Reunion of the union
State runner-up Gladbrook-Reinbeck volleyball team reunites 30 years later
REINBECK — Imagine, after years of being rival schools and sports programs, setting aside those old rivalries and joining forces.
That’s no easy task for anyone involved, athletically, culturally or academically, but 30 years ago that’s just where the towns of Gladbrook and Reinbeck were.
In 1988, Gladbrook-Reinbeck High School opened its doors for the first time, with the newly-named Rebels representing this new venture.
It wasn’t the first year of combination for the athletic programs, as they had played together as the Rebels for the 1987 season. That familiarity with each other really took hold in the volleyball team, who made the regional finals that season before falling one game short in the state tournament.
That wouldn’t be the case the next year, however, as G-R in its first year as a combined school nearly won its first state championship, with the volleyball team making it all the way to the Class 1A title game before falling to Dike.
Last Thursday the team gathered together again at the Gladbrook-Reinbeck High School gymnasium to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Rebel’s state runner-up team before the NICL West Division match between the Rebels and BCLUW.
It was a fitting matchup to celebrate before, considering Comet head coach Kristen Garber and G-R head coach Paula Kelley were both part of that 1988 team.
“We’d been going back and forth with each other before today, this was not a new thing for us and really it’s pretty cool,” Garber said jokingly of the rivalry between she and Kelley. “All the connections to our team that played in high school that have a couple of daughters and two coaches and a niece out here, lt was pretty neat.”
Before and during the ceremony the former players shared stories and laughed and remembered their glory years together, though former head coach Terri Luehring said she couldn’t believe 30 years have passed since that 1988 season.
“I am not that old!” Luehring exclaimed with a smile.
When it came to getting back in touch with some of the women who were on that team, some who she hadn’t seen in years, Luehring said it brought up such wonderful feelings.
“It’s just fun to see where they’ve been, where they came from and where they are at now,” she said. “Just to renew some acquaintances and team members, memories and memberships and all that good stuff. It’s just fun to be together.”
Luehring coached those Rebels to a 34-7-2 record, while Cynthia Eggers — now Cynthia Busch — and Kim Conklin — now Kim Clapp — were named to the 1A all-tournament team.
Kelley, a Reinbeck native, said all the credit for anything they accomplished in that season goes squarely to how Luehring handled the merger.
“You’re taking two school districts and having to mesh them together, coach Luehring had a tough, tough task to manage two different schools who maybe didn’t want to be together and some kids didn’t get to play because of that,” Kelley said. “Yes, you can have athletes, but if you don’t get them to mesh it doesn’t matter all the talent you can have.”
Garber, who was coached by Luehring at Gladbrook before the merger, said what the girls accomplished went beyond the volleyball court, and again a lot of that was because of Luehring.
“I thought it was a good way for us to honor Terri, who really did a lot for volleyball and us obviously but did a lot for the school, too, because it was a tough transition at that time and this was a real positive,” Garber said.
Luehring, like many coaches, said she couldn’t accept all the responsibility for the success.
“The girls got along really, really well together,” she said. “They played well together, they liked each other, it was huge that way.”
Kelley was only coached by Luehring for two years, but even in that short of a time she said Luehring imprinted on her for the rest of her life.
“She was the best coach I ever had, I learned so much from her,” Kelley said. “Those girls had her for four years, I didn’t get her until I was a junior. As soon as I had her I was like ‘this is who I want to be.’ That was the type of style, she was fun, she’d joke with you but she’d kick you in the butt when you needed and she’d chew you out if you needed it. Then she would turn around and give you the best compliment ever, and that’s the type of coach I wanted to be.”
Seeing two of her prodigies in Kelley and Garber continuing her legacy as a coach was overwhelming for Luehring, and she said no matter who won the game after she didn’t feel anyone would walk home a loser.
“I am really proud of both of them, they are really working hard with both programs,” Luehring said.