By Gary R. Rasberry
MINSTER —ęSix years ago, Kristen Shenk was rooting her big sister and the rest of the Minster Wildcats on to a state girls basketball title.
Now Kristen is a senior and it will be big sister Lauren doing the cheering as the Wildcats look for a second state basketball title against Berlin Hiland on Friday at 3 p.m.
“It hasn’t completely settled in yet,” said Kristin after a Monday practice session at the Middle School Gymnasium. “(Sunday) was a little bit crazy going over the details and organizing everything. It’s now starting to sink in.”
In 1998, when the Wildcats won a state title in a classic overtime win over Hopewell-Loudon, Kristen was offered a unique view of the game as a sixth-grader.
“Nann (Minster coach Nann Stechschulte) asked me and Sunni (Wildcat teammate Sunni Olding) to do stats for the state game,” said Kristen. “It was neat, we got to sit on the bench, got official passes to be on the floor and ride the bus with the team. It was neat to be a part of it more.”
That experience played a small part in making a goal to go to state.
“I was so into basketball from first grade on,” said Kristen. “Just watching them is a great experience and how all their hard work paid off. The experience was really neat. It gave me that dream from the get-go. All through junior high and high school, it ran through the back of my mind. Now I get to experience the same thing.”
Now the shoe is on the other foot as Lauren, who is attending medical school and is married to former Ohio State football player and current WBNS-TV sportscaster Ryan Miller, will be rooting the Wildcats on from the stands.
“It’s rare to be on the other end being a fan,” said Lauren. “I have to admit that it’s been a little more nerve-racking up in the stands, especially during the regional when there was so much on the line. It’s exciting and I’m real proud of her and the whole team.”
Rather than getting the chance to play at St. John’s Arena, where the 1998 team won the title, this year’s Wildcats will be across the Olentangy River at the Schottenstein Center, the current home of the state tournament.
Kristen and the rest of the Shenk family know the Schottenstein Center well, making numerous trips to see Lauren play during her successful career with the Buckeyes women’s basketball team.
“I actually thought about how Lauren played basketball there,” said Kristen. “I think it’s cool that I’m going to play on the same floor as she did so many times. I’ve been there so many times to watch her play from the stands, now I will be out there playing.”
So far, Kristen has not talked to Lauren about her experiences at state.
“I haven’t talked to her about specific details,” said Kristen. “I know’s that it’s an awesome feeling she will have forever and I hope to have the same.”
Big sister Lauren is ready to help out wherever needed.
“I can definitely add some help here and there,” said Lauren. “The main thing is that a basketball court is a basketball court. The big thing is they have never played in an arena that holds 20,000 people. That intimidation is something they have to get over. After that, it’s just the same old basketball court.”
Lauren has had plenty of chances to keep track of the Wildcats since graduation.
“With (sister) Allison, who is now a college senior, playing there as well, it’s been a succession of Shenks,” said Lauren. “That’s been an additional factor to follow them. I think 6-7 years ago we started to build the program and it’s continued to now. It’s gained additional support from the community.”
Ironically, Lauren, who had the chance to commentate on some of the Ohio State women’s games this season, was offered the chance to be an analyst for the Ohio News Networks coverage on Saturday, but she and Ryan will not be able to attend the game because of a previous engagement.
“I will be there on Friday but not Saturday,” said Lauren, explaining that ONN is only doing the finals. “That would have been a neat experience commentating for the hometown crowd and maybe being a little biased.”