The fly route
Eudora senior Emily Ballock didn't go to the school board earlier this fall looking to be a guinea pig. She didn't compete and perform her way through the fall sports season as an experiment.
Nevertheless Ballock passed her unwanted test with flying colors -- or a flying toe-touch, whatever the case may be.
Ballock approached the school board looking for permission to participate in both cross country and cheerleading, a practice not specifically outlawed by USD 491, but one unspokenly forbidden.
Her success proves that the board shouldn't be afraid to allow other students similar liberties, and that a blanket policy is doomed to hurt students.
Ballock came into to her season already one of the most accomplished athletes in school history. She has five Class 4A state track gold medals to her name, played one year of volleyball, three of basketball and ran two years of cross country.
She did little to temper a growing legend on the courses this season.
Ballock ran well throughout the schedule's eight races. She wasn't as strong through the middle of the season as she was at the start -- odd considering she hadn't conditioned much coming into the year -- but was still the top runner on a solid girls team.
That she didn't run quite as well through the middle of the season actually showed why Ballock was the perfect athlete to make two activities work.
"The biggest thing for Emily is learning she needs to take a break and when she takes that break, she should be recharged and ready to go," Eudora cross country coach Paul Boone said. "She learned to listen to her body a little better, even within our season."
She topped it all off with a fantastic final two weeks of the season. She slugged her way across a tough trail at regionals despite missing her team's mid-week trip to scope out the course.
Ballock followed her seventh place finish at regionals with the best state performance of her career, medaling with a 17th place finish.
The senior's plenty talented, but she couldn't have done it alone. It took both an understanding cheerleading squad and an understanding cross country team to make her two-sport success possible.
Ballock didn't work with the cross country team through the summer, but the Cardinals that did -- particularly team leaders like Lauren Colman, Liz Hoese and Bre Miller -- welcomed her once she arrived, a concession that helped make the whole scheme work.
Participating in two activities at the same time isn't for everyone, and it isn't for every activity. That will be the hard part to map out this winter as the board sits down to decide exactly what its future policy should be.
It's difficult to imagine any student pulling off two practice-intense sports like basketball and wrestling or two conflicting ones like cheerleading and basketball. An open-door policy for all students could lead some kids to mistakenly add too much stress. Others wouldn't be able to split their time in a way to benefit either sport, let alone both.
The answer lies in the middle. Students participating in sports that don't require strict practice times -- like track or cross country -- should be able to pick up another activity if all the appropriate parties agree.
It can work. Like a mouse zipping through a maze, Ballock was the evidence.