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Anderson County sports fans have posed the same question repeatedly over the last few weeks.
"Has there ever been a better year in the history of the school than this one?"
Wow. We are taking in a LOT of territory but as my friend Mike Fields pointed out in Friday's Lexington Herald-Leader, there were only three schools in Kentucky that had 10 wins in football and 20 wins in boys' and girls' basketball and 20 wins in baseball and softball.
Has there ever been a better year?
It's a valid question but one that would be hard to really judge given the realignments over the years and the enormous growth of girls' sports.
But at the same time, the year that came to a close on June 7 was one that produced two regional champions, three district championships, a regional runner-up, teams ranked in the state-wide rankings in three sports, and other programs that had some of their best showings in years, if not ever.
If 2007-08 was not the best since Anderson High School was formed in 1949, it was ceraintly worthy of being mentioned with those other great years.
I sat down with a pair of Anderson seniors, Ryan Wells and Caitlyn Royalty, recently to talk about the past year, their experiences both on the field and seeing the incredible fan support showered upon them and their teammates.
Both were like coaches on the floor as Wells ran the boys' basketball team show as point guard while Royalty was an honorable mention all-stater for the Anderson softball team. She was also a great defender and passer for the Lady Bearcat basketball team.
Both played much bigger than their listed heights - Wells was listed at 5-foot-7 but was closer to 5-9 and often played better than a 6-footer while Royalty was a rugged rebounder despite her 5-6 stature.
Both have likely played their final organized games, but it would not be surprising to see either change that statement in the future.
And both are continually amazed at the support they received and feel it is part of the atmosphere that made Anderson sports what they were in 2007-08.
"We have one of the best crowds anywhere," Wells said of the boys' basketball team. "Before every game, we would look over and see our student section packed and see the big crowds supporting us. That meant a lot to us."
Royalty was astounded to see a large throng of Anderson County fans forgetting about 4-buck gas to make the 3-hour trip to Owensboro for the state softball tournament. "There were so many people there that didn't have kids on the team," she said. "That really surprised me."
It shouldn't have. Anderson boys' basketball might not be mentioned in the same breath with the state's elite programs, but the Bearcats have a reputation of the sort that some coaches try to schedule games at Anderson just to experience crowds like a team will encounter in tournament play.
"At least one nearby coach has gone on the record as saying he would like for his school to have crowds like the Bearcats.
And who can forget one entire end zone and about a quarter of the upper deck at Rupp Arena being a sea of red when the Bearcats made the Sweet 16 in 1997?
During its undefeated football season, Anderson saw its crowds evolve from "packed house" to "standing room only."
And it has been the trademark of the Anderson County community to pump up ticket sales when the Bearcats are on the road. Don't believe me? Just ask Wells.
"We would go on the road and a lot of times, have bigger crowds than the home team," Wells said. "The community really supports us. That makes you feel good."
It was not limited to basketball. At the regional softball tournament, Anderson had as many supporters as the home team, Oldham County, for that 14-inning duel.
The Bearcat baseball team's fans easily outnumbered the opposition at the district tournament and through the first two rounds of the regional.
Even in the lower profile sports that don't draw quite the crowds of the others, Anderson tended to have a somewhat larger following than other schools when tournament time arrived and games were usually played at neutral sites.
Royalty, for one, will never forget that scene right out of "Hoosiers" that materialized on May 29: A bus followed by a line of cars.
Only this time, there were two buses and the headlights stretched beyond what the eyes could process after the Anderson baseball and softball teams won their respective regions, then linked up for the procession at Henry County High School
"There had to be over 100 cars following us home. Everyone was so excited" Royalty said of the impromptu caravan that began in Oldham County.
"The fans were always there to support us," said Wells, the basketball player. "We were undefeated at home this year and the fans were a part of that."
Both Wells and Royalty admit that when the game starts, their focus on the game at hand did not allow them to see some of their supporters' antics. But they knew they were not alone.
"You could hear the roar around you," said Wells, a 2-time All 30th District Tournament selection. "After the game, people would come up to you and say, 'We'll see you in Rupp.'"
Unfortunately, that didn't happen for the Bearcats as some bad luck, some in the form of sickness and some in the first subpar game in several weeks, befell them in district and regional play.
Royalty had also experienced many bitter pills through her career, including a 1-0 regional final loss in softball and seeing a lead evaporate in the final 70 seconds of the regional basketball final this March.
She finally tasted the joy of a title with the softball regional crown, but the Lady Bearcats fell in the state tournament.
That is the cruel reality of elimination sports. Only one team can win the ultimate crown, something that has happened just once at Anderson.
But Wells says that is just part of the experience. "Basketball taught me life lessons," he said. "It taught me how to deal with people, how to keep my composure and how to learn from mistakes."
Adds Royalty, "I learned sportsmanship, leadership and teamwork."
Chances are these two mainstays of Anderson sports over the past four years will be back. Royalty will get her chance to become a coach on the bench as she will be helping with the Anderson County Middle School program while attending the University of Kentucky as she prepares for a career in middle school education or accounting.
Wells will be a bit farther away as he matriculates at Eastern Kentucky University this fall to study law enforcement, but he'll be in the stands from time to time. "I am confident I will be back on some Friday nights."
He breaks into that huge smile, then continues, "Especially when they play Shelby County. You can count on that."
Now however, Wells, Royalty and all their classmates can reflect on what really has been one of the best years in the history of Bearcat sports.
"It hasn't really set in yet," Royalty said a week after the state softball tournament. "I know it will sometime."
As for Wells, his dream died in the regional tournament three times, but he smiles and says, "I wouldn't trade my experience for anything."