As a lifetime teacher and coach, Meredith Grusing impacted thousands of people in many different venues across the Midwest. She began her teaching career at Stanton County High School in Johnson, Kansas, as the Trojans’ basketball coach. In 1979, she served a one year stint as the volleyball coach at Hutchinson Community College, guiding the Blue Dragons to a 25-11-7 record. While there, she assisted with track (her real love) as well. The next year she began teaching at area middle schools, while staying on board as a track assistant at HCC. She taught and coached at both Sherman Middle School and Liberty Middle School in Hutch, serving at various times as volleyball and basketball coach. In 1990, Meredith moved to Clearwater, Kansas, where she filled the same roles as middle school teacher and coach. From 1993 to the end of her teaching career in 2007, she taught in the Wichita School District. While she still coached, she spent much of her time out of the classroom during this period focusing on her officiating career.
Beyond being a teacher and coach, Meredith found many different ways to be involved in athletics. As an official, she worked all levels of basketball play, ranging from middle school to varsity men and women to Division I women’s. She was a registered KSHSAA basketball official for 24 years and worked eight sub-state tournaments. Similarly, she was registered with KSHSAA as a volleyball official for 23 years. While never delving into collegiate volleyball officiating, she worked 13 sub-state tournaments in classes 2A, 4A, 5A and 6A. As a cream of the crop official, Meredith was selected to work six state tournaments in her time, five in class 6A and one in class 5A. Further, she was an active member of the Greater Wichita Officials Association until her death in 2009. In an administrative capacity, she assigned officials for the Greater Wichita Athletic League for several years, reluctantly giving up that job a mere two weeks before her passing. Meredith attended all levels of major and minor officiating clinics across the country, greatly enjoying the camaraderie, professionalism, fellowship, and mentoring opportunities that officiating provides. During this time, Meredith honed and lived her beliefs that all have something positive to offer, that friends can be found in just about any place, and that individuals can bring their own personalities to a team and both can be made stronger because of it.
In mid-November 2008, Meredith found herself battling a health issue that raged for weeks. Doctors could not determine the exact cause of her illness, and tests were done and theories were put forth. Never one to be either patient or a gambler with her health, Meredith continued to make appointments with specialists and pursue a cause and course of treatment. When the doctors called and asked her to come in for a meeting the day before Christmas, she knew it was serious; and it was… the diagnosis: pancreatic cancer. Prognosis: not good. The medical train began moving very quickly at that point. Staging, treatment options, second opinions, nutrition analysis, herbal remedies, chemotherapy, and experimental treatments. True to form, Meredith chased a cure and a quality of life for herself in the same aggressive way she had attacked everything else. Doctors were grim; two or three months and essentially a life at home and in hospitals is all they would offer. Meredith had other ideas. Once through January and February and the initial shock, her thoughts, as usual, turned to track season; whether she saw this as her last opportunity to coach and positively affect youth, or whether she was just embracing another season with her usual vim and vigor, we’ll never know. Regardless, she went on the offensive, scheduling her chemotherapy and doctor appointments so that she would not miss track practice, and packing her cooler, snacks, and lawn chair so that she would have the energy to make it through long meets. Referring to the cancer as “recnac” and her chemo as “infusion,” she refused to be anything but upbeat and positive as she faced this last, challenging battle in her life.
During her short but intense seven month war with cancer, Meredith spoke often about living life on her own terms, making the most of every situation, and embracing that which is truly important. She took trips with her family, ate dinners with her friends, gave many hugs to her grandchildren, continued to share life lessons with her children, and made sure to touch base with those in her life with whom she had lost contact. In the blog that she kept on her Caring Bridge website, Meredith journaled things like “Can’t write much now – having too much fun at the Great Wolf Lodge!!!” and “Another good day at treatment!” She stayed active with her officiating group throughout, and readers could follow her as she “went to Newton Saturday morning for the KJCCC Cancer Benefit Golf Tournament,” and it was clear what her internal dialogue was when she said that she needed to “keep working to get my strength back up so that I can be ready to officiate volleyball in the fall.”
Though that 2009 fall volleyball season was not to be for Meredith and those who loved her, certainly her spirit survives in those she left behind. Her ideals about being true to oneself while looking for the positives in others, enjoying what life has to offer while working hard to pave the way that will offer you the most, and staying positive while tackling the challenges we face will live on in all those thousands she impacted.
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