Celebrating Crosstown

Rivalries bring our community together

By Jeff Epperly

With the start of another school year, the crosstown rivalry between Flathead and Glacier is now celebrating its 10th year. It’s hard to believe that a decade has gone by since these two schools first played against one another in a crosstown competition.

I love that the two schools push each other to be better and compete harder in their pursuit of excellence. This is what a quality crosstown rivalry is all about. Without a doubt, one of the goals of each school, no matter the sport or extracurricular activity, is to beat your crosstown rival. This striving for superiority against another team within your city is crazy fun for all those involved. They know each other extremely well. There are really very few unknowns when the Braves play the Wolfpack.

This recent crosstown phenomenon is what rural Montana has been missing. Normally, rivalries are miles and miles away, but now inner-city competition between schools is spreading as additional high schools are being built. Bozeman will be the next large city in Montana to join the fray, adding a second high school sometime around 2021. This additional school is long overdue, and as Bozeman school officials put plans in place, they have looked to Kalispell as a test case that will help them anticipate the hurdles they must overcome to make it work.

One thing they can count on is the number of opportunities young people have because of a new school. Simply put, everything is doubled. Double the number of teams equals double the number of opportunities. New high schools are added because current numbers exceed space requirements, and kids benefit.

Looking back to the addition of Glacier High School, the birth of the rivalry between the old and the new was almost instantaneous. What do I mean? In order to establish the “new,” many from the “old” needed to move to the “new.” And believe me — this old and new thing has been important over the past 10 years. Flathead High School, when Glacier began, had been in existence 96 years. Without question, it has contributed to the intensity of the rivalry. Historically, if you were from Kalispell, you went to Flathead High School. Many teachers as well as students had to move over from Flathead High School to establish the new Glacier High School. Change can be hard on a community.

At first, there was charity and sympathy as the Wolfpack began to lay the groundwork for the athletic programs. They struggled to compete in those first few years. But in short order, those athletic programs accelerated to such a degree that they left the old in their wake. In fact, for the last seven years, Flathead High School has struggled to keep up with their crosstown rival as they have tried to pick up the pieces of the mass exodus to a new school. But the Braves have endured the attraction to the newness of Glacier and are beginning to gain their footing again, not only in their growing rivalry with Glacier but within the AA ranks.

Last week, the season’s first varsity crosstown games were played in soccer for both boys and girls. Flathead won the boys, Glacier the girls. And this week, the Crosstown Cup will be played in golf (Sept. 22-23). Then next Thursday, the year’s first volleyball crosstown clash will be at Flathead High School. Finally, the big football rivalry game will be on Friday, Oct. 21. Though not competing directly team against team in a dual meet, the cross country squads will participate in the Glacier Invite and then on Saturday, Oct. 22 in the state cross country meet here at Rebecca Farm. 

It is amazing that it has been 10 years. Celebrate our two high schools by being a part of these great rivalry experiences. They bring our community together.

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