Saturday, November 12, 2005

Jubilee Year & Congrats to Priory Rebels Soccer

(This admittedly is a very personal entry which may be of zero interest to the few regular readers of this blog.) I don't think I've ever mentioned my high school on this blog, but as of this fall, the Saint Louis Priory School is celebrating its 50th anniversary. (Wikipedia incredibly has an entry on it.) In addition to its beautiful church, the Priory Chapel (pictured at left, photo from Joan Sullivan's Architecture page)--designed by Gyo Obata of the architectural firm Hellmuth Obata and Kassebaum (HOK) in 1962, with assistance from the Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi--which one is one of the St. Louis region's architectural treasures, the school has the distinction of being part of one of only three houses in the English Benedictine Congregation in the United States. (Oddly, however, though the actual Priory of Sts. Mary and Louis is now the Abbey of Sts. Mary and Louis, the school decided to keep its original name, perhaps because its board and consultants suggested it had continuing "brand" value.) The English monks who ran the school original came from Ampleforth Abbey and College in Yorkshire, England. (It was initially pretty bizarre to go from Catholic parochial and public elementary school to classes taught by British and Irish monks, though it did quickly make Monty Python and most British comedies and dramas seem far less strange.) Many of the original British monks, true "characters" to the nth degree, are no longer alive, but both the monastery and school they established, the second of which continues to be known for its demanding academic program, are still thriving.

Three of the better known alumni of Priory are award-winning actor Kevin Kline, Mississippi Solo author Eddy Harris (who grew up not far from me in Kirkwood), and former MTV VJ and TV show host Dave Holmes.

Though Priory's forte is academics, its sports teams have always been another story. Not to cast any aspersions on fellow alumni, because there have been some great athletes to graduate from the school, but in general...as athletic prowess goes, it was never one of the top schools in St. Louis. Part of the problem always was that the academic rigor led to a high attrition rate. Out of around 60+ classmates that I started with in 7th grade, about 16-17 were gone by 9th grade, with a few more coming and going by 12th grade. Surviving made for great camaraderie and success in college, but it also meant thinned ranks for the sports teams, and since the school always tended to play against larger Catholic diocesan and private schools, larger Protestant Christian schools, larger private nonsectarian schools, and larger public schools, the outcomes weren't always so good, especially in the key team sports of football, soccer, ice hockey, basketball, and baseball. (golf, tennis, cross-country, and track and field were a little different.) A few years ago, Priory started to win some league and district championship in some of the team sports. Until a couple years ago, I think Priory had won perhaps 1 state championship, back in the 1970s. Then, in the winter of 2003, Priory won some second-tier championship in ice hockey. Then, in the fall of 2004, it won its first cross-country state championship. And then today, its varsity soccer team achieved a school first--it won the state soccer championship 1-0 over Trinity High School (another local, larger Catholic boy's school), but also managed to go 26-0, becoming the first high school soccer team in Missouri to go undefeated in a season since the state championship soccer tournament began. This was a particularly extraordinary feat. St. Louis is a soccer powerhouse, and has a number of much larger, all boys Catholic high schools (Chaminade, Christian Brothers College, St. Louis University High School, St. John Vianney, and DeSmet) that are reknowned for their soccer prowess, and Chaminade, CBC, and SLUH have repeatedly been nationally ranked, including this year, but none have had an undefeated season (Chaminade came close a few years ago, I think.)

All in all, a fitting achievement for the school's Jubilee year, so Happy 50th, Priory, and congratulations on the undefeated season!

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