Fairport University girls’ and high school boys’ basketball teams fly to Put-in-Bay for games – News-Herald

Olivia Eldridge’s heart raced as she fastened her seat belt and stared out the window at the frozen tundra that surrounded her.

High school sports aren’t just about winning and losing. These are experiences.

And it was an experience that Eldridge and the rest of the Fairport women’s basketball team will remember for a lifetime.

The Skippers weren’t at the wheel of their game last weekend. They WILL.

Members of the Fairport women’s basketball team boarded a plane to take them from the Ottawa airport to Put-in-Bay for a game last weekend. (Submitted)

The girls from Fairport University, along with the Skippers eighth-grade boys’ basketball team, played at Put-in-Bay last weekend. The drive to the game meant the 25-person group had to make short 10-minute flights in small planes to get from mainland Ohio to the school on the island in Lake Erie.

“It was pretty awesome,” Eldridge said. “You don’t get to do a lot of stuff like that in high school. I’ve flown before, but I was more nervous this time. These planes are small, so it’s a little scarier.

The varsity girls’ coach, Ed Reed, has formed a relationship with the small school over the years. The schools have played each other – or mingled – for more than a decade. In fact, Put-in-Bay will be coming to Fairport later in February for a Lake County game.

But this trip was different from most because of frozen Lake Erie.

Members of Fairport’s eighth grade boys’ basketball team prepare to board a plane to play Put-in-Bay last weekend. (Submitted)

No ferry would take skippers onto the lake. Just small planes that held a maximum of four or five skippers, meaning multiple round trips to ferry the contingent from Fairport to Put-in-Bay for the games.

“If we go early in the season, often the boats run and we can take the ferry line,” Reed said. “When you arrive they have fans ready to take you to school.

“But when it’s frozen, like it is now, they have puddle-jumpers (small planes) to pick us up.”

A unique experience for many, if not most, Skippers.

The view from the plane as the Fairport women’s basketball team flew to Put-in-Bay for a game last weekend. (Submitted)

“I had never flown before,” said freshman Isabella Fazekas. “I sat up front and held my coach Alyssa’s hand the whole way. The pilot’s name was Kara. She was very nice.

In order to get to Ottawa County Airport for the flight, Skippers had to leave Fairport around 4:30 a.m. The sun was barely in the east when the first load of Skippers took off.

Among the passengers was high school coach John Romeo.

“The kids loved how anxious I was for a five-minute flight,” he said with a laugh. “When I asked the boys, none of them said they had ever flown, so that was pretty cool.

“When Ed told me about it a few years ago, I didn’t even know there was a school in Put-in-Bay.”

The college girls and junior high boys came away with wins. But everyone involved said the experience far outweighed the outcome of the games.

“They pay everything for us,” Reed said of the Port Clinton School District. “We don’t pay a penny. No one is going to pay $80 per child to play a game and go home. We had 16 girls there – our traveling party was 24 or 25. But they paid for everything.

After the games, the traveling group is treated to dinner on the island.

The team traveled to Put-in-Bay last summer for a scrimmage, but that trip included a boat ride — not a flight.

“We need to do a lot more this summer,” Eldridge said. “We have to explore everything and see everything.”

The Fairport women’s basketball team celebrates a win at Put-in-Bay last weekend. (Submitted)

These trips are important to the program, Reed said. He pointed to team bonding events like sledding, dinner outings or trips to Florida as other activities the program has benefited from over the years.

“The things we do together outside of basketball are important,” he said.

Tom Fazekas, school district school board chairman, was one of the traveling group members. He gave Reed a double thumbs up for the opportunities presented by the trip to Put-in-Bay.

“We are very proud of our athleticism and Coach Reed is doing a great job,” Fazekas said. “He’s always looking for opportunities to do fun things like this. These program building blocks inspire children to be part of the team. »

Romeo agreed.

“It’s an unforgettable experience for these children,” he said. “Travelling by bus is good team cohesion. Flying by plane ? It’s something these kids will remember.