More than 1,600 students compete in athletics at Norman Public Schools, and Norman High's Russ Schuchman and Norman North's Scott Bedigrew oversee them all.

They chuckle at the enormity of their task, often wishing they had more help. But after more than 20 years of doing it, they've settled into a pattern as NPS' lone athletic trainers.

"I know where everything is here and could probably find it in my sleep," Schuchman said. "But the athletes are always different. The student trainers we bring in have different personalities, and that keeps you fresh and on your toes. In that way it's rewarding.

"I came in here thinking I was only going to be here for seven or eight years and I was going to move on to something bigger and better, but this is home now."

Their impact on each school's programs is perhaps more than any coach, administrator or player.

Schuchman is going is in his 25th season at NHS, and he was part of the committee that selected Bedigrew as North's first trainer in 1997. They have developed a friendship since that hiring.

"When I first moved down from Kansas, I didn't have any place to stay," Bedigrew said. "I ended up staying for a few months at his place."

Schuchman was a three-sport athlete at Newkirk High School in Oklahoma before attending Cowley County Community College in Arkansas City, Kansas, where he played baseball. At Oklahoma State, he found his calling, serving as a student athletic trainer before taking a one-year course at Ohio University. His first job out of college was at NHS.

Bedigrew played football, basketball and track at Jefferson County North High School in Kansas before attending Emporia State as a pole vaulter. An injury sent him into the trainer's room, where he found his future career. He switched his major from computer program to athletic training and after a stint at Washington University in St. Louis, he attended that same program at Ohio University just one year after Schuchman had left.

"They know our kids, our parents, our community and our school system," NPS athletic director T.D. O'Hara said. "We are in a good spot and we hope to continue to build on that, but it all starts with the leadership those two have provided for so many years in regards to making sure our athletes are safe."

But their impact goes beyond keeping athletes healthy. They play a key role as mentors for student trainers, essentially serving as coaches who sometimes don't see their pupils perform.

Multiple events going at once are a common occurrence, and as Bedigrew put it, "I can only be in one place at a time." When that happens, the responsibility falls on the student trainers to do their best."

Senior Payton Warren can laugh now about the nightmare evening she had as a freshman. A soccer player broke both their fibula and tibula during a game, and with Bedigrew off at another event, Warren ended up calling an ambulance. It was an eye-opening experience, but one Warren is thankful for, even though she plans to pursue a different path in the medical field after high school.

Madison Evans, another senior and North student trainer, said Bedigrew has played a "major role" in her decision to pursue an athletic training career.

"He's just shown me why I want to go into this" Evans said. "It's not just because he helps people with injuries. He actually really cares about his players. We'll have players come in, and he'll just sit down and talk to them about their day, what's going on and make sure they're all right. That's just kind of the person I want to be when I grow up."

NHS running backs coach B.W. Trenery is one of the few coaches who have been at the school longer than Schuchman. He called it a blessing having Schuchman around the program. As far as how the trainer has changed over the years, Trenery limited it to just two words: "Gray hair."

"He does the exact same thing, and he's steady," Trenery said. "We all trust him. My son [Duece] has a game tomorrow. If he came up and said, 'Duece has got dinged pretty good let's keep him out this quarter' we would. There's a great trust factor with what Russ is doing."

NPS trainers

Norman High

Russ Schuchman

25th season

Education: Newkirk HS, Cowley College, Oklahoma State, Ohio University

Former sport: Baseball

Norman North

Scott Bedigrew

22nd season

Education: Jefferson County North HS, Emporia State, Washington University, Ohio University

Former sport: Track and Field