What happened this year in Rolla area sports.
The university in Rolla got a new name during 2008.
And as Missouri Science & Technology the school formerly known as the University of Missouri-Rolla turned in perhaps the finest calendar year in the history of its athletic department.
In January of 2008 the school officially became known as Missouri S&T. What followed for the Miner athletic department was a year full of record-setting team finishes as well as a slew of All-America performances.
Leading the way in late winter/early spring were the finishes of the S&T swimming and women’s basketball teams.
*The Miner swimmers, a constant national power at the NCAA Division II National Meet, were the host school for the national meet in 2007-08, at the Mizzou Aquatic Center in Columbia. And at that meet the Miners had their best finish ever, placing second overall as a team behind arch-rival Drury. Miner coach Doug Grooms was named national Coach of the Year for his efforts. And the Miners have kept the momentum going early in 2008-09, having beaten national champion Drury in a dual meet at Rolla and already qualifying a large number of swimmers for the ‘09 national meet.
*Also enjoying its finest-ever campaign was the Lady Miner women’s basketball team. S&T not only fashioned its third straight winning season but did so in dramatic fashion. The Lady Miners set a single-season record for victories and flirted with a NCAA Division II Final Four berth. S&T was selected for the NCAA Division II Nationals for only the second time in school history. And at the Great Lakes Regional Tournament on the campus of Drury in Springfield the Lady Miners advanced to the NCA Sweet 16, falling to eventual national champion and Great Lakes Valley Conference rival Northern Kentucky in the regional finals to finish with a 24-7 overall record.
Among other 2008 S&T highlights:
*The Miner track and field teams continued to climb new heights. The Miner men’s track team was ranked as high as No. 6 in the USTFCCCA national rankings. Pole vaulters highlighted the Miner performances on a national level. In the NCAA Division II Indoor National Meet a pair of Miner men vaulters won All-America honors, as Jordan Henry tied for second place overall while Jared Anders placed seventh. Three S&T athletics advanced to the Division II Outdoor Nationals and the result was again a pair of All-America pole vault finishes, as Henry placed fourth and Peter Hollenbeck tied for sixth. The third S&T representative, Tamara McCaskill, was 11th for the Lady Miners in the high jump. Also during the outdoor season Jordan became the first Miner vaulter to reach the 17-foot barrier.
*McCaskill ended up being a two-sport star for S&T. She was the leading scorer and an All-GLVC selection for the Lady Miner basketball squad in addition to being a national-qualifier in track. For the 2008-09 basketball season McCaskill is poised to set the Lady Miner career scoring record.
*Third baseman Kelsey Musselman of the S&T softball squad was named to the Daktronics All-America Third Team. Musselman was named the GLVC and Great Lakes Region Player of the Year in 2008, batting .422 with a school-record 14 homers, 47 RBI and a .755 slugging percentage.
*A pair of impressive wins over former MIAA rivals Southwest Baptist and Truman State allowed the S&T football team to finish with a 7-4 overall record, the Miners’ third winning season in the past four years. Also in 2008 the Miner gridders won their first conference championship since 1983, capturing the Great Lakes Football Conference title. The squad had 13 players named to the all-conference team.
*A former Miner All-America, Tyrone Smith, nearly advanced to the finals of the track and field long jump event while representing the Bermuda National Team at the Beijing Olympics. Smith ended up finishing in 15th place during his Olympic experience.
*Long-time Miner men’s basketball head coach and athletic director Billy Key was honored with the dedication of the basketball/volleyball court at the Gale Bullman Multi-Purpose Building. “Billy Key Court” was officially dedicated at the start of the S&T basketball season. Key served as Miner men’s basketball coach from 1964-87 and as the school’s athletic director from 1969-90.
*The Miners will be getting more conference competition soon. In 2008 the GLVC officially added Maryville University and the University of Illinois at Springfield to its list of league schools. Those schools will begin competition in the league in the 2009-10 school year.
Here are other athletic highlights from the area during 2008:
*Cycling excitement hit the area in September, as the Tour of Missouri made stage stops in both Rolla and St. James. The state has announced that the Tour will again be held in 2009 and cities are again lining up to serve as tour stops.
