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Kalskag collects decoration for new gymnasium

By Jeff Lund

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POSTED March 25, 2009 4:35 a.m.
When the new gym is built in Kalskag, Alaska, sometime in the next six months (hopefully), the community will have a decoration to commemorate this spring — a state championship banner.

A year after finishing second in the tournament, a month and a half after the school burned, and 5-minutes after trailing again in the fourth quarter, Kalskag came through with a 71-57 victory.

Turning a one-point deficit into a 14-point win in the final minutes of a game is impressive. Doing that in the state championship game is clutch, and cutting nylon after a month of practice in a 30-foot by 40-foot elementary school cafeteria/gym is the stuff of legends.

Leave it to a bunch of kids on a frozen river 3,000 miles away to remind us about intestinal fortitude.

That happens frequently.

Not the” kids on a river” part, but the kids bearing down. Our lives are a product of our reactions to situations and how we decide to live from there.

The world is still fresh, huge and inviting to those not corrupted by the manipulation and cynicism of adulthood. “Maturity” can taint the kids that lived by the, “mean = bad” and “excuses are for weenies” mantra.

Those kids had every excuse they needed, built-in alibis on which to blame a loss in the regional tournament, state rounds, or state championship. No one would have blamed them.

Instead came quotes like, “I tried my best to play with my heart” and “I wanted to give everything I had, and I did.”

They tried, and did.

They could have blamed circumstances, but decided a no-excuses assault on their dream was the only viable option.

I would have loved to have been there, to watch kids I have never met, from a town I have never visited earn the title. Instead, I am forced to share second-hand quotes.

But one does not have to travel to Alaska to get this story.

Over the past three weeks, in a student-led relief effort, East Union students and staff have donated over 250 pounds of school supplies and clothing shipped in 19 boxes to the ice-encased home of the newly-crowned state champs.

Members of the Manteca community emailed, wanting to help kids they would never meet and possibly never receive direct thanks.

People rally because it’s morally sound, the right reaction regardless of the temptation to remain self-involved.

The real test comes now, in between the heart-straining stories of people struggling, the times there is no clear reason, except there shouldn’t need to be.

To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail

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