SPORTS OPINION: Hazen vs. Liberty – the real dish on school rivalries

Taylor Jackson, Sports Editor

When you think of rivalries here at Liberty, one specific name pops up: Hazen. Rivalry games are what we all look forward to at the start of the season: fans suit up in their blackout gear and war paint while players engage in good-natured smack talk with frenemies from down the road. Social media explodes with hashtags such as “#WeRunRenton” after we meet on the pitch, the court, the mats, or the pool. It’s a matchup that’s a toss-up: from year to year we never really know who’s going to come out on top. In the past it’s been the Highlanders, but lately the Patriots have been dominantly victorious: football, volleyball, and—in their first meeting in over a decade—womens soccer.

So how did the rivalry start? Unfortunately, there’s no exciting reason: close proximity and students who were friends led to the contention that we’re familiar with today. Social media and club activities have helped to create friendships between the opposing students, something that wasn’t present in the past. When asking my parents, who were graduates from Hazen way back in the ‘80s, about their experience, they said that the competition had been going on since they first enrolled at HHS, but back then Hazen had been the dominating force, and the rivalry had been much more intense without the friendships between the two schools. Luckily for Liberty, that’s changed in the past twenty or so years.

“We were both in the Seamount league, so we played each other in every sport. It didn’t matter what sport was being played, if it was Hazen vs. Liberty you could be sure the stands would be full and the crowd would be revved up and ready to go!” Hazen alumni and LHS staff member John Gardiner said. “Some of my fondest memories from high school – both athletically and with DECA – were times when I was competing against Liberty.”

But where there are rivalries there are repercussions. Unfortunately, as the anticipated games draw near, there’s an increasing number of negative and down-putting activity from both sets of students, whether it’s a Tweet or an actual face-to-face confrontation. At the Hazen game this year, Liberty students weren’t allowed to walk over to the visitor’s section even if just to say hi to a Hazen friend. Earlier this summer, before the school year had even started, a group of Hazen hooligans stole the “L” from the Liberty sign that overlooks the football field, hiding it in one of their backyards and forcing ASB to buy another that, regrettably, doesn’t quite match. Even more recently the “Y” was stolen, presumably by the same group of students, leaving us again with an unfinished sign to stand over the football field.

Gardiner added that “when rivalries turn into vandalism and violence, that’s probably where I would say they are no longer a positive thing.”

So, with all the negativity that comes from neighboring schools engaging in a rivalry, should we continue to support it?
“School rivalries keep the spirit and morale of the school up,” ASB President Cherelle Demps said. “But there’s definitely a certain line that shouldn’t be crossed.”

Personally, I think that as high school students we should be able to behave ourselves. Rivalries and competitions are things we will run into throughout the rest of our lives, and dealing with them in negative ways isn’t a very productive way to go about it. Just look at the Seahawks and the 49ers: a larger scale example of our own situation. When the Hawks do well, the community draws closer together and becomes tighter knit than it was before. And when the fans begin to act childish? Well, then everyone looks down on them. Don’t be that obnoxious fan that’s constantly shouting at the other team; it’s not as cool as you think it is.

Not only does it make you look bad, but acting like this also reflects poorly on our school. Around the district we have a reputation for having kind and polite students, and that’s something you don’t want to throw away on a game that’ll just last one night. People remember the dumb things you do much longer than the good, so let’s try and keep the bad to a minimum, for reputation and memory’s sake.

The games against Hazen, especially when we win, bring us closer together as a school and as a community, truly supporting the idea that “We Are One.” Undermining such a great thing with juvenile remarks about the other team? Not cool. Ask anyone and you’ll get the same response: we’re better than that.

“Rivalries are good: they keep the intensity of the school up,” Demps said. But in order to do so, we’ve also got to keep the negativity down.