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COLUMN

Canterbury-Homestead rivalry produces for worthy cause

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Follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and at his blog www.tailingthekomets.com.

Tennis foes raise money for cancer awareness

Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 4:33 am

Usually when the Canterbury and Homestead tennis teams play, the players push each other to their best performances. It's Fort Wayne high school sport's best rivalry as both schools are almost always ranked, and the sectional winner regularly advances to state. The play is always intense and very good.

However, Homestead's 3-2 win in Wednesday's match doesn't matter as much as what the girls and their coaches accomplished before the first ball was served. No one will remember the score in a few weeks, but they might remember what else happened.

In February, Canterbury assistant Kerry Mumma attended the Indiana High School Tennis Coaches Association convention with Cavaliers coach Jerry Gerig. Someone talked about how two Muncie teams who had worn shirts on May 1 to raise money to fight cancer, and the slogan was ``Beating cancer; May 1 day we win.''

Immediately thinking of his friend, hall of fame Homestead coach Jim Clark who died May 29 from colon cancer, Mumma looked at Canterbury's schedule for May 1 and saw Homestead. It was also the first time in several years the two sometimes bitter sectional rivals would meet for a regular-season match.

Feeling a chill, Mumma approached Gerig and Homestead coach Jim Shull with the T-shirt idea for the match. Both immediately agreed, and so did Canterbury Athletic Director Ken Harkenrider and Homestead Athletic Director Joe Updegrove. The Muncie teams had worn T-shirts for different kinds of cancers, but Updegrove suggested the Canterbury and Homestead wear the same T-shirt.

Interesting enough?

Both schools' primary color is dark blue. There are colors for 32 specific cancers. Guess which color represents colon cancer.

Dark blue. The T-shirts both teams wore Wednesday were dark blue.

``I'm like, this is destiny,'' Mumma said. ``Are you kidding me?''

After Sports Center Inc. gave the schools a fantastic deal and suggested the logo ``Together Smashing Cancer,'' team members started selling T-shirts for $10 apiece. They'll eventually raise nearly $1,000 for the American Cancer Society.

Canterbury junior doubles player Ellie McCandless has sold nearly 30 T-shirts.

``It's fun to work with the other students and raise money for a good cause, but it was stressful, too,'' McCandless said. ``I wanted to do well with this, and I took it on full force. It's nice that our rivals could be part of it, too.''

There was a little ceremony before the match with Shull choking up while taking about Clark, and then the teams posed together wearing their T-shirts. The rivals even smiled while posing.

True, it's tennis which is not exactly the most physical and intense sport, but these kids grow up training against each other and are raised on the importance of beating each other because it's the only way to get to state. Usually, one of the state's best teams goes home after the sectional dreaming of revenge.

``For whatever reason Canterbury and Homestead, I call it the North Carolina-Duke effect,'' Mumma said. ``Public/private, we're really close, our kids know each other... Even though there's a respect, there's also the feeling that our kids really want to beat each other.''

There have been plenty of grievous defeats. The scores are almost always 3-2 and decided by two or three matches lasting three sets. One year, a sectional match ended with a ball hitting the top of the net, stopping almost completely before crawling over for the winning point. Feelings are strong and not easily forgotten.

Wednesday was a performance as beautiful as the weather. It's nice to be able to remember both sides for doing something positive together.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Blake Sebring at bsebring@news-sentinel.com .