Return of middle school sports to Shawnee Mission district draws hundreds of students

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Indian Hills cross-country runners went on their first training run of the season in August.

By all counts the return of middle school sports to the Shawnee Mission School District is off to a rousing start this fall.

The first seasons to open in the revived sports program were wrestling and cross-country. District athletic director Matt Johnson reported to the school board this week that 120 wrestlers are participating among the five middle schools and more than 400 students turned out to run cross-country in the middle schools. The return of sports programs to the middle schools was approved in March.

“Wrestling was the one sport (we were) concerned about,” Johnson said. It was the hardest sport to predict the kind of turnout from the students. He said a large group of students showed up to cheer at the meets. High school wrestlers also have been volunteering to help with and support the middle school wrestlers.

The next season to open will be girls basketball followed by boys basketball after the winter break. Volleyball is scheduled for next spring. Middle school sports had been absent from the district for decades before being brought back this school year. Early indications during signups predicted that it would be well received.