The first-ever First Bank Kansas Smoky Hill Showdown wrapped up with the completion of the KCAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships and the Showdown ended in a 22-22 tie between Bethany and Kansas Wesleyan.
KWU took an early 11-3 lead in the Showdown through fall sports, but Bethany would come back to tie things at the end, winning in winter sports 8-4 and 11-7 in spring sports.
Three community service components made up the First Bank Kansas Smoky Hill Showdown – The Pigskin Pass, Red Cross Blood Drive and a Reading Program. The rivalry trophy contest generated more than 350 hours of community service between the two athletics programs.
“The community service component is an important and unique aspect of the Showdown,” said Mike Hermann, director of athletics at Kansas Wesleyan. “The rivalry was an important motivating factor for our student-athletes to reach out to the community. We were aware that the rivalry had some ugly sides in its history and it was important that this trophy competition really used the rivalry as a tool to do good things for our communities while shedding a positive light on our student-athletes.”
“The First Bank Kansas Smoky Hill Showdown was a great way to feature one of the best rivalries in the NAIA,” said Dane Pavlovich, dean of athletics at Bethany. “Not only did the format allow us to feature great competition, but it also emphasized some of the great service activities that our student-athletes participate in. We are excited to break the tie from this year during the 2018-2019 year and bring the trophy to Lindsborg.”
The Pigskin Pass featured student-athletes running a football relay-style from Salina to Lindsborg ahead of the October 28 football game in Lindsborg, when the Showdown Series was formally announced. Student-athletes from Kansas Wesleyan ran from the KWU campus to Assaria, where the ball was handed off to student-athletes from Bethany who then ran the ball the rest of the way to Lindsborg for the football game.
The blood drives were sponsored by the American Red Cross of Central and Western Kansas and were held January 26 in Salina and February 14 in Lindsborg. Both institutions earned one point in the Showdown Series by reaching their stated blood drive goal. For the first time in the blood drive rivalry, Bethany had the most units of blood, 49-46. Kansas Wesleyan student-athletes produced 57 hours of community service time in the blood drive.
The reading program awarded points in the Showdown Series if more than 50 percent of student-athletes read to elementary school students during the month of March. Approximately 85 hours of reading time was spent between KWU student-athletes and USD 305 elementary students in March.
The trophy for the First Bank Kansas Smoky Hill Showdown will be on display at the First Bank Kansas branch in downtown Salina, then in August will be at Kansas Wesleyan, before heading to Lindsborg in the spring.