*Rolla’s John Brown, a former Dixon High School basketball legend, Missouri All-America and NBA first-round draft choice, was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
*It was a big year for several area golfers. Leading the way was Dixon’s Jace Long, who won the Missouri High School Class 3 state championship and just a couple of days later qualified for the U.S. Open Sectionals. Long also won a number of American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) events, was honored as Golfweek’s Player of the Week during a week over the summer and earned AJGA All-America honors. Long signed to play golf at Mizzou.
Newburg High School’s J.D. Nash won the Missouri Class 1 State Championship and signed a golf scholarship with William Woods College.
Both the Rolla High School boys’ and girls’ golf teams advanced to the state tournament as full teams in 2008. In the spring of ‘08 the RHS boys’ squad captured the Class 4 District 5 title and also finished unbeaten in dual meet action. The RHS boys placed seventh in the Class 4 State Tournament as a team. Individually the Bulldogs’ Will Baylor won all-state honors with a 10th-place finish. Not to be outdone, the Lady Bulldog squad won the Class 2 District 4 title in the fall of ‘08 and at the state meet finished ninth overall.
St. James freshman Drew Tucker advanced to the Missouri Class 3 State Tournament after winning All-Four Rivers Conference honors for the Tigers.
And it wasn’t just the young guns who sparkled. The Rolla duo of Chris Killian and Greg Doss won the 2008 Missouri Golf Association Senior Four-Ball Championship over the summer.
*In high school soccer:
The RHS boys’ soccer team won its first district championship in five years this past fall, capturing the Class 3 District 10 crown. The Bulldogs posted a dramatic win over Camdenton in the district finals on their home field, surviving a seven penalty kick marathon. RHS lost to Jefferson City in the sectional round of the playoffs. Rolla senior forward Tyler Sinnott earned Class 3 All-State honors and set nearly all of the Bulldog scoring records in the process. Sinnott has the RHS records for single-season goals (45), career goals (121), single-game goals (7), earliest goal in a game (:08), most career points (277), most season points (105) and most points in a game (14).
Kaitlin Bramel of the RHS girls’ soccer team captured Class 2 All-State honors for the second straight year and has gone on to a two-sport career at Fontbonne University. As a freshman Bramel was a starter for the Fontbonne women’s soccer team this fall and is also starting for the women’s basketball squad this winter.
The St. James High School girls’ soccer team advanced to the state tournament for the first time in its brief history by winning the Class 1 District 11 Tournament.
*The Rolla High School baseball team enjoyed one of its best-ever seasons in the spring of 2008. The Bulldogs set a school record in victories, finishing 21-4 in advancing to the district tournament semifinals. Four RHS players were named to the Missouri Baseball Coaches Association Class 4 All-State Team – pitcher Dalton Friend, infielder Will Morrison, utility player Chris Bowe and outfielder Tyler Sinnott. Named to the Class 4 Missouri Sportswriters/Sportscasters Association All-State squad were Friend as a utility player and Morrison as an infielder.
*The RHS football team failed to advanced to the state playoffs but were potent nonetheless, finishing with a 7-3 overall record. The Bulldog individual highlight was the play of running back Cameron Fore, who was named to the Missouri Class 5 All-State Team on both the sportswriters and coaches squads. Fore finished with 1,677 rushing yards (9.0 yards-per-carry) and ran for 27 touchdowns in ‘08. He is the RHS career leader in rushing (3,215), touchdowns (43) and is tied for first in rushing touchdowns (39).
*Matt Duncan became the all-time best RHS male cross country runner in the fall of ‘08. Duncan became the first male Bulldog two-time cross country all-state runner, as he finished 17th in the ‘08 Missouri Class 4 Championships. It was also the highest finish at the championships for the Bulldogs by a male runner and it was his third trip to the cross country state meet. In addition, Duncan was one of four RHS track and field state meet qualifiers in the spring. Duncan advanced in the 1,600-meter run while Ryan Peterson qualified in the boys’ 400-meter dash, Ijeoma Okafor in the girls’ 300-meter hurdles and Jasmine Rector in the girls’ high jump.
