COLUMBIA — Courtney Blount and Margaret Oberkrombounced and hugged as they described how hard they have been working. The girls attend different high schools yet have become close friends as teammates on the same softball team.
The team is getting set for its first season, a cooperative effort between Fr. Tolton Catholic High School, the first Catholic high school in Columbia, and Calvary Lutheran High School. Tolton opens Monday for its first year of classes, and Calvary in Jefferson City has been willing to help get some new athletic programs started. The schools both have contributed players to create full-sized teams for softball and football, but Tolton also fields several teams of its own.
The Tolton-Calvary softball team has been practicing in Jefferson City for several weeks. The location has proved to be one of the challenges for the team, coach Mary Beth Anthony said. The Tolton players have to carpool from the Columbia area to Jefferson City for each practice, but Blount and Oberkrom don't appear to have lost any enthusiasm despite the travel burden.
“I’m excited to see the collaboration between the two schools," Anthony said. "They’ve become a true team.”
Tolton and Calvary are also combining forces to form a football team. Many of the players have no previous experience playing football, so the coaching staff said they are depending on the support of the teammates who have experience to guide the team.
Players Christian Elliott and Austin Gregory from Tolton, along with Steven Gunn II from Calvary, all agreed they are looking forward to improving as a team and learning more about the game this season.
The cross country teams and the girls volleyball team are composed solely of Tolton students. The cross country teams are the only varsity sports fielded by Tolton this season, so they have an opportunity to go to the state championship. Assistant coach Pat Kelly said he hopes they can have some runners compete at districts but would love to see some runners qualify for the state championship.
The volleyball team plays its first freshman game Monday evening. Players Mary Cleek and River Remis said they are looking forward to competing after weeks of practicing hard.
Tolton will start with an enrollment of 64 students. The school’s building is not finished, so classes will start at Columbia College.The athletics staff said they expected the school facilities to be ready in late September or early October. Meanwhile, the sports teams are training in different places around the Columbia area, including Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.
“It has been a big community effort, overall,” Chad Masters, the athletics director and football coach said. “There is a lot of excitement and interest around.”
Organizing rosters and schedules and getting sports equipment has been tricky at times, but there is a lot of optimism in the air.
“We need to be broad in our thinking and plug in those pieces,” Masters said.
The goals for the fall season are clear for both the athletics staff and the players.
“We have kids with different levels of experience, but we are not going to make any apologies about wanting to be successful," Masters said. "We’re never going to be average.”
Success may come immediately or in the long run, but that is not the point. “We've got to make progress every day,” he said.