January / 2004


Small Schools Tournament Gets All A's
by: Steve LeMaster

Students from small schools across the Commonwealth can perform on a statewide stage thanks to the annual Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic.

What started as a basketball tournament now offers something for everyone, says Stan Steidel, executive director for the tournament.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun,” says Steidel. “It’s a great opportunity for the small schools in Kentucky.”

All “A” basketball draws a crowd to its events at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. Nearly 50,000 fans attended the 2002 Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic, averaging more than 5,300 fans per session.

Through the efforts of small-school coaches Steidel of Dayton, Bill Frey of Covington Latin, and others, the small-school basketball tournament began in January of 1980. The first Class A tournament was held at Holy Cross High School in Latonia with eight teams participating. In 1981 it moved to Bellevue with 10 teams, all from northern Kentucky.

Steidel helped transform the tournament into a statewide event. From 1982 to 1989, the Classic invited six Class A schools from around the state to compete with the northern Kentucky schools.

In 1990, the All “A” Classic experienced a dream come true when a statewide championship tournament took place with 16 boys’ regional tournament winners competing in Lexington. In 1991, the All “A” Classic expanded to include four girls’ sectional winners. By 1993, the tournament included 16 boys’ and 16 girls’ teams.

Today, the Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic is a statewide basketball tournament for schools of 425 students or fewer in grades 10-12.

Residents of small towns and communities across the state annually rally around their teams come All “A” time. If a team captures a regional championship and advances to Richmond, much of the town’s population heads to Eastern Kentucky University’s McBrayer Arena.

Jackson County is the defending girls’ champion after a 64-41 win over West Carter last winter. University Heights, after a 58-46 win over Somerset, is the defending boys’ champion.

And students can now dream All “A” dreams whether they’re in the classroom or on the hardwood, says Roy Palk, CEO of East Kentucky Power Cooperative, a key part of the Touchstone Energy All “A” effort.

“Thousands of students from 127 schools will showcase their talents in academics, basketball, cheerleading, art, music, and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps,” says Palk. “It’s all because Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives believe in people and the power of human connections.”

Scholarship money will be awarded to the competition’s top finishers. A total of 50 Class A seniors will be awarded $1,000 scholarships to attend a Kentucky university or technical school.

Things began to take shape in this year’s All “A” Classic as early as last year. Regional academic team quick recalls were held in November with the winners advancing to the state finals on January 11.

The open cheerleading competition for the Class A schools will be held February 8, and JROTC teams will compete February 8.

The All “A” is also for artists. In the art competition, students design the cover of the tournament program.
Other possible new All “A” opportunities in the works include baseball and fast-pitch softball.

Steidel especially appreciates the work and participation of the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.

He says, “To be able to award almost a half million dollars in our academic programs is a remarkable accomplishment and would not be possible without the commitment and energies of our title sponsor, Touchstone Energy, and our partners, the City of Richmond, Eastern Kentucky University, as well as our many volunteers.”







KEYWORD EXCLUSIVE
THE ALL “A” SCHEDULE
For dates of All “A” Classic events, click here: 2003 AllA