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Well Played

Change is not always easy, but…

by nearly all accounts Truman’s transition to the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) has been successful. After a century of competition in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA), a conference in which Truman was a founding member, the University made the move to the GLVC for a variety of reasons, and recently wrapped up the first year of league play.

MBKBvsNebK2013-3of83-Cheerleader“Membership in the GLVC was a better fit for Truman’s mission and core values,” said Jerry Wollmering, athletic director. “We have been very impressed with the conference office and the level of energy and commitment to provide an outstanding championship experience for all sports.”

Compared to the more than 100-year-old MIAA, the GLVC is a relative new kid on the block. Founded in 1978 to be the premier NCAA Division II basketball conference, it has grown to sponsor 20 championship sports. GLVC teams have captured 12 national championships in the sports of basketball, soccer, baseball and softball.

SwimMeetOct2013-136The GLVC is the conference of choice for teams in five states, including Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Kentucky. At one point it was the largest athletic conference in the country across all divisions. Today, Truman is one of seven Missouri schools in the league and sits in the western division of the 16-member conference.

SwimMeetOct2013-208One of the benefits of joining the GLVC is its prominence in several metropolitan areas, which will help to raise awareness of the University for potential students in a number of untapped recruiting areas. In addition to the traditional Truman hotspots of Kansas City and St. Louis, the GLVC has member schools in major media markets such as Chicago, Milwaukee, Louisville and Indianapolis, the home of the conference headquarters.

“Changing conferences has positive repercussions well beyond athletics,” said Regina Morin, associate vice president for enrollment. “Competing in these new areas will help us cast a wider net and increase our name recognition in places where we may not have had as large of a presence in the past, while supporting interest in our traditionally strong geographic areas. Hopefully we can attract even more of the high-caliber students we have come to expect at Truman.”

The geographic makeup of the conference has other benefits as well. This season Truman athletes missed less class time, and the locations of away events provided more opportunities for alumni attendance.

“The crowds and support we have at road games have been some of the nicest surprises,” Wollmering said. “Alumni and friends of Truman have been awesome in coming out to see us play.”

From the classroom standpoint, the GLVC fits nicely with Truman’s tradition of academic excellence. In 2012-2013, the year prior to Truman’s arrival, the GLVC ranked third among 23 NCAA Division II conferences in Academic Success Rate (ASR) at 80 percent and third in Federal Graduation Rate (FGR) at 62 percent for all student-athletes. Truman’s most recent ASR of 86 percent and FGR of 72 percent will only help to bolster the conference’s academic reputation in the years to come.

FBvsStJNov2013SRGame-131One of the first indicators of athletic success in the new conference came on the gridiron where the Truman football team posted its most successful season in more than a decade. The Bulldogs were in the chase for a conference title until the last week of the season, finishing with a 7-4 mark on the season and 5-2 in conference play. Additionally, eight players earned first-team All-GLVC honors.

Also in the fall, a pair of teams tasted success in their inaugural seasons in the GLVC as women’s soccer and volleyball both booked trips to their respective national tournaments.

The women’s soccer team posted 12 regular season wins, enough for a second place conference finish and its 10th NCAA tournament appearance in school history. In all, seven Bulldogs earned spots on All-GLVC teams.

VBallvsQuincyNov2013-061A run to the GLVC conference title game was enough to boost the nationally-ranked volleyball team to its 14th appearance in the NCAA tournament. In addition to landing three players on All-GLVC teams, two Bulldogs were named All-Americans by the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association.

MBKBvsQuincyMar2014-100The spring was highlighted by the return of March Madness, as both basketball teams completed successful seasons. While the men’s team saw their 20-win campaign come to an end with an upset loss in the conference tournament, the silver lining was the effort turned in by senior Mike Carlson. In his final year in a Bulldog uniform, Carlson was named the GLVC co-Player of the Year and became only the sixth Truman basketball player to earn All-America honors.

WBKBvsUIS2014-39Former Bulldog great Amy Eagan led the women’s team to a stellar season in her first year as head coach (sidebar, below). In addition to tying the school record with 22 wins, the team took first place in the GLVC conference tournament, which earned them a spot in the NCAA tournament. This marked only the third trip to the tournament for the Bulldogs and the first appearance since 1999, Eagan’s final season in uniform.

