a freshman team in 2018-19 in the school's new gym.
"Hopefully he'll build relationships because that's what we have to do," Dunham said. "We have to find guys who will love the kids and they'll love him back to continue that relationship onto high school."
ECS anticipates having a freshman baseball team next year, too. Joe Paulin, a former Reitz assistant, has 20 players in a feeder program that will start play this fall.
Two years from now, Dunham is optimistic there also will be freshman soccer teams.
"We're trying to build it up," he said. "It's a daunting challenge to start but it's also exciting."
Dunham's oldest sons have been standouts at Reitz in multiple sports despite attending ECS when they were younger. Elijah, the oldest, is currently a freshman playing baseball at Indiana, while Isaiah will play football at Yale next year.
They didn't have the opportunity to play at ECS - a school where they could have expressed their faith. Dunham wants to give others alternatives.
"We're trying to provide an option for someone who would prefer to send their kids to a smaller school with smaller class size and be able to have a sports experience," Dunham said. "It's going to be easier to make the future basketball team at ECS than a top-level school like Bosse, Harrison or Castle."
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