The stunning realization that St. Hubert High School may close its doors forever at the end of the school year, ending 70-plus years of history and tradition, has affected countless people in varying ways.
There are the students, who have no idea where they’ll be next fall. There are the parents, scrambling to pull some last-minute strings to find new schools. And there are the school administrators who’ll be out of a job.
Then there’s Jackie Hartzell — a 2001 St. Hubert graduate who now coaches girls basketball at Archbishop Ryan. Each year, Hartzell must face the awkward dilemma of trying to defeat her alma mater, the school where she excelled on the basketball court for four years, to the extent that she turned her success into a head coaching job at a rival neighborhood school.
Hartzell always tries to approach Ryan-Hubert games like any other on the schedule, a task certainly easier said than done. But with the news of Hubert’s impending demise — a casualty of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s money troubles — last Friday night’s game between the two rivals was anything but another Philadelphia Catholic League contest.
It very well may have been the last time the two schools battled on the hardwood. But it had significant implications for Hartzell — the last time, perhaps, that she stepped on the St. Hubert court at Torresdale and Cottman avenues, a basketball court that is home to so many memories.
“It definitely wasn’t just another game, at least not for me,” Hartzell said. “It was very emotional for me, considering I spent four years of my life there and now I’m coaching here at Ryan. Once the game starts, we have to treat it like any other because we want to win, but it was different.”
It was a game Hartzell won’t soon forget. She got the chance to possibly say goodbye to her high school, but the farewell could have had a happier ending for her, at least as a coach. Her Ragdolls led by a dozen at halftime, but the Bambies, showing some of that fight in their struggle to save their school, gradually climbed back into the game.
Krista Patterson’s three-pointer as time expired enabled Hubert to force an extra period. The Bambies outlasted Hartzell’s Ragdolls in an overtime nail-biter, 44-41.
Even in defeat, Hartzell admired her alma mater’s effort. She knows that, barring a miracle, there will be no 2012-13 school year for St. Hubert. During a recent appeal hearing before archdiocesan leaders, St. Hubert administrators presented their plan to boost enrollment and finances to keep the school going, and a decision is pending. But with memories of last year’s closures of North Catholic and Cardinal Dougherty still fresh, the St. Hubert community isn’t about to overlook the history lesson.
“It’s just devastating news, and even after all this time and the game we just played, I don’t think it’s quite hit me yet,” Hartzell said. “I’ve been looking through a lot of old pictures lately, and I’ve got to talk to a lot of old friends and see some old faces … it’s sad that it has come to this, but you see the way they’ve banded together and realize that there still is hope.”
She has been heartened by the recent campaign of students, parents and school staff to put up a fight for St. Hubert’s future.
“I’m not surprised at all, because it’s such a special place for anyone that is lucky enough to attend there,” she said. “It was certainly the best four years of my life. Unless you went there, it’s hard to understand why taking the school away from us would be so devastating.
ldquo;I think the fact that it’s an all-girls school has a lot to do with it. The people you meet stay your friends forever, and the relationship between the students and teachers is something I’ve never experienced anywhere else,” she continued. “Combine that with the intense school spirit, and you just grow to love the place. It becomes part of you forever.”
Hartzell also showed respect for her alma mater when asked if she was potentially scouting any players who may end up transferring from St. Hubert to Archbishop Ryan next year.
Other than an open house for possible transfer students at schools that will closed by the archdiocese, there has been zero communication between Hartzell and St. Hubert’s basketball players, she said. Her hope is that the school stays in existence.
“Going to St. Hubert’s and getting involved in sports has shaped my life more than ten years later,” Hartzell continued. “The night before they made the closing announcement, I told our kids to appreciate every moment, because you never know how long it’s going to last. Whether they close your school or not, those four years go so fast and just like that, they’re gone. But the great thing is that Hubert will always live on in our minds and hearts, and I’ll always enjoy and appreciate the memories that the school gave me. I know the same can be said for everyone else.” ••EndFragment