*Another area cross country runner, St. James freshman Emily Perona, advanced to the Missouri Class 2 Cross Country Championships, placing 36th overall.
*A couple of RHS track alumni continued to make big marks at the collegiate level. Former Lady Bulldog state champion Chantae McMillan competes for the University of Nebraska and placed second overall in the heptathlon and ninth in the long jump at the Big 12 Outdoor Meet. And former RHS all-stater Kim Shank was among the best long distance runners in the nation at the NCAA Division II level. Shank broke four school records for Missouri Southern as a sophomore, placing fifth in the 10,000 kilometers and 10th in the 5,000-kilometers at the national meet to earn All-America honors.
There were impressive comeback stories at RHS in the fall of ‘08.
*The Rolla High School softball team was an 18-game loser in ‘07. However, the Lady Bulldogs turned that record around in ‘08, as the squad posted a solid 18-9 mark. Senior outfielder Kim Ruth, who set a single-season record for hits, led the way and earned Missouri Class 4 All-State recognition. Also, freshman Maegen Shults immediately established herself as one of the area’s top pitchers.
*The RHS volleyball team hit the skids during the 2007 campaign, winning just two matches. However, the Lady Bulldogs – like their softball counterparts – made huge strides this past fall and flirted with a 20-win record before an ankle injury felled key hitter Leah Parry. The squad finished with a 16-17-2 overall mark despite the fact that head coach Amy Luna and junior varsity coach Lainie Knehans couldn’t finish the campaign due to their respective pregnancies. In the district tourney freshman coach Erica Yarger and RHS Athletic Director Kelly Hinshaw led the squad.
*The Rolla High School wrestling team sent three wrestlers to the Missouri Class 3 State Tournament – Blayne Shockley in the 112-pound weight class, Chris Sanders at 125 and Kevin Phelps at 189. For the second straight year Shockley advanced to the state finals. After beating Waynesville’s Aaron Morgan to win the 103-pound state title in ‘07, Shockley lost to Morgan in the 112 finals in ‘08. Rolla native Jeremy Jamison resigned as RHS wrestling coach following the season and was replaced by Kellen Laws. And the Bulldog wrestlers are off to another strong start this campaign.
*In youth wrestling the Rolla Kids Wrestling Club sent five wrestlers to the 2008 Brute adidas Folkstyle Wrestling Nationals in Kansas City in April, and Anthony Sederburg came away with a national championship. Also placing nationally for Rolla were Devin Gulledge (2nd), Alton Heyer (3rd), Jesse Conaway (6th) and Noah Whittaker (7th). The Rolla Kids Wrestling Club also had 14 medalist in a pair of USA Wrestling State Tournaments, including a first-place finish by Sederburg in the 40-pound, age 6-under class.
*Former RHS all-state girls’ basketball player Oby Okafor scored her 1,000th point as a junior at Tennessee State during the 2007-08 season. Okafor, who has been Tennessee State’s leading scorer and rebounder the past two seasons, suffered an Achilles tendon injury in the preseason of her senior campaign and will miss the entire 2008-09 season.
*Rolla native Mark Miller, a starting guard for one of the Bulldogs’ all-time best teams in 1979-80, was named RHS boys’ basketball head coach after Kent Thomas resigned following the 07-08 school year. Thomas is now boys’ basketball head coach at Cuba High School.
*The Newburg High School girls’ basketball team captured the Missouri Class 2 District 10 championship with a couple of upset wins, including topping Richland 63-52 in the title game. The Lady Wolves fell to defending state champion Hartville in sectional play.
*The St. James High School girls’ basketball team produced another 20-win season, including an undefeated Four Rivers Conference championship. The Lady Tigers were beaten by league rival Sullivan in the district tourney. St. James is off to another fast start this season, taking a 9-1 record into Wednesday’s title game of the Park Hills Central Tournament.
*Rolla’s Scott McCann won two silver medals at the U.S. Judo Senior Nationals.
*The Sellers-Sexton senior men’s basketball team’s success at the national and state levels continued in 2008, as the squad won the Missouri State Senior Games. Team members included Larry Sexton, Charles Pace, Randy Noll, Mike Gyovai, Steve Hauck, John Brown and Terry Bozzay.