It was a roller-coaster academic year for the kids at Simon Kenton High School in 1980 and ’81. An extreme low followed by an extreme high, something worthy of a Hollywood sports inspiration flick.

First, the low. On Oct. 9, 1980, a catastrophic explosion shook the school, killing one and injuring 35. Then came the high, just a few months later, when Simon Kenton’s basketball team won the state championship.

All the bonding and emotion that existed that year is being remembered at a first-ever alumni event, being held at the Independence school. Newsman Nick Clooney, who covered both events as the anchor and managing editor for Channel 12 during that time, is slated as the guest speaker.

“It’s not really just a reunion,” notes organizer Tammy (Ward) Bravo. “We are trying to form an alumni society.”

Bravo and her classmates are inviting students from the school years 1981 to 1984. “It was hard for everyone to be forced to go to another high school at nights,” says Bravo, noting that while Simon Kenton was being reconstructed, its entire student body was sent to Scott County High — its sports rival — on a flip-flopped evening schedule. Nevertheless, the students built up a camaraderie amid all the hardships, a relationship that was celebrated at the mid-August event in Simon Kenton’s new cafeteria. Teachers, coaches, secretaries and other staff from those years were also invited.

Now in a leadership position with Executive Transportation, Bravo recalls the terrible day in October 1980. “There were actually two explosions,” she remembers. The first, at 11:50 a.m., occurred when a natural gas line in the north wing boiler room erupted, buckling walls and claiming the life of junior Robert Williams. More lives would certainly have been lost if not for the fact that most students who attended class in the north wing were elsewhere eating lunch.

Dazed classmates and faculty evacuated and were watching — while trucks and life squads arrived from 14 fire departments — when the second blast occurred. Between the two explosions, the school suffered $1.5 million worth of damage.

Just months later, Simon Kenton’s luck dramatically turned around. The Pioneers became the first basketball team in the region to win Kentucky’s Sweet Sixteen, defeating the Mason County Royals.

As Eric Deters, author of the book Pioneer Spirit, recounts, “It is Kentucky’s answer toHoosiers. I’ll boldly state it is better.Hoosiers never had the turmoil these kids battled.”

Former basketball coach Larry Miller will return to the Simon Kenton alumni event to recall the challenges on the road to that championship trophy, including the fact the team had no gym to use and had to endure night practices anywhere they could find.

As for Nick Clooney’s very public involvement in helping Simon Kenton build an alumni society, much as the institution rebuilt its bricks and mortar decades ago, Bravo is complimentary. “He’s very kindly agreed to be keynote speaker. He was there for the explosion. He was there for the state tournament.”

And, Clooney knows a powerful person or two in Hollywood. MaybePioneer Spirit will become the nextGracie, the nextHoosiers. Start writing the screenplay now.