Twenty years ago, the Community R-VI Lady Trojans softball team became the first athletics program in school history to not only reach the state championships but bring home the Class 1A crown.
To honor what this group did for the community, a reunion has been planned to reflect on their accomplishment during the 63rd Annual Laddonia 4th of July Celebration.
During the event around 8:40 p.m., the 1995 state champions will be called out onto the field in downtown Laddonia just off Highway 54 to be honored before the fireworks and candy toss for kids.
Community R-VI Principal Bob Curtis will be on the field to assist in the commemoration. There will also be photos and write-ups from local newspapers on display.
Alisha Pound Glasgow, a member of the state championship team, is releasing a design and cost for a T-Shirt in the next few days that can be pre-ordered to commemorate the event.
“I am full of excitement to see all the girls again at our 20 year reunion,” said former standout pitcher Sarah Curtis Stansbury. “I am so thankful that we have this opportunity to reunite and see how we have all progressed through the years. Most of us now have kids of our own and I sure hope that each one of us shares with future generations just how important being part of a team is. I have learned so much from being a part of this team that I still use in daily life now.”
Planning for the reunion began in February when Glasgow contacted all parties on Facebook asking for opinions on holding a possible reunion. In April, Melissa Curtis Deimeke said the 4th of July Celebration might be a good time for the reunion and the idea was met with excitement.
Currently, 18 of the 20 people involved with the team have said they will be attending the event.
Planned attendees and their jersey numbers include Melissa Gieseker Garnett (1), Kara Wieberg Norman (2), Ronda Austill (4), Lucy Davidson (5), Audrey Smith Stewart (6), Head Coach Lyndel Whittle (7), Mandy Riechers Reinerd (8, Sarah Curtis Stansbury (9), Kerri Wohlbold Robnett (10), Deanna Robnett Curtis (12), Alisha Pound Glasgow (13), Julie Gieseker (14), Crystal Spears Aulbur (15), Amy Welch Bishop (16), Melissa Curtis Deimeke (17), Renee Kesler Foster (18), and scorekeeper Krista Borgmeyer Ewens.
Both Sheila Fennewald Brown (11) and scorekeeper Marci Woolridge Minor will be unable to attend the event.
Taking a look at the state championship run
The 1995 dream season for the Lady Trojans came after a couple of seasons in which the Lady Trojans were on the brink of success before finally breaking through.
The 1993 squad lost in the district semifinals after a 10-2 season in which they were the Little Dixie Conference co-champions.
In 1994, the team went 17-3 before their season came to a surprising end in districts.
The agony the Lady Trojans experienced at the end of that season propelled Community R-VI to make a run towards a title in 1995.
The Lady Trojans won their first district title since 1984 after outscoring their district opponents 21-4.
Community R-VI followed by pounding St. Elizabeth 16-2 in the sectional round. Community R-VI held off Wheaton 4-2 in the Class 1A state semifinals in the school’s first ever trip to the state tournament.
They followed with an 8-0 beatdown of Jefferson in the state championship game. Audrey Smith Stewart caught the final out, helping the Lady Trojans to finish the year with an 18-5 record.
“I still remember the look on Audrey Smith’s face when she caught the fly ball in left field for the final out and our win,” said Amy Welch Bishop. “It was amazing.”
“Looking back on what our softball family did in 1995 is nothing short of amazing,” said Sarah Curtis Stansbury. “It is hard to realize at the time that you are making memories that will last a lifetime. It is hard to know at the time that your softball team will become forever (your) family. The pure awesomeness of it all was how all the pieces fell together in that magical year. Our team, our coaches, our towns all came out to root us on. I have never seen a town shut down all of its businesses just so they could come out and support a little group of softball girls. When we made it to the softball complex that day, the nerves were high. Through it all though, we never felt pressured. Words cannot express how we all felt when that last out was made. All the hard work, all the practices, all the blood, sweat, and tears were all worth it in that moment. It is truly a moment of glory that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. I would say that we were very blessed but it would be inaccurate; we are very blessed. One of the best times of my life that I hope everyone can experience at least once in their lifetime….”
Melissa Gieseker Garnett said the time of playing together with her teammates is something none of the team will forget.
“…And it wasn’t just winning the state championship, but all the times that most people would find insignificant (summer practices, bus rides, tournaments, and overall camaraderie),” she said as she also noted that she felt the team should have also won the following year for back-to-back crowns.
“…I feel like we were a true team,” she added. “A lot of us were together not only on the field, but off the field on weekends and in basketball as well. Everyone got along and I also feel like on the field, we all respected not only each other but also Coach Whittle…We had a lot of talent but we worked hard, practiced hard, and played hard to obtain that championship.”
Former Van-Far softball coach and also a member of the state championship team Melissa Curtis Deimeke said a lot can be learned from this memorable squad.
“…What made this team successful is hard work and determination from all the players,” she said. “No one player was more important than the other. When someone was down, another was there to pick them up. Softball season didn’t end when softball season was over. Many of these players played and practiced year round together from the time they were very young. Coach Whittle would have us set goals at the beginning of each season for ourselves and as a team. Setting goals in your life is extremely important and then striving to obtain them whether it is in softball or in any area of your life. Learning to work with others and communicate with them is not only important in sports but an essential skill in your adult life. This team had all of these things. Young softball players should remember to dream big and work hard to achieve those dreams. Talent can take you a long way; however, hard work, determination, and team skills can make your team a winner.”