BaseballVSparksideMar2014-24of104On the diamond, both the baseball and softball squads had notable seasons. The baseball team set a school record with 26 wins and advanced to the final four of the conference tournament. The softball team surpassed 40 wins for only the fifth time in school history, finishing with a record of 43-13. Two of those wins came in the NCAA tournament, which saw the Bulldogs in the field for the 15th time overall, and the first time since 2005. Kindra Henze also earned GLVC co-Pitcher of the Year honors.

SoftballVSlewisMar2014-79of94On the whole, Truman finished second in the GLVC Commissioner’s Cup race, and sixth in the battle for the league’s All Sports Trophy. The Commissioner’s Cup awards points based on each school’s finish in either the GLVC standings or GLVC postseason championship events, in the sports sponsored by all 16 member schools: men’s soccer, women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, softball and baseball. The All Sport Trophy encompasses 18 different conference-sponsored competitions.

For the 19 University teams that entered the GLVC this past year, most saw marked improvements from their last seasons in the previous conference. (The GLVC is still working to add wrestling, and the Truman team competed last season as an associate member of the MIAA.) Across all sports participating in the new league, Truman placed 49 athletes on All-GLVC teams, up from 25 in the previous season in the other conference. In addition, the Bulldogs landed two conference players of the year during the program’s first season of GLVC action.

More information about the GLVC and all of its member schools can be found online at glvcsports.com. In-depth coverage of all 20 Truman athletic teams is available online at trumanbulldogs.com


Fifteen Years at the Top

JerryWollmeringJuly2013-6With a background so entrenched in track that Truman’s own is named in his honor, Kenneth Gardner is probably comfortable with the idea of another runner surpassing him as the longest-tenured athletic director in the University’s history.

This September will mark Jerry Wollmering’s 15th year as the top Bulldog, moving him past Gardner, who was the athletic director from 1974-1988, in total years at the post.

“Serving Truman has truly been a blessing to me,” Wollmering said. “There is no greater job in the world than to be around young people with energy and enthusiasm. It has allowed me to do what I enjoy, yet have balance in spending time with my family.”

Despite 15 successful years on the job at Truman, working as a Division II athletic director was never part of Wollmering’s plan. A former cross country and track athlete at Drake University, he originally dreamed of working for a Division I school in a major conference. After serving in various capacities at Kent State University and Bowling Green State University in Ohio, as well as Southeast Missouri State University, Wollmering appeared to be on that path, but when Truman was looking for a new athletic director in 1999, he was intrigued.

“When I saw the Truman job advertised, I was excited to apply because it was near my hometown of Fort Madison in southeast Iowa,” he said. “When I interviewed, I was even more excited about the opportunity because of the people I met and what I saw at Truman.”

One thing that has helped Wollmering during his tenure at the University is his diverse educational background. At Drake, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting, which he followed up with a master’s degree in physical education and athletic administration from Kent State University. He is also a certified public accountant, something that has been useful considering current economic conditions.

“The budget reductions over the past 10 years have been tough to handle year after year,” Wollmering said. “However, if we can start increasing our support for our student-athletes again, I think you will continue to see great things happen on and off the field for Truman athletics.”

Jerry and his wife Alicia

Jerry and his wife Alicia

One of those areas of support is the student athletics fee, voted on by students and passed under Wollmering’s reign in 2007. It has allowed the University to make facility improvements including stadium turf, lights and the creation of the Pershing Strength and Conditioning Facility, which has benefited every Truman team.

Those are just a few of the changes Wollmering has witnessed during his time in Kirksville. When he and his wife Alicia moved to town so he could take the athletic director position, they had two children—a three-year-old and a one-year-old. Today, the couple has three daughters, the oldest of which will be a freshman at Truman this fall.


Hall of Famer at the Helm

14AEagan-a1The future looks bright for the Truman women’s basketball program, thanks in large part to the return of one of the most prominent players from its past.

Former Bulldog Amy Eagan (’01) returned this past season to serve as head coach, leading the team to arguably its most successful season ever.

“It was the best year of my career as a head coach, and not because of the wins and losses, but because of the players and how they made the records and wins happen,” Eagan said. “They are remarkable young women who invested so much throughout the year on and off the court.”

