So anyway...Tuesday night I was able to make a Facebook post announcing that Coach Rich Haisman's Vinton-Shellsburg Vikettes had won a share of the WaMaC West championship for the first time since 2001. That was an exciting, joyous and altogether staggering statement for someone with my mileage to make.
This team has been a blast to watch; a collection of seniors who've survived some of the leanest years imaginable, coupled with a collection of sophomores who've brought an energy back to what was a dying program. The Vikettes head into Saturday's first round Regional game with a record of 18-4; coupled with last year's record of 12-11, the Vikettes have won 30 games in past two seasons.
That number is interesting in an amazing way...from the 2011-12 season until the 2018-19 season -- seven years -- Vinton-Shellsburg's girls basketball program won exactly 30 games. The seniors on this year's team were 8-38 going into last season. When they were freshmen, the Vikettes lost to Marion 72-2; a year later they lost to Center Point-Urbana, 74-7.But the Senior Survivors and the Super Sophomores -- piloted by a great coaching staff -- have turned things around at almost a breakneck speed.
But, again, for an old-timer like me, that's probably not the most staggering part of my Facebook post from last night...the operative phrase being "...for the first time since 2001."
I was a senior in 1974-75, which was the first year the WaMaC conference actually declared a conference champion in girls' basketball, and Coach Harold Shepherd's Vinton Vikettes were the preseason favorite to win the first one. But a couple of upset losses to Marion and Maquoketa gave the former the conference title; of course that Vikette went on to go 17-6 and make all the way to the Regional finals before being eliminated.
It took two more years to win the first WaMaC title in 1977, followed by the second one -- and first trip to State -- in 1978, and like the chain reaction that triggers an atomic explosion, the legend of Vikette girls' basketball was well underway. Like I said earlier...staggering.
From 1977 to 1996, Vikette basketball won 16 of 20 WaMaC championships. Shep's squads won four in a row from '77 to 1980, missed one year, then won seven in a row. After two years of finishing behind Cedar Rapids Regis, the Vikettes started a string in 1991 of winning five WaMaC titles in six seasons, made four trips to the State tournament and won about 120 games. After the 1996 season, there was a gap of five years before the next -- and last WaMaC title which came in 2001.
Like I said, staggering.
Vikette basketball winning WaMaC championships was once like Iowa wrestling winning the Big Ten. Shep's teams built a legacy that is impossible to measure; on top of 17 conference titles, there were eight State tournament appearances, two championships, a runner-up finish and one third place.
But now, to quote President Kennedy, the torch has been been passed to a new generation, born in this century. It's been a thrill to see that torch passed, and I'm pretty sure that all of those Vikettes of the past are smiling as well.