BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – With the recent success of the HTC junior high softball program, players and coaches alike are looking to the future and whether that holds a team at Holy Trinity Catholic High School.
A team of 11 incoming 7th and 8th graders are playing good ball and have worked to a 6-2 record with some games left this weekend, weather permitting.
But play or not, win or lose, the girls are having success under the coaching of Loren Menke and they would enjoy the opportunity to play for their own school if all goes well. If not, they’re fine with trying to get on the Fort Madison High School team.
“The girls are just playing now and getting better,” Menke said. “I’m not sure they understand or are even thinking about the future. A lot of these girls have been playing together for years and John (Hellige) and I have been their coaches since Little League days.”
But for small schools like HTC it’s tough to keep numbers up with track and soccer and even tennis creeping into practice times.
Holy Trinity Athletic Director John Goetz said he doesn’t see a high school program next year, but he said two years out may be an option.
“The biggest hurdle we have is we just need to show the numbers,” Goetz said. “We can’t do it with 9 or 10 girls, we have to have 13 or 14 to make it a go. And we have to have those numbers year after year.”
But he said he’s excited by what’s he seeing in the junior high program.
“I’m glad we’re getting our program up and running again. Loren’s doing a great job and the girls are working hard and enjoying their season.”
Raquel Schneider, a newcomer to the program, said she’s enjoying playing and would like to keep playing in high school. She also runs track. Her older sister Brett and older brother Quentin both ran at state this year.
“I’d like to keep playing. If we can play here that would be great, but, if not, I’d try to play with Fort Madison.”
The Holy Trinity program ended about five years ago due to overlapping programs keeping numbers down as a lot of the girls were playing soccer and if the girls made it to substate or state then three to four weeks of practice time were lost.
The track season can also take athletes as can tennis, both programs that are currently being shared with Fort Madison public. HTC girls can also try out for the Fort Madison team.
Mary Hellige, the HTC junior high’s top pitcher said she wants to keep playing and is open to playing at either school.
“If we have a team here then I would play here, but if not, I played with a lot of the girls that play at Fort Madison and I’d be ok trying to play there, too.”
Menke said right now the team got t-shirts to play in but they all wear different pants. He said there would be minimal cost issues with the program at the high school level. The former field used for softball at South Park is where the team would play so it would just be a matter of some equipment.
Goetz said the main issue would be just keeping the numbers high and getting teams to play.
“Just in our conference WACO didn’t have a team, Notre Dame shares with West Burlington. We would start with a conference schedule and then go out and get a couple others,” Goetz said.
He said people in West Point would welcome the games and cost wouldn’t be an issue.
“It’s not going to be anymore than any other sports, that’s not a big deal. The people at South Park would enjoy having the kids play out there. I don’t think we’ll get it at the high school next year, but maybe two years from now.”