COLUMBIA — Mayor Darwin Hindman named March 14 Green and Gold Day in Columbia in front of a crowd of excited Rock Bridge fans on Friday in honor of the celebration of Rock Bridge High School’s girl’s varsity basketball team winning the state championship for the first time in the school’s history.
The Rock Bridge fight song was barely audible over the sound of students flooding into the gymnasium while filling every bleacher, willingly subjecting themselves to shoulder-to-shoulder seating in order to show their support and excitement for the team.
The support was obvious; a handful of students even showed up donning face and body paint. Fans chanted “B-R-U, I-N-S” at the top of their lungs while waiting for the event to start.
As Mayor Hindman introduced the team members one by one, each name was followed by tremendous cheering and applause.
Kathy Ritter, Rock Bridge’s principal, said the great thing about the girls is that they included everyone in their trip to the top. “When they won, we felt as if we were all part of the team,” she said.
On Friday a banner indicating the big win was hung on the back wall and unveiled to the crowd at the recognition ceremony.
Jill Nagel, the team’s head coach, spoke to the crowd with a proud voice, saying that after many losses, her team rose to the top and winning is now a habit.
“This is a team that changed twenty-six years of history,” said Nagel. “A team whose coach will forever be changed because they taught her more than she could teach them.”
After watching a video displaying highlights of the winning game on a giant projection screen hanging at one end of the court, the basketball goal was lowered and each team member who was present at the celebration climbed up onto an A-frame ladder and used scissors to each cut off one string of the net at a time. Coach Nagel said the net is going to go into the a display case along with the trophy.
Principal Ritter started planning this event as soon as the girls won on Saturday. She said her heart had been racing all weekend. “When they won I had emotions of wanting to cry, wanting to laugh,” she said. “I wanted to hug the girls.”
Ritter had the senior team members in mind when planning the event. “This is the perfect ending for their time as basketball players in high school,” she said.
Claire Schaeperkoetter, a guard on the team and senior at Rock Bridge, said she is sad about not being on the team anymore after this year; she formed a special bond with her teammates. “We genuinely really do get along,” she said. “For a group of high school girls to get along — that’s really remarkable.”
Principal Ritter admits that these girls set the bar high but remains hopeful for similar results from future teams.
“We’ve been there once, we know what it takes to get there,” she said. “It is possible to get there again.”