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La Grande Observer 12/22/14

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Home arrow Sports arrow Columns arrow Panther pride shows on cool night


Panther pride shows on cool night

Every once in a while we as reporters get a special glimpse of the subjects we write about on a weekly basis.

Sunday night I traveled to Imbler to partake in one of those moments.


The Imbler volleyball team was returning from Forest Grove after winning the Class 1A state championship.

Of course by 6 p.m. the sun had set behind the Blue Mountains making for a very brisk night in the Grand Ronde Valley.

As I pulled up it looked like the whole town lined main street. An electric feel was in the air.

All the passengers in the vehicles driving by probably wondered what this small little town was up to. It didn’t make any sense to be outside in 39 degree weather. But there they were. Ready to give their team a hero’s welcome.

People continued to roll in until the sounds of the sirens filled the night air.

It was the traditional fire truck and ambulance entrance.

The girls made a couple of passes in the beds of pick-up trucks by the lines of people.

But it was what happened afterwards that set this “welcome home” apart.

The girls were treated like queens. In less than 24 hours the community planned a very special event.

A high school musical opened the evening. All the members of the football team prepared two choreographed dances.

One of the volleyball players remarked that was the best part of the night because they made total fools of themselves.

Sure enough they did. 

It was a special moment. There’s nothing quite like the sight of kids being kids. In that moment nothing else mattered. It was all about paying tribute to the girls, and their accomplishment.

The community quickly threw together an impromptu barbecue.

Together they ate and shared stories of the weekend that was, and the weekend that will live on now as part of school history.

The championship game was projected on the wall — the first volleyball title in school history.

In those few hours everything changed. It wasn’t about a volleyball. It was about a town coming together.

Sure the team was the reason. But the feeling radiating from the people packed into a cool building was more intimate. It was about being together.

But what impressed me most wasn’t part of the agenda.

It was an unscripted moment that showed how close these kids are.

The football team unloaded the bus for the girls.

It may seem like something so simple, but it showed something you can’t teach.

Those few hours showcased the beauty of living in rural Oregon.

We may not have all the fine eateries, shopping or other options.

But all these small communities here have something better. A sense of togetherness.

And that’s something you can’t teach.

Paul Harder is the sports editor for The Observer. Reach him by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it


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