KIRKLAND – When anyone comes into Kirkland from the east or west on Route 72, they eventually see the population sign.
The sign reads KIRKLAND, with the population of 2000 below the town.
By tonight, there will be bigger signs on each side of town below the population sign, honoring the Hawks’ 2013 regional championships in baseball and softball.
Both teams claimed titles May 18, and the signs were unveiled in front of a group of athletes and parents at the high school Wednesday evening.
Kirkland Mayor Les Bellah came up with the idea for the signs the night after both programs won their regional crowns.
The baseball team beat Hinckley-Big Rock, 6-5, at the Royals’ own regional, while softball topped Alden-Hebron, 3-2, at the Class 1A Durand Regional.
The signs were made last week, and Bellah wanted to make sure his town’s champions were honored.
“You drive through all these other towns and see [signs honoring champions], and I really wanted to jump up and make sure that we had one,” Bellah said. “... It’s a pride thing.”
Hiawatha hasn’t won many team championships in school history. The softball team’s regional crown was the first since 2008, while the baseball team’s championship was the first in the program’s history.
“I think it’s a great accomplishment. I’ve been here now for eight years. When I first started here, we heard how Kirkland’s struggled over the years with their sports programs in high school,” Hawks baseball coach Sean Donnelly said. “It shows that hard work and dedication for them, that it pays off.”
To Donnelly, the signs not only honor both teams, but will help the future of Hiawatha athletics as well. Every time an athlete sees them, it shows what the potential can be.
“I think it will greatly benefit. Now there’s recognition out there for the kids that have obviously played very well, who have done well, that good things can happen,” Donnelly said. “You see success like that in all programs and all sports and all schools. You start building up on success, and things tend to get better.”
Junior softball player Alanna Sterling said the two championships this past May will serve as a stepping stone for the school’s younger athletes.
“I think it’s motivation to want to go further because it’s really exciting,” she said. “It’s motivation for the upcoming grades.”