JOHNSTOWN, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Less than six months ago, Johnstown High School was on the verge of an entire academic year without sports. Now, the field hockey team is the second best in the state, and a community fundraising effort guaranteed every student athlete will get the chance to compete this year.
In the spring, voters turned down a budget proposal for the Johnstown School District which included a 35 percent tax levy increase. On average, per household in Johnstown, that’s less than $1 a day. The athletics program, some electives, and other extracurricular activities were cut as a result of the no-vote.
The Johnstown Athletic Department immediately started working with coaches and boosters clubs from across the Capital Region in an effort to preserve sports for the 2019-2020 school year. Local schools chipped in to help, including Shenendahowa’s field hockey team and Saratoga’s field hockey team.
The department was able to raise a little more than $300,000 to make sports possible, at least for this year. So far, it appears that hard work is paying off.
The girls field hockey team finished this season 20-1 and earned a trip to the State Final for the first time since 1993.
“It was the most exciting thing in the world for us,” said junior left forward Anna Lee.
This season, the Lady Bills had 90 goals scored with only 12 allowed by other teams. Taryn Ringer had 44 goals, which lead New York State and is fourth in the nation for goals scored this season.
They were unable to clinch the championship title on Sunday, but the team was ecstatic just to be there, and they’re still celebrating.
The athletes, however, are fully aware of the budget hurdles the district will face once again come next year. Still, they are keeping the faith telling NEWS10 ABC they have some unfinished business to take care of.
“We’re gonna get that gold medal!” said Lee.
The players are genuinely appreciative of the support they saw from their community.
“When we found out we did have the opportunity, we set the goal high to show the community that it was worth it, and we are worth it,” said junior defender Meghan Mraz.
One of the biggest champions behind the fundraising was their coach, Christine Krempa. She also played for Johnstown in high school. She was on the team that won the State Final in 1990. She’s now been coaching Johnstown field hockey for the past 11 years.
“I’m a homeowner here; I’m a small business owner here; I’m a taxpayer. I believe in the good of extracurricular sports, music, plays and all of these things for the kids to have to make them a well-rounded human being,” she said. “So that was the driving force for me to really get involved and help out. It wasn’t just this team. I knew they had this potential, and for sure, that was one of the reasons why I stepped up, but all the other reasons are just as important.”
The program should have enough money to get through winter and spring sports. NEWS10 was told the superintendent has also expressed interest in putting athletics back in the budget and exploring ways to make this work.
“It was crystal clear that it was going to be a three-year plan. So hopefully the people that voted yes remember to come out again next May and remember to vote again and the next May after that to really pull us out of this hole,” said Krempa.
Interim Athletic Director Mike Satterlee grew up in Johnstown, too. He played sports, coached, taught, became principal, retired and then came back. He said the district has tremendous talent across the board.
“If we’re not giving students what they need to be well-rounded individuals, we’re really not doing our job,” said Satterlee.
“I really hope that they see, with the next budget, that we’re worth it,” said Mraz.