By the numbers

Bob Sextro knows Hillsboro High School athletics by the numbers.

The most significant number may be 33. That?s how many years he?s been stationed along the sidelines keeping record of the accomplishments and disappointments of Trojan athletes as the school?s volunteer statistician and timekeeper.

?I enjoy doing it,? says the former math instructor at the high school. He retired from teaching in 1995, but plans to hold onto his volunteer role for as long as he is able to maintain the sometimes demanding schedule.

Sextro began keeping statistics the year he joined the HHS staff in 1967. Don Penner, who joined the staff that same year as a teacher and head football coach, recruited him.

?I had expressed an interest and said I enjoyed football,? Sextro recalls. ?He thought if he had an adult keeping stats, it might be a little more accurate than having kids do it.?

Sextro?s involvement grew from there. He became assistant timer at home basketball games, then, in the early 1970s, he began keeping the scorebook at away games. He expanded his duties when the athletic department added girls? basketball in the mid-1970s and has also kept stats in volleyball since the mid-1980s.

His keen interests in math and sports came together naturally in his assignment.

?I?ve always enjoyed numbers,? he says. ?Guys are always talking about records, so I thought if I was in the inner circle, I?d be able to keep track of them.?

It?s worked. Sextro is a walking encyclopedia of HHS sports memories, trivia and achievements.

Not only does he have knowledge of the sports for which he kept the books, but also those he watched as a fan, like track and field.

He?ll tell you about Angie Helmer winning state gold medals in the 100, 400 and 800 meters in 1983?and he insists she could have won a fourth gold in the 200 if goofy scheduling at the regional meet hadn?t kept her from qualifying. And he remembers watching C.J. Vogel help his teammates set the 4×400 school record even though Vogel?s shoe came untied as he ran his leg of the relay.

During the early years, Sextro simply recorded the stats during football and basketball games and let the coaches take care of compiling them. After buying his first computer in the mid-1980s, Sextro wrote his own stats program and has since kept a near-complete tabulation of the sports he follows to the present.

Sextro says keeping stats is one way to maintain connections with HHS students.

?I never got married and never had any kids of my own,? he says. ?This was my way of keeping contact with a lot of the kids. And I enjoy sports of all kinds.?

He also feels, at least in a small way, he can help the coaches, too.

?I get a chance to talk to the coaches and get an idea what they?re feeling,? he says. ?Sometimes they?ll ask me questions, like, ?I?m at practice with them every day and see it this way, but how do you see it???

From his perspective as a career educator, Sextro says athletics has done a great service for many HHS students.

?I?m quite sure that over the course of the years that I could point out certain people who, if they hadn?t had sports in school, would have probably flunked out and done nothing with their lives,? he says. ?But because of sports, they realize they had to maintain a certain grade level and had to do certain things. They forced themselves to do it and found out later they could do a whole lot more than they thought and even went on to college.?

But are sports overemphasized at Hillsboro High?

?I?ve told any number of people that if you drove into Hillsboro, you could see that Hillsboro has two loves: church and sports,? he says. ?I think for most people in this town, church is still No. 1, but sports is close behind.?

He says sports draws a small community together.

?When we go down to the state tournament, we have a town of 3,000 people but we get more than 3,000 people into that sports arena who are yelling and screaming for our basketball teams,? Sextro says. ?And we have a lot of graduates who no longer live here, but love seeing the old hometown doing well.?

Sextro concedes the standard for athletic success is high in Hillsboro, especially for basketball.

?There are probably 200 high schools in Kansas that would love to have the kind of record our boys have this year (13-7),? he says, ?and yet we?re maybe a little disappointed.?

Still, he doesn?t think having high expectations is bad.

?I think it motivates a lot of kids,? he says. In addition to the athletes, other students participate through the cheering sections that have been organized in the past five or six years.

?It?s a positive for those kids because they feel they?re a part of it when they are allowed to do that,? he says. But he adds: ?They also know that if they get too wild, that they?ll never get it again.?

Sextro has seen the physical side of athletics evolve over the past three decades.

?The quickness and strength of the kids overall, as a general group, is much higher,? he says. ?It?s a much faster ball game now, both in football and basketball, as compared to 25 or 30 years ago.?

He says in the early ?70s, fans were impressed to see an athlete with a vertical leap of two feet.

?Now almost every kid can jump two feet off the floor,? he says. ?We don?t pop our eyeballs until they?re up there three feet to 40 inches off the floor.?

He credits the growth of weight training as a key factor. When he came to HHS, the weight room was located in a small room that now serves as the teachers? lounge. Over the past 10 to 15 years, the workout facilities have probably quadrupled in size and serve the needs of girls as well as boys.

?Twenty-five years ago, girl didn?t even think about it,? he says. ?It was out of sight, out of mind. ?I don?t want to lose my femininity by lifting weights.? It?s different now.?

Sextro has kept stats for girls? basketball since it became an interscholastic sport in the mid-1970s. He says the sport has come a long way, especially in the minds of administrators and board members.

?For the first couple of years, I don?t think we were strongly interested in the sport,? he says. ?Quite truthfully, I think our school board and administration thought that if we had real poor records, we?d just give up and wouldn?t have to worry about girls? sports.

?Now, if we don?t do well, we?re in trouble,? he adds with a chuckle.

These days, one of Sextro?s interests is connecting the present generation of Trojan athletes with the previous generation.

?Anymore, part of the fun is to see how the sons and daughters of some of the former players are doing,? he says. ?I?ve been able to watch some kids from the time they were born until the time they graduate because I?ve been with some of the families close enough to know them.?

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