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Spirit, ‘cleats,’ family, dry forecast make for a great weekend

I began covering high school students in 1986, so if you will forgive me, I have every right to be one of those jaded journalists.God only knows how many classrooms I’ve been in, how many games I’ve watched, how many concerts I’ve viewed or how many times I interviewed a kid.And yet, here in my 31st year, the jadedness has faded away. I realized I can still be moved Friday night as I stood in the “U” at New Hampton High School.There was the Chickasaw football team, in a circle, surrounded by scores of students, and they were all singing the school song.I swear to God I got goosebumps, and I figured I had given those up long ago.For 30 years, I’ve seen plenty of school spirit, but this group of high school students has been, in a word, amazing.Look, I know that’s the most overused word in the English language, but it’s the right word for this group of Chickasaws.Go to a volleyball match, and those students are loud and proud. Go to a football game, and those students are loud and proud. Just go walk the halls of New Hampton High School, and you’ll catch that vibe that says these kids have each others’ backs.I’m not saying there wasn’t plenty of school spirit in these parts way back when or even in the relatively few years I’ve called New Hampton home.What I am saying is this group of students may be taking school spirit to a new level.When I was interviewing Carter Stochl, who isn’t the sentimental type but more of a straight shooter, for this week’s football story, I asked him about that scene in the U.“It’s cool what we have going right now,” he said. “Everyone supports everyone else. You definitely feel that.”If Carter Stochl is going to use the word “cool,” I can’t be all that far off the mark when it comes to this current student body’s spirit.•••••When the school song ended, I wanted to make sure I grabbed by two boys for some pictures with their sister Abby, who for the first time Friday night saw her brothers play varsity football.“Josh, I want to do these pictures,” I said as I tugged at his arm.He pulled away and said, “We’ve got cleats first.”Cleats?“It’s huge, Dad.”And so I watched the varsity football players all remove one shoe and bang the sidewalk in the U 35 times, once for each point the football team scored in its win over Clarion-Goldfield-Dows/CAL.I learned later that it’s a tradition after every home victory to do cleats, trust me, it’s cool.The Chickasaws start slow — there are long pauses between the numbers 1 to 10 but the pace picks up and cleats ends up with a furious rush.It’s cool, trust me.•••••Finally, we did get the pictures taken and while my boys share many character traits with Abby, who turned 22 on Monday, they do differ on one point.The boys have height and plenty of it — Noah stands taller than 6-5 and Josh is right about 6-3 1/2 — while Abby stands right around 5-4.But Friday night, as her brothers dwarfed her, she stood tall and proud between them, and all was right in my world. My kids were together, something that rarely happens these days, and I’m guessing will happen even more infrequently in coming years.To see those smiles, to see the love for each other in their faces, on Friday night, that was priceless.And it was cool.•••••And my last thought as I finish up this column has nothing to do with school spirit, cleats or my kids.I checked the forecast a few minutes ago, and it appears that after weeks — no, make that months — of stormy weather, Mother Nature is finally going to give us a respite.There’s little, if any rain, in this week’s forecast.And that’s cool.

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