by Jennifer Thompson
GREENSBORO BEND – Are you born into it? Do you sign up for it in kindergarten? Do you have to attend school in the Hardwick district? Is it an oath? Often this wanders through my mind while attending Hazen Union basketball games. I am a Kansas girl: yes, the Wonderful Land of Oz; Toto and Dorothy. Being born out-of-state and attending multiple schools, graduating in 1999 at Spaulding High School in Barre, I don’t classify myself as a Wildcat: officially, not yet at least.
However, I did attend Hardwick Elementary for pre-school and kindergarten, prior to moving. Does that make me a Wildcat? I married a Wildcat, does that count?
So, I ask a Hardwick native; graduate of Hazen High School in 2000 and a one-time Hazen basketball championship player, the one who helped me love the sport of basketball and attend every basketball game near and far that time allows. I ask “What makes you a Wildcat? He responds as “I graduated at Hazen.” Just as you graduated Spaulding High School, you are a “Crimson Tide.” My reaction is priceless…. “I’m a Tide?” I mean how cool is that?
So, then I go one step further; I use my lifeline and phone a friend asking the same question, “What makes you a Wildcat?” His response, with a delayed response, feeling a bit like he wanted to answer deeply, “that’s a tough one.” He then responds with “one to put yourself into the same line with everyone, to be humble.” I hear his son in the background say “respectful, responsible and safe, that’s our school motto!”
I, knowing this friend is a huge part of the Hazen Wildcat basketball family, I will try one more time.
Let me phone a friend that is not so dedicated to the basketball world of Hardwick but graduated as a Hazen Wildcat and ask the same question. His response: “Ummu, I went to Hazen and graduated there, but if you didn’t catch me off guard, I may have had a better answer.”
With that said, I could keep going. I know plenty of people that would answer, but overall, I think I could draft a book on it.
“There is no right answer.” I told the last friend. “It is just a question.”
I just could not stop there though, so phoning an out-of-state, Hazen Union championship player, a leader in a large basketball program in another state. He is a little caught off guard as well, and responds with “I think it’s sense of community and brotherhood.”
So, I go back to the first Hardwick native who is sitting with me through all the phone calls and ask him again, knowing that his blood runs Wildcat thick: “What makes you a Wildcat?” His response this time: “A sense of community, brotherhood, a way of carrying yourself, a work ethic, all good things.”
I sit here now thinking, just maybe I am a Wildcat without the Hazen High School diploma.
No one questioned why I was asking, even though I am a Crimson Tide, but after hearing their answers, I think of myself as a Wildcat. Now I can wear the shirts that say, “Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.” They go well with all the red and blue apparel seen around the town.
My mind goes to the majority of how people live around us: anyone that supports the community, the children that are being raised in this community, the friends and parents that support and protect these kids, the kids that are looking up at these middle school and high school athletes. I also think of the countless members of the community, near and far, that see us in public and talk basketball, those that may attend sporting events because they heard of the comradery we have. I think of the parents who give rides to and from school events to help others out and the local businesses who donate towards jerseys, games, travel. I think of the hundreds of people who have donated to bottle drives supporting proms, basketball, baseball, and the volunteer efforts of photographers, commentators, concession stand booth.
It’s often you will find these Wildcat graduates chanting “It’s great to be a Wildcat, It’s great to be a Wildcat” at weddings, birthday gatherings, and even at New Year’s Eve events, watching championship basketball games that were from 2000 and beyond, talking about the greatest plays that were 24 years ago. They still talk about it, as if it were yesterday.
I sat at a restaurant in Florida, eating dinner, as my mother-in-law streamed her grandson’s Hazen Union basketball game on the phone. Being a Wildcat is redesigning the staffing schedule at our business to ensure the parents and players can attend their games and practices. It is hundreds of miles on the road, countless dinners eaten out, many schools traveled to. It is watching a brother fly from out of state to watch his sister hit her 1000-point basket.
I do not have a child that graduated from Hazen, our oldest is a Harwood Highlander and our youngest is attending his first year as a Hazen Wildcat in the seventh grade. I did not graduate as a Wildcat: I graduated from Spaulding High School, and never looked back. But as a Wildcat, these graduates come back for more; they come back to support the up-and-coming Wildcat graduates, the Bobcats, and even the past graduates, the community.
I know a Wildcat when I see one; and I am extremely proud to say I know where they come from.
Written by a Mindlessly Wondering, married into Wildcat fan.