Individually, five players averaged double figures for scoring. Amy Briggs and Allie Norton respectively earned first- and second-team all-conference honors, while Bianca Szafarowicz was named the GLVC tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

When stacked up against teams from the past, the 2013-2014 squad posted top 10 performances in 14 different statistical categories, and became the most successful women’s team of all time in terms of three-point field goals made, free throws made and free throws attempted. Additionally, the team tied the school number of wins in a season with 22, won the GLVC tournament in their inaugural season in the league and earned the program’s third overall trip to the NCAA tournament.

AmyEagenPlayingBasketballThe last time the team enjoyed this much success was Eagan’s senior season as a player. That Bulldog squad also notched 22 season victories en route to the “Sweet Sixteen” of the NCAA tournament. Eagan earned honorable mention All-America honors to go along with her recognition as a four-time all-conference player out of the MIAA. During her career, which spanned 1996-1999, she became the program’s all-time leader in both assists and steals and she also holds the single-game point record with 46 against Southern Indiana in 1998.

All of her accomplishments secured Eagan a spot in the Truman Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012, and her history at the University is something she can use to make connections on the recruiting trail and in the locker room.

“When I talk to recruits and their parents about Truman, they know it is from firsthand experience. I think it means more,” she said. “It also definitely helps with relating to players. I know what they are going through with trying to balance academics and basketball.”

Since she graduated from the University, Eagan has never been far from the game. After earning her degree in exercise science, she served four years as an assistant coach at Quincy University. Prior to her return this season, she spent the last five years as a head coach in Iowa with two years at St. Ambrose University followed by three years at Ashford University. During her time at Ashford, Eagan also picked up a master’s degree in organizational management.

By all accounts, her first season back on campus has been a success, but Eagan has no plans to become content with early accomplishments.

“We do not want to win a conference championship every once in a while, or go to the NCAA tournament every 15 years,” she said. “Our goal is to establish a program that is competing to do these things every year.”

Boston Strong

Runners from Kirksville visit the finish line of the Boston Marathon on the eve of the race. Pictured, from left, Royce Kallerud, Robert Keough, Paul Yoder and Sonya Clark.

With more than a dozen marathons between them, faculty members Royce Kallerud and Paul Yoder are no strangers to the exuberance of crossing the finish line after months of hard work and preparation, but completing the 118th Boston Marathon was nothing like their previous competitions.

Kallerud, chair of the Department of English and Linguistics, and Yoder, associate professor of education, were among a small contingent from Kirksville that competed in the world’s oldest marathon, April 21. For a race already steeped in tradition, this year’s event took on even greater significance, as it was the first marathon since the bombing that claimed three lives and injured more than 250 people.

“After the bombing last year it became, for me anyway, a statement that we are stronger than terrorism,” Yoder said. “I felt that qualifying and running in the Boston Marathon was my way of declaring that we are all stronger than those who try to beat us down—whether that is with words or bombs.”

Kallerud started to realize there was something special about the event before he even left Missouri.

“Almost everyone on the plane from St. Louis to Boston was wearing a Boston Marathon shirt or jacket, and then in Boston, there were more than a million spectators cheering on the runners,” he said. “Running the race was like running through a 26.2 mile-long stadium filled with rabid fans.”

The Boston Marathon was something Kallerud and Yoder each wanted to do, even before last year’s bombing. Both men entered the sport within the last five years, starting with 5K runs in Kirksville. In that time, Yoder has gone on to compete in nearly 10 marathons, while Kallerud, who turned in the faster time—3:02:38 to Yoder’s 3:39:23—has competed in four.

“My goal was to enjoy the absolutely fabulous day, the crowds, the atmosphere and the fact that getting to the race was my goal,” Yoder said. “I wanted to enjoy every second I was on the course. So while the time wasn’t my best, the experience was a personal record beyond words.”

In addition to years of tradition, the Boston Marathon is also known for its fun atmosphere. It is not unusual to see participants stopping to join the crowd for a beer or doughnut, and spectators have various ways of showing their support along the route. Yoder received a good luck bracelet from a young girl, and even stopped to participate in the Macarena with about 20 spectators to a blaring chorus of Boston’s unofficial anthem, “Sweet Caroline.” Kallerud made personal use of the supportive crowd. At the starting line he recruited a fellow runner to write his name on his arm with a Sharpie, which led to spectators cheering him on by name as he made his was through the course.

