The Harbinger Online

East graduate remains dedicated to the Lancers by keeping stats

The success of the 1999 and 2000 girls’ soccer teams helped salvage the history of Lancer athletics, for all sports.

These teams ran through nearly every opponent they faced, losing just twice in 41 total games. They were led by then-head coach Jim Ricker, and had a pair of All-Americans in Stacy Leeper and Carrie Fry. But, as Ricker puts it, “for every good team, there’s a good manager that helps out the coach.”

The Lady Lancers were managed by Kevin Booker, class of 2000. Booker, who was cut from the boys’ team, did it all. He scouted opponents. He made sure the equipment was ready for practice and the uniforms were set for the games. He worked with Ricker’s brother to ensure that every game was filmed.

But perhaps most importantly, he kept stats. Booker loved being able to know which players were the goal scorers, which ones were the key assist makers and which goalies were the toughest to score on. Ricker vividly remembers all the times that Booker would let him know who the best teams and players in the area were. The success that these teams experienced piqued Booker’s passion for East athletics, and it blossomed into a goal: to get the history of every varsity program documented and recorded.

“I think it was necessary to do because nobody else had [kept any records],” Booker said. “[The records] help us appreciate the students, faculty and administration that came before us. If it wasn’t for them, [current students] wouldn’t be able to play today. It’s for the whole Shawnee Mission East community.”

Booker started with the sport he knew best: girls’ soccer. He perused through old Hauberks, Harbingers and just about anything else he could get his hands on that would yield scores of old Lancer games. After talking with the athletic director at the time, Booker was granted access into the school’s archives, and his goal inched closer and closer to fruition.

In 2004, after three years of hard work, he had completed his records. Booker’s giant notebook included results to each and every varsity sporting event in East history. He had each coaches’ record. He had the Lancers’ home and away records for each sport. Booker even had East’s record against every individual opponent it had ever played. The information was the most comprehensive athletic documentation in school history.

Despite his accomplishment, Booker was not content with his life. He worked at Outback Steakhouse during the day. At night, he returned home at late hours with no time to do anything. His clothes smelled of grilled onions and cheese fries.

“I knew I had to make a change in my life,” Booker said. “It wasn’t a good way to survive – paycheck to paycheck. I needed to do something with my life; I needed to see what was out there in the world.”

Booker joined the United States Army, and was sent to Fort Campbell, KY in October 2004. Ricker thought his former manager had once again done the right thing.

“I thought it was a pretty good idea for him,” Ricker said. “It gave him a little more direction and the structure that he needed.”

Booker was a member of the 101st Airborne Division. After a brief stay in Kentucky, Booker was deployed to Iraq in May 2005 for Operation Iraqi Freedom 3. He was stationed in Camp Al Taji, a rural area just north of Baghdad.

During his time in Taji, Booker never forgot about his hometown and his alma mater. When they saw donkeys walking up and down the main highway, all he could think about was the humorous thought of the animal slowly jaunting down Mission Road or I-70.

When Booker encountered a familiar face, the thoughts of East became even more real. Booker came upon Sam Dodge, class of 2005. Once they got over the coincidence of meeting one another thousands of miles away in Iraq, the pair reminisced over their respective times at East. Booker also kept his passion for Lancer athletics alive by checking the school Web site and sending frequent e-mails to friends and family; Ricker said they’ve kept in contact weekly ever since Booker’s graduation.

Finally, in May 2006, Booker returned to Kentucky for the Army. In March 2007, the Army thanked Booker for his service and allowed him to return home to Kansas City, since his three year service was complete. His stay in the army left an impact on him.

“When I came home to Kansas City, I was able to appreciate life a whole lot more,” Booker said. “Everything that I grew up with I had taken for granted, and [I realized] you have to go out and earn it.”

Booker was determined to ensure he wouldn’t let his fresh start go to waste. He got a job with Embarq phone company when he returned from Kentucky. After stints with the Johnson Country Water District #1 and the KC Wizards, Booker found a job with Kansas City Power & Light, where he has now worked for nearly a year and a half.

Even with his new job and new outlook on life, Booker did not allow his love for Lancer athletics to be tossed aside with his Outback Steakhouse work uniform. He attends as many East sporting events as he possibly can, and resumed updating his records.

“It’s a motivation,” Booker said. “It’s a stress reliever from work.”

Ricker isn’t surprised that Booker continues to work on his findings.

“Kevin is very loyal to Shawnee Mission East,” Ricker said. “He’s a super nice guy and I don’t think there’s a mean streak in his body. He’s somebody who found a lot of friendship while at Shawnee Mission East, and that’s why he’s willing to go the extra mile for his school.”

Now, he has the game history of every single varsity program. His knowledge of Lancer athletics is unmatched. He knows that East boys’ basketball has won seven of its last eight against Olathe East. He could tell you how many district titles the girls’ tennis program has won (37 of a possible 40). He can even tell you how many East alumni have served in Iraq or Afghanistan (seven, by his count). Booker keeps his stats up-to-date by getting in touch with coaches after each season and updating his records.

It is Booker’s dream to one day have his records published, and Ricker can foresee that happening in some capacity, possibly as a flyer of some sort.

Booker believes it’s his duty as an alumnus to continue to support the athletic programs just as enthusiastically as he did when he was chasing down soccer balls and keeping the uniforms organized as Ricker’s right-hand man. Booker simply wants all Lancers to understand this responsibility.

“It’s a privilege to go to East, and not that many people get to say that they did,” Booker said. “You can’t forget the history that you’re a part of while you were there.”

With Booker’s help, it has become much easier to remember.

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