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Off the Rim column: First 11 months have been wonderful

March 1, 2013
By Jimmy Gillispie - Sports Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

It's been almost a year since I traded the Purple and White Bulldogs for the Columbia Blue and Black Trojans.

While it was a rough transition at first, I have to admit, I made a great move and career upgrade. I'm part of a similar sized community that's filled with great community members, parents and students.

Why was it a tough move? I went to college in my hometown for 4 1/2 years and immediately began working for the town newspaper, also a weekly, the day after commencement. I covered primarily sports and some news for seven years before an opportunity arose in the Tama-Toledo area.

Baldwin High, my high school, has a proud sports tradition. It's football team has been made the state playoffs almost every year during the past 10 years and that includes a run to the state semifinals in 2007. The track and cross country teams have brought home more than 20 state championships during the past 20 years. Most of those come from the cross country teams, thanks to Mike Spielman, who was my coach when I helped the boys' squad start an 8-year run as state champions.

It was tough to leave all of that behind, especially since I nearly reached legend status in Baldwin City. This is the first time I've ever said that, but it's probably true. So, I took a chance to be an official sports editor last March and was given that chance 11 months ago. Of course, I still write some news here, but the sports are my true passion.

In late March 2012, I moved here during a great time. The spring sports were just beginning practice and I was able to meet coaches before the season officially began. However, I did miss covering a great girls' basketball season that ended too soon. On the flip side, I was glad I didn't have to watch another great team lose a heart-breaker to end the season. I've seen that plenty of times, especially in high school girls' basketball.

Last spring saw some good seasons and some others that struggled, which happens most seasons at every school. The boys' track and field season was a success as it narrowly finished runner-up at the NICL West meet and sent nearly a dozen athletes to the state track meet. Most of those athletes are back this spring, so I'm expecting big things from the Trojans.

The girls' golf team also made headlines last spring. The Lady Trojans finished fourth at the state meet and they were two strokes from taking third. On top of the best team finish, the Lady Trojans had a pair of golfers, the Van Dyk sisters, place in the top 10 individually. Sadly, five of the seven members of the squad were seniors. It's up to juniors Paige Van Dyk and Carrie Cibula to bring the Lady Trojans back to glory.

The summer came and went too quickly. The baseball and softball teams improved and they both bring back most of the squads this year. This sports editor tried to prove he could run again in the Toledo 5K, but the 100-plus temperatures nearly overheated him. Maybe this year he'll actually train before the race. The days when he ran a 5K in the low 16 minutes have been gone for nearly a decade.

The STC cross country teams scratched his itch to run again. Instead, he enjoyed following the Trojans to their meets. I still say cross country is one of the craziest spectator sports, hands down. If you haven't attended a meet, go to a big one and watch the crowd. It's like watching a large flock of birds move together from point to point during a 15-20 minute event.

I can't mention the fall without talking about the STC volleyball and football teams. The Lady Trojans rode the rollercoaster up and down all fall as coach Michelle Bradley knows. At times, they were one of the best in the state and other nights, they could drive a coach crazy. Regardless, fun times were had watching the volleyball team. It's become one of my favorite sports to watch since covering my college, Baker University, volleyball team for three years.

South Tama's football team brought the community together every Friday night. The Trojans went from two wins to a 9-3 record and one win shy of the state semifinals. Hopefully the performances by the STC seniors inspired the rest of the team to word hard and believe in a common goal. There's nothing more exciting for a high school than enjoying a great football season.

We just finished the fourth season, which was filled with basketball and wrestling. There was plenty of both during the past three months. The STC wrestlers had a successful winter and it was capped off with a great state tournament. The Trojans return a great core next year so big things are to be expected next winter.

The boys' and girls' basketball teams were much like the volleyball squad up and down all winter. The boys started off well and surprised a few teams. The Trojans lost Vinny Lasley at Christmas break and it showed the final two months. His energy and skill set were missed, but the Trojans still played hard and gave their best effort.

The girls' squad had high expectations and came close to beating several really good teams. It's never easy when a season or career ends, but it's even tougher when it ends sooner than expected. The Lady Trojans felt that pain a couple of weeks ago.

After living in Iowa for 11 months and experiencing an entire year of sports, I have suggested a few changes. First the boys' and girls' state organizations need to join together. Bring the IAHSAA and IGHSAU need to merge. Also the state needs the same number of classes for every sport. No more different classes for different sports. Make it simple with four or five classes and they don't change.

My final suggestion could happen if the first happens. In track and field, the events need to be the same for the boys and girls. No more different distances for races, such as 1,500 for girls and 1,600 for boys, and different relays. Let's keep it uniform. C'mon Iowa!

It's been a fun 11 months in Iowa and honestly, it's not much different than Kansas. I am happy I'm here and not in Kansas right now. We've had snow during the past week, but the Kansas City area has seen nearly 2 feet of snow. I'll take our handful of inches.

I hope to see everyone around Tama or Toledo during the spring season or even before my life gets hectic again. Hit me up on Twitter at "b_town_jimmy" or Facebook. I don't mind new friends.



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