While both men had successful runs, two of their more memorable moments came in times surrounding the marathon.

“Going to the finish line with the other runners from Kirksville the night before the race really put the event in perspective and made me feel fortunate to be running this year,” Kallerud said.

For Yoder, a highlight was the train ride back to his hotel. The only runner in his car, he received a high-five from all the other passengers. As the train neared his stop, an elderly woman approached and gave him a hug, her voice cracking as she said, “Thank you for running for our city.”

Student Initiated Program Encourages Local Youth

Girls at Ray Miller Elementary School in Kirksville excitedly wait for Tuesday afternoons. Homeroom teachers release their students at 3:30 p.m. and the fun begins. The girls come running down the hallway looking for their instructors, Ellen Atwood, Erin Cicotte and Tara Dorenkamp to start their favorite activity, Happy Feet Running Club.

Happy Feet Running Club is a weekly after-school program that takes place at Ray Miller Elementary. Around 20 girls in third through fifth grade participate in the running club, which aims to raise health awareness and self-esteem through exercising and healthy eating. In the program, girls keep their own personal health journals as well as participate in different exercises and activities. In their journals, the girls log their exercising activities and read about healthy food facts.

Amanda Brown (’11), a former Truman track athlete, learned about the program from Carol Goodrow’s book, “Happy Feet Health Food: Your Child’s First Journal of Exercise and Healthy Eating,” and she wanted to bring it to the Kirksville community. Brown was never able to implement the program because she had track practice every day after school, so in the spring of 2011, Atwood stepped in to help get it started.

“Amanda wanted to bring this program here because she participated in varsity cross country and track, and running was a big part of her life,” Atwood said. “I think she wanted to share her life experience of running with younger girls.”

Tara Dorenkamp runs with students from Ray Miller Elementary School during a session of Happy Feet Running Club this spring. The club, organized by Truman students, aims to help young girls create healthy lifestyles.

Tara Dorenkamp runs with students from Ray Miller Elementary School during a session of Happy Feet Running Club this spring. The club, organized by Truman students, aims to help young girls create healthy lifestyles.

Liz Wilkinson (’13) and Katrina DeCosta (’13) originally helped Atwood (’14), and as older instructors have prepared to graduate, they have groomed younger students to take over the program. Dorenkamp and Cicotte learned from Atwood this past year and will continue the program again in the fall.

“The girls love Happy Feet. It gives them a break from their normal after-school routine,” Dorenkamp said. “They used to have Happy Feet on Mondays, and a third grader said ‘I hated Mondays until it was Happy Feet day!’”

Instructors start out each session by reviewing journals with the girls. Then they usually head outside to the bike path for a jog before starting an activity, such as soccer or relay races. Events conclude with the group discussing a health food fact for the day.

When the weather does not cooperate, both the instructors and “happy feeters” get creative with ways to exercise indoors. Activities have included splitting into teams and seeing which group can keep a balloon in the air the longest, or watching Disney musicals and doing different exercises every time a song plays.

Thanks to the idea of one student and the help of a few others, Happy Feet has paved the way towards a healthy future for the young girls who have participated in the program.

Bridging the Gap

A small group of Truman alumni from two different schools, hundreds of miles apart, joined forces and helped students examine a complex cultural issue.

Not many people would jump at the chance to spend close to 40 hours driving nearly 2,200 miles round trip in a van with teenagers, but Chris Holmes (’90) was excited at the prospect. Holmes, a journalism teacher at Hazelwood West High School in Hazelwood, Mo., spent months planning an out-of-classroom experience for some of his students, and during their spring break in March it finally came to fruition.

Chris Holmes (’90)

Chris Holmes (’90)

An editor of the Index student newspaper during his time at Truman, Holmes missed being a practicing journalist and wanted to provide his students with a unique learning experience they might find transformative. Last fall, he came up with the idea of having them examine, firsthand, the topic of immigration reform. Specifically, they would be looking at teenagers’ perspectives on the issue.

“We wanted to choose a newsworthy topic that we could realistically tackle,” Holmes said. “Our focus on Hispanic teenagers’ perspectives of immigration reform, combined with our own observations, allowed us to cover the topic—one of the nation’s most timely and explosive issues—in a way that few journalists have ever done.”

