East’s biggest sports fans aren’t always in the student section. Some Lancer fanatics are alums or longtime teachers who come to support the team and enjoy the atmosphere of the rumbling bleachers. These devoted fans come to East sporting events showing school spirit and looking for a way to embrace the team, even though their days in the stands as students have long-since passed.
Stepping into the stands, substitute teacher, Terri Archer looks across the court and sees the student section, yelling to the opposing team. He looks to the court and sees the familiar faces of students he knows from the halls or classes and fills with joy.
Archer considers getting a call from a sick teacher good news, because when he gets a call, he knows he’ll get to interact with only the best students out there — East students.
“I truly enjoy East students,” Archer said. “They are always respectful, cooperative, friendly and I enjoy talking to them, so then if I get to know them a little bit and I find out that they are in a sport, I love to go out and support them.”
Archer loves to see students running down the court or dribbling down the field, even just for a quarter. He sees more than the uninterested students he subs for in American History, but passionate athletes when they step on the field, court or track for a sporting event.
Archer remembers students’ names on the class roster from weeks ago when subbing for their teacher, and always stops them in the hallway to ask when their next matchup is. He writes numerous letters of recommendation and attends the graduations of students he knows well. This making it all the more special for him to see them take part in a sport or activity.
Before Archer was a substitute, he was an East guidance counselor from 2007 to 2010. He only got to know a small amount of students well as a counselor. But as a substitute, he saw a different class of students each day, allowing him to build relationships with more of them. Archer then sees them at their best, smiling and working hard, participating in a sport at a great school.
With the students yelling, basketball shoes squeaking and referees blowing their whistles, an East game will forever remind Archer of his days in college. He cheered on his favorite team in The Allen Fieldhouse when he went to The University of Kansas. Now he watches the students he has come to know with smiles on their faces while participating in East sports.
“The stands at East events are energetic, enthusiastic, passionate and fun,” Archer said. “I’ll always love standing in them watching some great kids.”
Not many people know that Coach Hair’s 250th game was a win, that the football state championship this year was the 538th varsity football game in East history or that David Moak was the first ever East touchdown scorer. The man sitting almost religiously in the front row of the stands taking stats, does however.
Since his graduation in 2001, Kevin Booker has spent countless hours at the Topeka library and East’s library gathering data for his project, a full history of all East athletic records since it opened in 1958. For 15 years he has been officially recording and maintaining the records for every sport and has provided them publicly to the Lancer community. Off the top of his head, Booker can tell you the basketball team’s record from 1986 or the fastest 400 meter dash ever run at East.
“When I was a student at East there was never a written history of it,” Booker said. “I think it needed to be documented in some kind of a way for everybody to see.”
Booker not only records the data but also continues to be present at East games. He comes to almost all of the games and checks Twitter every time he can’t make it. Booker enjoys going back to his high school as much as he can. Flashes of great high school memories flood his mind when he enters the gym: managing the girls’ soccer team and winning state, hanging out with friends and coming to every game possible.
“As an alum, it makes me feel so good to still be part of the great big family of SME Lancers even after graduating such a long time ago.” Booker said.
Booker sits in the bleachers at the basketball games, next to Andrew Gagnon, his high school friend, now teacher and coach of basketball and football at East. Booker takes stats as a keepsake of the game to remember the highlights.
Booker’s project is far from done, and the same goes for his love for East and its athletic programs. The statistics will still be recorded and Booker will continue to follow the sports at East.
Filling up water bottles, getting out the basketballs and doing anything else Coach Hair needed was just a way to be part of the team for East alum, Hunter Bickers.
Bickers was the boys’ basketball manager for all four years that he was at East because he was unable to play his freshman year due to a physical disability. He was offered the managing job by Coach Hair, and before long Bickers was considered part of the team. He got to see all the behind the scenes of boys’ basketball: practices, pep talks and team bonding experiences.
“It was so amazing being able to see the team evolve and improve together as one,” Bickers said. “I have such a love for the sport and got to experience it first hand watching the guys practice.”
Bickers was known to the guys as “Bicks,” “D8a Bicks” and “Brotha Bicks.” He wasn’t like the team manager that you see in movies, getting barked at and tossed around — Bickers considered himself as family to the guys.
“In certain ways I almost lived through these guys,” Bickers said. “We were all part of the team so when they won, I won. Every time they got a victory, I did too.”
The practices were especially great for Bickers, getting to see the pieces being put together. He sat on the bench and admired the players working together as one in the games.
After graduating last year, Bickers still comes to all the games in order to continue supporting his team. This season, he went to every varsity game including other JV and girls’ games, sitting in the student section. He even traveled to Leavenworth to watch the team play in a tournament this season.
“East games feel like a giant balloon popping,” Bickers said. “Everyone just erupts in the stands and it’s such a crazy feeling.”
Bickers’ love for the team and the game almost overpower his love for the school. The four years he had at SME inspired him. He played in a full game his freshman year, attended every pep rally there was and experienced how the most different people became like family over the years.
“I would take a bullet for anybody at that school, because as much love that I have for that school, I only want good things for every single person there,” Bickers said “That’s just how I treat family.”