Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 23, 2017
ALLAN MANDELL: ON SPORTS

Family feud fuels Lunsford

By ALLAN MANDELL | Mar 01, 2017
Photo by: ALLAN MANDELL Trojan soccer player Mikaela Lunsford stretches in the Fairfield High School weight room on Tuesday.

“Family Feud” is actually playing on the television. She’d have her choice, too. Reruns or the new episode.

It’s 3:50 p.m. on Tuesday and Fairfield senior Mikaela Lunsford could easily go home, turn on the TV, sit on the couch and watch some families battle it out, answering questions on “Family Feud.”

Instead, she’s in the weight room at Fairfield High School, jumping rope, lifting weights, working on agility drills and working up a heck of a sweat.

And that is, in part, due to a family feud.

Lunsford is a First-Team All-Southeast Conference midfielder for the Trojan girls’ soccer team.

Official practice for the 2017 season doesn’t even start until March 20. That doesn’t matter to Lunsford.

“I have to do all this hard work here in the weight room now,” said Lunsford, while catching her breath. “It’s my senior year and this is my last-ever sport and I want something I haven’t ever accomplished: I want to go to the state tournament in something. And working out hard here in the weight room will help me get there.

“Both of my brothers have gone to state. So, now, it’s a family feud thing. It’s a family feud.”

Brendon Lunsford, a junior, happens to be one of three other Trojan students working out in the weight room near Mikaela at this very moment. Brendon took sixth place in the State Wrestling Meet on Feb. 18. He plays goalie for the Trojan boys’ soccer team.

Mikaela’s older brother Bryce Lunsford (class of 2015) took eighth place in the 2015 State Wrestling Meet.

And everyone in this family is competitive.

“I’m glad I finished higher at the State Wrestling Meet than my brother did,” said Brendon, in a post-meet interview.

Of course there is the other side of the coin: The loudest fan in the stands cheering for Brendon and Bryce was actually their sister Mikaela.

But, hey, family bragging rights are family bragging rights. And during Lunsford family dinners in the coming years, when the topic of athletic appearances at state comes up, Mikaela doesn’t want to merely listen. She’d like to do some of the talking.

“I don’t want to lose the family feud,” Mikaela said. “So we have to get to state in soccer.”

So there she remains, in the high-school weight room: jumping, lifting, stretching, jumping, lifting, stretching.

“And we have a lot of good people coming back for soccer this year,” Mikaela said.

Ever the team player, if she had more time, she’d list all her teammates as key components to a successful season.

But time is short and so Lunsford mentions Kristin Burnstedt, Emma Rosner, Corynn Klehm, Shannon Morrissey and Ella Pollet as vital contributors who can help get the Trojans to state.

“Kristin Burnstedt is an excellent forward,” Lunsford said.

“Emma Rosner has amazing ball movement and if she plays forward instead of midfielder, Emma and Kristin could be an excellent combination.

“Shannon Morrissey is an amazing defender. She’ll tell you, ‘Left, right’ and then you just go there. Shannon is the voice of our defense. Shannon sees the whole field so well and directs the rest of us. Corynn is the same way and she protects the ball and moves her feet really well.

“Emma always has a soccer ball with her. She’s always working. Ella Pollet, one of our midfielders, is running almost every day now.”

During the 2016-17 Trojan conference-championship basketball season, Lunsford was described as “The Mama Bear” of the squad. Every now and then, she might give a slight, soft, friendly poke in the ribs to a teammate, just to toughen up the team. That was all good and fine.

But don’t YOU mess with her teammate. Any of her teammates.

If some player wearing an opposing jersey messed with a teammate of Lunsford’s, that player ultimately had to deal with “Mama Bear.”

Trojan girls’ head basketball coach Mick Flattery said, “Mikaela Lunsford is as tough a player as any I’ve ever coached, and that includes all the players I coached in my 19 years coaching boys’ basketball. Mikaela is never dirty. She’s just tenacious and tough.”

Lunsford gives a hearty laugh with the mama-bear-protect-her-teammates role.

“Yes,” she says, “it’s the same way with soccer as basketball. Instead of four girls on the court to look out for, in soccer I’ve got 10 other girls on the field to look out for.”

The Trojan girls’ basketball season ended on Feb. 18 with a 48-45 Round 2 playoff loss to Keokuk.

“And Keokuk won our conference in soccer last year, which still makes me mad,” Lunsford said. “We lost by one goal in double-overtime to them. If we’d have won that game we’d have tied them for the conference championship.

“Most of their basketball players play soccer, too. We have a rivalry with them but it’s not a friendly rivalry, I’ll admit that.”

Here’s two dates to circle on the calendar, sports fans: April 20, May 15. Lunsford and her Trojan teammates face Keokuk on both dates.

Yes, that soccer field will be full of Iowans. Athletes that share the commonality of living in Iowa.

But Lunsford doesn’t want anyone calling the Keokuk Chief and Fairfield Trojan players a family.

It’s just a feud.

 

 

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