Stephanie Inlow (’88) looks out over the Weslaco East High School commons.

Stephanie Inlow (’88) looks out over the Weslaco East High School commons.

Once the subject was decided, a little luck was involved in determining the destination where the students could conduct their research. Stephanie Inlow (’88) and Holmes were classmates at Truman. They had known each other for years, having met at a church camp in their youth, but after graduation they lost touch. Years later they rekindled their friendship through Facebook, something that proved advantageous for this particular project. Holmes knew Inlow was a guidance counselor at a school in Texas, and in his search for a location, messaged her to find out specifically where she worked.

The town of Weslaco is home to about 25,000 people. Not far from the Gulf of Mexico, near the southern-most tip of the state, it sits in the border county of Hidalgo—the perfect site for the students’ project. In addition to Inlow, three other University alumni, Carey Boleach (’86), Melisse Krink (’86) and Tom Owens (’85), also happened to work in the school district, further solidifying the Truman connection. In total, six University alumni had varying degrees of involvement in the project as Kate Ramatowski (’04, ’05), who also teaches at Hazelwood West, served as a second escort on the trip.

After getting approval from administrators in both schools, and a preliminary trip to the area by Holmes, the plan was set in motion. An anonymous donor contributed enough funding to cover transportation and hotel accommodations, while the students contributed with a fundraising event of their own. Seven students, three juniors and four seniors, made the trip during the week of their spring break in March.

“It consumed their entire spring break. The fact that these students were eager to give that up for something academic says a lot about them,” Holmes said.

Representatives from the Weslaco Independent School District interview Kate Ramatowski (’04, ’05) during the trip to the Rio Grande Valley.

Representatives from the Weslaco Independent School District interview Kate Ramatowski (’04, ’05) during the trip to the Rio Grande Valley.

The overall goal of the project was to examine perspectives on immigration reform from teenagers living on the border. By extension, topics such as opportunities, language barriers, cultural differences and socioeconomic struggles would naturally be addressed. To fully grasp the experience, the Missouri students were immersed in the lives of their counterparts, spending 24 hours a day with them and living with their families. Prior to their arrival, the Hazelwood West students were partnered with students from Weslaco East High School. The pairs got to know each other via text messages and social media, and once the students were brought together, Holmes saw nothing but positive interactions.

“I believe there was a period of adjustment, more for some than others because of the homes and environments in which they were placed,” he said. “After a couple days, they were all comfortable. By week’s end, a few of them seemed to have sparked friendships that will last for decades. The trip definitely affected these kids in many ways, but I think the most significant thing they brought back was wisdom. They didn’t just learn facts or gather opinions, they gained insight that would otherwise be unattainable in a classroom.”

According to Inlow, the Weslaco students and their families were excited about hosting the Hazelwood contingent, and she feels they made a connection with their guests.

“Our culture here in the Rio Grande Valley is very welcoming, gracious and giving,” she said. “It gave us an opportunity to showcase our school and our culture to some amazing young people from St. Louis, and hopefully give them a better understanding of Hispanic culture, our education, families, food and more importantly, the immigration issues that touch so many of our young students here.”

Kate Ramatowski (’04, ’05) goes over interview notes with Hazelwood West High School student Kyle Raup.

Kate Ramatowski (’04, ’05) goes over interview notes with Hazelwood West High School student Kyle Raup.

After returning to Hazelwood, the students began to digest the information they gathered, and expanded their reporting with some follow-up interviews and additional research. Two weeks in May were devoted to writing, editing and revising their stories, which were compiled into a hardbound book and made available to students, teachers and administrators at both schools. Their stories will also be made available online soon.

In addition to gaining experience in the field, Holmes would like the students to take something else away from the project.

“I hope our students, both those in Hazelwood and in Weslaco, see the world a little more clearly, and contemplate these controversial issues more intelligently,” he said. “I hope they realize that people are people, no matter where they live, what language they speak or from what circumstances they come. Also, I hope they share this insight with an audience that would not otherwise understand such things, causing them to think and debate.”

Holmes is interested in making this journalism expedition an annual event for students at his school. He is exploring new topics for future trips, and several students have already expressed interest in participating. He credits his own experiences at Truman, and a connection to other University alumni, for allowing him to make this particular dream become a reality.