Three-sport high school athletes aren’t extinct, but they’re getting there.
There’s a rush to commit to one sport so that training can be specialized and instruction pinpointed. If a young athlete shows promise as a football player, for instance, there’s a rush to get that player prepared for college, let alone high school. Too often, participation in other sports is scrapped in favor of a singular athletic focus.
Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. But it always robs a kid of the experience of playing a variety of high school sports and that’s not right.
Maize senior Connor Lungwitz happens to agree with me. He’s 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, and an athlete through and through. He plays quarterback on the football team, center on the basketball team and pitches for the baseball team. Someday he’ll tell his grandchildren that he was a three-sport high school athlete and they’ll gasp at some of his stories.
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“I feel like everybody nowadays focuses on one sport, maybe two at the most,” Lungwitz said. “You just don’t see a lot of people who are playing three. And I take pride in that, honestly. It’s not easy on your body because you don’t get any breaks. But I enjoy it, especially when we’re having success.”
Maize is 3-1 in football and was set to meet Hutchinson Friday night in an Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division I game. The Eagles made it to the playoffs in Class 6A last season before losing to Manhattan in the first round. The Maize basketball team finished fourth in 6A in 2014 and the baseball team was second.
Lungwitz has orally committed to pitch at Wichita State, but is waiting to see what kind of college football offers are made.
“Baseball is the sport most on my radar,” Lungwitz said. “I’m getting a few looks in football from some different schools.”
Maize football coach Gary Guzman is curious why those looks aren’t coming from either Kansas or Kansas State, schools that recruited in-state high school quarterbacks but not Lungwitz.
In this age of spread offenses, Lungwitz is a pro-style quarterback. That used to be an attractive trait to college recruiters until the fad became stretching the field with multiple receivers and a quarterback equally capable of running or throwing. Lungwitz isn’t much of a runner.
But he can throw and already is well over 1,000 passing yards for the season. He’s strong and powerful and projects as a pro prospect in baseball.
Basketball is his playground, the sport he plays for fun. Still, he was good enough to be named to the AV-CTL second team.
“I absolutely believe in the three-sport athlete,” Guzman said. “My older sons played multiple sports and they slowly started giving them up when they got into high school. I had a tough time with that. Even if you’re not a three-sport athlete, you should play two. I think it’s important to have an opportunity to contribute in other sports and to learn from different coaches.”
Yet specialization rules the day.
“I don’t want to be classified as just a football guy, or a basketball guy, or a baseball guy,” Lungwitz said. “Now when you go to college, you’re going to have to focus on just one sport or maybe two if you’re good enough. But you’re not ever going to get the opportunity again to play three sports. I want to get the most out of high school.”
Lungwitz’s favorite sport is the one in season. Right now that’s football and he’s excited to see how far the Eagles can go after a strange and frustrating end to the 2013 season.
Maize lost a heartbreaker to Hutchinson in the district finale, yet made it to the playoffs while the Salthawks fell short. Just bizarre.
Then, in the first round, the Eagles were beaten 60-59 by Manhattan, when the Indians scored a two-point conversion in the fifth overtime.
“Every year, we’ve had some crazy games,” Lungwitz said. “My sophomore year, we were playing Salina Central in our homecoming game and it was 28-all. We turned the ball over and they got it with about a minute left. Then we actually got a turnover back and ran one play to get out of bounds. We had the ball at about our 40 going in and completed a Hail Mary to win the game. It was just awesome.
“The other game my sophomore year was one we won against Dodge City, 54-51. That was a shootout. Last year we knocked off Salina South when they were No. 1 in the state. That was huge. The Manhattan game didn’t go in our favor, for sure. I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in all of them.”
Maize has a thrill-a-minute offense, often scoring 30, 40, 50 points or more. A lot of that is Lungwitz’s doing; he’s a tremendous passer with a powerful and accurate arm.
“I enjoy leadership,” Lungwitz said. “I’m a quarterback and a pitcher, so I have the ball in my hands a lot. I don’t know if I’d say I’m a control freak, but I like having control of the game. I want to do my best in all of my sports and with my grades, too. I like competing, whether it’s a football game, a ping-pong game or Monopoly. I want to win. I want to be good at everything I do.”