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In Kentucky, students at Class A high schools can compete against other small-school students on a large statewide stage.

And not just in athletics.

From an academic team member to a softball player, small-school students can be part of statewide tournaments through the efforts of the Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic.

The All “A” Classic came together in 1980 through the efforts of coaches Stan Steidel of Dayton, Father Ed Heile of Covington Latin, and Bill Frey of Covington Holy Cross, among others.

What started as a basketball tournament now includes events such as music, art, and JROTC.

The first All “A” Classic tournament was held at Holy Cross High School in Latonia. Eight teams participated that year. The next year the tournament moved to Bellevue, with 10 northern Kentucky teams playing.

The Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic went statewide from 1982 to 1989, inviting six Class A schools from around the state to hit the hardwood against 10 northern Kentucky schools. In 1990 the All “A” Classic had its first statewide championship tournament in February with 16 boys’ regional tournament winners playing for a title in Lexington.

The All “A” Classic continued a growth spurt during the early 1990s. In 1991, it expanded to include four girls’ sectional winners competing in the statewide finals. The tournament grew again in 1992—this time including eight girls’ basketball teams. It became much of what it is today in 1993, including 16 boys’ teams and 16 girls’ teams.

The Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic — heading into its 26th year — is now a statewide basketball tournament for schools with an enrollment of 425 students or fewer in grades 10-12. Eastern Kentucky University’s McBrayer Arena and the City of Richmond are home to the tournament. Funding is provided by Touchstone Energy, the national brand for consumer-owned electric cooperative utilities, and the event’s organizing entity, Kentucky All “A” Classic Inc. Eastern Kentucky University and the City of Richmond provide major contributions not in money, but through facilities, volunteers, and other support.

Steidel saw the All “A” Classic make a quick impact in its debut. Today, as chair of the tournament, he continues to watch as it keeps growing.

“We started with the boys’ basketball tournament the first year, trying to get it off the ground, and it has grown ever since,” says Steidel. “The Touchstone Energy All ‘A’ Classic allows the small schools in Kentucky to compete on a statewide level. Together with Touchstone Energy, we’ve been able to improve the lives of many young people. EKU and the City of Richmond have been great hosts and continue to help us to put this event on year in and year out.”

To this day, the Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic has no paid employees: everything goes back to the participants, with the exception that the organization is authorized to reimburse expenses.

The basketball tournament has made many dreams come true for small-school players and coaches alike.

The Clinton County girls’ team won its second straight All “A” Classic championship last February. Hazard, 1997-1998 two-time winner on the girls’ side, took its first All “A” boys’ title last February.

The City of Hazard rallied around its high school boys’ basketball program last February when the Hazard High Bulldogs beat Bishop Brossart 43-38 in the title game and captured the state small-school hoops championship.
“I think the All “A” Classic is a great thing,” says Hazard Coach Kevin Spurlock. “It is great for the little schools and gives them a chance to compete for a state title. That is important especially in today’s ‘consolidation’ world. The City of Hazard was at a basketball high, considering the boys’ basketball program hadn’t done anything like this since 1986. We have state championship rings that we wear proudly.”

In the girls’ All “A” tournament, Betsy Layne has made an appearance in the statewide tourney, representing the 15th Region, each of the past three seasons. Last season, Betsy Layne won its first All “A” Classic game before falling to eventual tournament champion Clinton County in the quarterfinals.

Betsy Layne Coach Cassandra Akers and her entire program see the small-school statewide tournament as a tune-up for the Sweet 16 State Basketball Tournament, held annually in March.

“It has meant a great deal to our program,” Akers said, when asked about the Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic. “Our first trip three years ago, we feel, led directly to our success in the regular regional tourney. The hospitality of the people in Richmond and the tournament personnel are unmatched anywhere. Nowhere can you go and watch both the boys’ and girls’ state tournaments on the same dates at the same facility. It is truly a unique and special tournament.”

In February, the tournament announced it would expand to include statewide baseball and fast-pitch softball for the first time.

“Some of the schools approached us and asked if we’d consider it,” Steidel says. “We went to Touchstone (Energy) and they said they’d help us.”

The baseball and softball tournaments were played out in May. Middlesboro won the first-ever Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic softball tournament and Heath captured the first-ever Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic baseball title. Applebee’s Park, home of the Lexington Legends minor league baseball team, hosted the inaugural Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic baseball tournament. Skyview Park in Jeffersontown hosted the inaugural Class A fast-pitch softball tournament.

Roy Palk, CEO of East Kentucky Power Cooperative, a leading Kentucky Touchstone Energy member, says, “We are pleased to be a part of the expansion of this tournament.”

The Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic is governed by the Classic Board of Control, a board comprised of a representative of each region. Statewide competitions are also held in music, art, academics, JROTC, and cheerleading.

The Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic has continued to grow with each passing year. The JROTC competition was instituted during the 2001-02 school year. During the 2002-03 school year, a music competition, featuring both vocal and instrumental, was started.

Several small-school student-athletes have found success in the cheerleading competitions, which were added to the competition in 1990. In 2001-02, both at-large statewide and tournament cheerleading competitions were held. The tournament squads competed during the tournament held inside McBrayer Arena.

The academic competition, also added in 1990, is held in January.

In the 2004-05 school year, a minimum of 12 $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to senior students planning to attend any post-secondary college institution within the state of Kentucky. The scholarship plan includes public and private colleges/universities.

During the 2003-04 school year, $55,000 was awarded.

Thanks to the Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic, attending schools with smaller enrollment numbers doesn’t have to deter Kentucky students from statewide recognition.


JAN. 8 Statewide Academic Competition Scholarship Interviews
JAN. 17-29 Basketball Regional Tournaments
JAN. 29 Music Competition
FEB. 2-6 Basketball Statewide Tournament
FEB. 5 At-Large Cheerleading Competition
FEB. 5 Academic Awards Banquet
APR. 30 Baseball Sectional Playoffs Completed
MAY 7 Fast Pitch Softball Completed
MAY 7-8 Baseball Statewide Tournament
MAY 14-15 Fast Pitch Softball Statewide Tournament

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