The Packers keep winning, and the beard keeps growingPublished 12:12pm Tuesday, March 19, 2013
— Look for this story, along with features, photos, a state preview, bracket and stats in a 12-page special section out today in the Austin Daily Herald print edition!
When Austin senior Tommy Olmsted stopped shaving in November, it was simply to prove he could grow a lot of facial hair.
Four months later, Olmsted’s beard is officially out of control. He could pass for a Civil War soldier, an Amish farmhand or possibly even could be mistaken for a mountain man.
But one thing’s for sure: Olmsted wouldn’t have it any other way. The beard is a sign of how many games in a row the Austin boys basketball team has won. About halfway through the season, Olmsted’s teammates requested that he not shave until the team lost, and he obliged.
“It gets uncomfortable at times and it gets a little itchy,” Olmsted said. “ I’d gladly go undefeated and still have a beard.”
Austin senior forward Joe Aase said Olmsted didn’t have much of choice about shaving after his beard grew a decent length during no-shave November — or ‘Movember’ — a month in which AHS students and men across the world grow facial hair to raise awareness for prostate cancer. The Packers agreed that Olmsted should wait until they lose before he shaved, and that first loss still hasn’t come for undefeated Austin (28-0 overall).
“I don’t think he really saw it coming, but he’s been a good sport about it, and he hasn’t tried to back down from it,” Aase said. “I don’t think it’s the ideal look.”
Olmsted, who gets recognized around town as “that kid on the basketball team with the beard,” has taken plenty of jabs from his teammates, but it’s all in good fun. He also looks forward to hearing what opposing crowds will say to him on game night.
“I try to listen for the most creative dis people can come up with,” Olmsted said. “At [Rochester] Century, some guy yelled out ‘I forgot we were playing the Shire’ [from The Lord of the Rings].”
Austin head coach Kris Fadness said the beard has become a good luck charm. He also said Olmsted has handled well having his minutes reduced in the last two games after being a rotation guy during the regular season.
“He’s been supportive, and he’s really been a leader for us on the bench by yelling things out and getting other bench guys involved,” Fadness said. “I’m really proud of him for taking that on when it would be real easy for him to pout and sulk over his playing time. He’s a high-character kid.”
No matter what the Packers do at the state tournament, Olmsted will be beard free by this time next week. He’s going to shave it at one of his friend’s house, and it will be a celebration to remember.
Olmsted just hopes he’s shaving it for the season being over, but not the winning streak being over.
“After Saturday night, I want to shave it because we win, not because we lost,” he said. “I think the last game there was a lot of pressure on us because people were expecting us to make a run at state. Now that we’re there, we’re going to start going back to our basketball that got us here.”