For years, East vs. West was the biggest high school rivalry. Everything seemed to be measured by if you played for Robertson or West. Every football game and basketball game was sold out and the season’s success was determined by whether you defeated the cross-town rival.
Today, the rival is St. Michael’s High School. It doesn’t matter if it’s West or East; all of Las Vegas supports Vegas teams against the Darth Vader Horsemen. Just two months ago, there were many Las Vegans who were overjoyed because West Las Vegas had beaten St. Mikes at the basketball semifinals of state. Strangely enough, that victory made the trip to Albuquerque worth it, even if the Dons lost in the state championship.
Many vividly recall the battles between West and St. Mikes for the basketball district championships and how each game seemed to go into overtime. Most recently, Even though Robertson had already won two football championships, it was still painful to lose to St. Mike’s.
Maybe this rivalry is a reflection of the difference between public schools and private schools. And the competition is fueled by the attitudes of some of the private school students and their fans. For example, at the tennis district matches last week, a Robertson doubles team had just defeated the St. Mikes team. A St. Mike’s player was angry with his loss and reacted by attempting to insult the Robertson players by calling them “red necks,” among other things. The Robertson players held their composure and walked away from the poor loser. This angered the St. Mike’s player even more and he then tried to hurl his ultimate verbal weapon, “Well at least I’m going to college!”
It took me a while before I understood what the Santa Fe player was trying to say because it didn’t make sense. Our high schools have one of the highest graduation levels in the state. The graduates not only go to college, but they return with degrees from places like Harvard, Stanford and Highlands.
I don’t know if that player is a true representative of private schools. But that kind of statement tells me that there are private school students who really believe that they are better than their public school counterparts. Is this the real but ugly face of elitism or the separation of people by classes?
Maybe some of these questions reveal my inexperience with life, but as I grow older I start to understand more. We are lucky here in Las Vegas because regardless of education and income and where one lives; everybody here is treated as equals and we treat each other with mutual respect. And that may be the reason why our community is so successful against other schools, which have more funding or a larger population base.
Even when there is an obvious unfairness in the school classifications, our Vegas teams still win. We are in the same competitive classification levels (3A) as all the private schools like St. Mikes, Sandia Prep and New Mexico Military Institute. Those private schools recruit from all over New Mexico and in fact the Military Institute teams are filled with national caliber players who come from Mexico and other countries. On the other hand, Robertson has to find its players in the small East Las Vegas District.
Is it fair that the funding and boundaries for recruiting are so different? The competitive answer should be that private schools should have their own district with other private schools.
But still, I smile, because even with the private school advantage, Vegas teams still take more than their share of championships. I am proud when I see Vegas schools beat the Santa Fe Preps, or the Albuquerque Academys. In fact, our Robertson boys tennis has regularly beaten New Mexico Military Institute and their international high school teams.
We may not have the highest paid coaches or the private indoor tennis courts or the expensive country club tutors but our victories confirm that we have the respect from the rest of the state for our San Miguel county players. For example, in last week’s New Mexican, there was an article about the St. Michael’s coach was proud that his tennis team was starting to be competitive with the dynasty established by Robertson coach Juan Carlos Fulgenzi.
Maybe this thought sums up my feelings on competition and rivalry: “It is not the size of the dog in the fight which determines the winner; it is the size of the fight in the dog.” The winning history of Las Vegas is filled with athletes who have the bigger hearts, the stronger minds, and the spirit that shouts, “Regardless of the odds, we will never give up!”
Raven Romero, a Robertson High School senior, is an intern with the Las Vegas Optic. She can be reached at email@example.com