Trojan Classic Tournament celebrates 30th Anniversary

The programs for the Trojan Classic have changed in appearance over the past 30 years. Originally they featured the opening Trojan’s jump shot from the year before and then eventually students began creating the cover.

Every year, without fail, since 1995, the USD 410 school district has pulled off the Trojan Classic, an annual basketball tournament held in Hillsboro the third week of January.

The event, sponsored and somehow pulled off by the Hillsboro High School Booster Club and Athletic Director (AD), consists of both boys and girls teams that compete three different nights at both Hillsboro High School and Tabor College gyms. But it didn’t always work that way.

“We’d go Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday so it was just Wednesday we had off and many teams traveled a ways to be here,” said former AD and Superintendent Max Heinrichs. “And it was just boys.”

Heinrichs gives all the credit for the Trojan Classic Tournament to Jim Thomas who was the AD who started both the Booster Club and the tournament. Thomas was the AD for 28 years, including 8 years of the tournament. Then Heinrichs took over as AD.

“I’ll tell you what our boys’ tournament was. It was phenomenal. And everybody commented how good it was,” said Heinrichs.

One of the major accomplishments Heinrichs had during his seven years as AD running the tournament was adding the girls to it in 2005.

Heinrichs explained that the teams who participate in the tournament all get part of the gate money based on mileage (after HHS is reimbursed for expenses such as paying officials, gate workers, etc) to help cover their travel. Because so many attend the well-planned event, the reimbursements are decent amounts.

The girls were sent to another tournament at a different school the week after, but the reimbursements were not near as much since the tournaments were not as well attended. The girls were also getting fewer home games as a result of not playing in the Trojan Classic.

“Our boys were getting 14 home games. Our girls were getting 11. I wanted both teams to have the same thing,” said Heinrichs.

So ten years after the boys’ tournament started, Heinrichs decided to add girls so that he would have more teams and girls could play.

“All of a sudden we were two teams down. And this was a big deal. People were getting mad that we couldn’t find the teams. But finally we settled on six and we ran Round Robin pools. We crossed bracket and played,” said Heinrichs. “But what I did when I got to the six solid was said, ‘You gotta bring your girls, too’. And then after they saw how well that worked, two other teams jumped in. And so that’s how we got to have it all at once.”

After Heinrichs came current AD, Robert Rempel.

“Nobody knows the work that Robert puts in. He makes it look like it’s easy, but he’s done it all behind the scenes,” said Heinrichs. “And the Booster Club has become much better at knowing what, when and how to help out with that.”

 

 

Rempel added using Tabor College to host games. This is what allows the tournament to be run so efficiently in three nights of play.

It also allows more teams to participate.

 

“We get teams from almost all four quarters of the states. When you think of Holcomb to Eureka to Riley County Republic, all those teams that are a long way away makes this kind of a unique tournament in that teams get to see how other parts of the state play basketball,” said Rempel.

Another part of what makes the tournament so unique is that the organizers put a host with each team and provide a hospitality room for both players and one for coaches and administrators. All of the participants also get a shirt so they have something to take home with them.

“One of the things we always try to do is to make teams and fans from other communities feel like it’s a great environment. Whether we feed the teams or the coaches in the hospitality rooms or just having the team hosts. Teams know where to go, but it’s nice if they know that someone’s locking up their locker room and is gonna check on water for them,” said Rempel. “Some things that a manager might normally do, but now you have someone local just guiding them.”

These are all done with the help of volunteers through the Booster Club.

“It just brings our community together because it takes a whole lot of people to bring this tournament together. It’s not just the school. It takes volunteers to help the teams and the hosts become like family to these kids. If I could tell you stories of some of them and how they have come back for three years straight. These kids come back and they become family—like they wanna host the same teams for years and years and years. They’ve even gone to their weddings later, they followed them in college sports, and more,” said Connie Weber who has volunteered almost all of the 30 years the tournament has been running.

 

She has also served many years on the Booster Club.

“The booster club—I really appreciate them getting volunteers for the gate, for concessions and hospitality—all those things that they spent a lot of hours on getting people to volunteer. I think that used to be easier before people were so busy,” said Rempel.

According to current Booster Club President Tracy Hefley, her incredible team, which consists of Hefley, Charla Duerksen, Carissa Thiessen, Erin Beavers, Jane Brewer, Alyson Voran and Tiffany Miller, begins preparing for the tournament about six months before the event. And they do a lot.

 

“We do everything from finding volunteers for the concession stand, hospitality room, gate workers, hosts—each team has a host. So we find those people, which a lot of them have done it year after year for the same teams,” said Hefley. “We are also responsible for finding people to donate food, make cookies, and donate all the stuff for the hospitality and player rooms.

The Booster Club also handles the programs and sells the ads for the programs. They also run the concession stand and take the profits from it to run the Booster Club for the rest of the things they do for all sports.

“It takes a lot of volunteers and a lot of cookies to make the Trojan Classic successful. People don’t realize that the money that we earn from the Trojan Classic goes towards all sports not just basketball,” said Hefley.

The tournament is also great for the City of Hillsboro.

“The Trojan Classic is an event that brings the community together. Everyone is a Trojan Booster that week and the Classic is a community booster. It brings lots of people from out of town who shop, eat and enjoy what the community has to offer. It’s an economic shot in the arm during an otherwise slow time of year,” said Hillsboro City Administrator Matt Stiles.

The Boys’ 30th and the Girls’ 20th Trojan Classic Tournament is this week Jan. 17-20. They will now play Thursday, Friday and Saturday and not Tuesday due to weather.

More from Laura Fowler Paulus
City of Hillsboro acknowledges long-time staff in meeting
The Hillsboro City Council opened the Oct. 4 meeting with a time...
Read More