Competition in varsity sports wasn’t initially offered to girls attending public schools for many years. Instead, girls were organized into pep clubs where membership in uniforms was mandatory and school spirit was measured in terms of boosting the boys teams representing the school. At Gallatin pep club members where known as the “Barkerettes.”
aMost schools in Missouri promoted school spirit and sports by encouraging girls to participate in pep clubs prior to the time when varsity sport programs were offered for girls. Here the club leaders, the cheer leaders, are shown wearing white sweaters in front of pep club members each proudly wearing the large “G” for Gallatin on red sweater fronts.
Varsity Softball, Basketball, Track Begins for Girls
The following record of GHS girls basketball was compiled by Dennis Cox, longtime sportswriter for the Gallatin North Missourian:
- 1979-80: 7-18 overall
- 1980-81: 10-16 overall
- 1981-82: 13-12 overall
- 1982-83: 16-11 overall
- 1983-84: Coach J.R. Collins, 24-4 overall; GRC Champions
All four losses came at the hands of just two teams …twice to Winston and twice to Mercer, including a setback in the district final. Sally Spillman led the team with a then school record 484 points, followed closely by Lori Beck with 476. Also on the 83-84 squad were Dawn Tuttle, Teanah Bradley, Libby Pitzenberger, Kim Pickering, Julie Wood, Dana McLaughlin, Lori Bonderer, Tina Deppen, Dawn Axon, Kristie McLaughlin, Melanie McLaughlin, Staci Schaffer and Jacqueline Thompson.
- 1984-85: 14-14 overall
- 1985-86: 3-22 overall
- 1986-87: 2-20 overall
- 1987-88: 6-17 overall
- 1988-89: 7-16 overall
- 1989-90: 20-8 overall
- 1990-91: 24-6 overall
- 1991-92: 19-7 overall
- 1992-93: Coach Rick Link, 21-5; GRC 6-2
Gallatin’s gals upset top-seeded South Harrison for a Gallatin Invitational Championship but fell out of the District Tournament when South Harrison avenged that loss. A signature win for this GHS team was a mid-season victory over Princeton program which had won five consecutive GRC titles. Team members for were Christy Wilson, Paige Helton, Mandi Spidle, Kim Ruse, Ashley Wilson, Dusty Rhoades, Natalie Bird, Cindy Critten, Sara Strasser, Joanna Hemry, Kate Dowell, Kathy Painter and Cheri Calhoon.
- 1993-94: Coach Rick Lin, 22-5 overall
- 1994-95: Coach Rick Lin, 26-3 overall
Ashley Wilson (a top 10 career scorer for the Bulldogs with 1,206 points) and Kim Ruse led the squad of younger players through district and sectional victories. Teammates included Cindy Critten, Sara Strasser, Natalie Bird, Joanna Hemry, Kim Sweatman, Amanda Dixon, Jacque Ruse, Andi Wilkinson, Devin Hamilton, Shanda Lollar, Miranda Eaton, Shelly Taul, Abbey Howard, Natasha McLey and Kristy Youtsey.
- 1995-96: Coach Rick Lin, 24-6; GRC 5-4 — 2nd Place MSHSAA Class 1A State Tournament
District Champions, Gallatin Invitational Champions, Hamilton Invitational Champions, 2nd Place Lawson Tournament. Defeated Norwood in state semifinals before losing to Drexel in the state championship game. Sophomore Amy Woodruff became the top all-time scorer for the Lady Bulldogs with 1,493 points. Both Woodruff and Cindy Critten earned All-GRC and All-State honors while Sara Strasser (All-GRC honorable mention) and Natalie Bird provided senior leadership with junior Andi Wilkinson as one of the team’s top rebounders. Other teammates were Joanna Hemry, Kim Sweatman, Amanda Dixon, Jacque Ruse, Devin Hamilton, Shanda Lollar, Miranda Eaton, Jenny Baker, Holly Garnett, Kelly Waterbury, Kristen Ellis, Staci Gatton, Jill Wilkinson and Kerri Lee.
- 1996-97: Coach Rick Lin, 25-5; GRC 7-1 (overtime loss to GRC champion Princeton)
Class 2A District Champions, Lawson Tournament Champions, Gallatin Invitational Champions. After defeating Smithville in the state sectional at MWSU in St. Joseph, this team lost to Urbana Skyline in the state quarterfinals at Truman High School. Andi Wilkinson was a Class 2A All-District and All-GRC pick and the GHS Defensive Player of the Year.
- 1997-98: Coach Rick Lin, 19-8
- 1998-99: Coach Rick Lin, 16-10
- 1999-00: Coach Rick Lin, 20-8
- 2000-01: Coach Rick Lin, 20-8
- 2001-02: Coach Rick Lin, 19-9
- 2002-03: Coach Rick Lin, 20-8; GRC 4-3
Hamilton Tournament Champions. Lost to #4 state-ranked St. Joseph Christian in the district final. Roxi Davitt earned first team All-GRC and All-District recognition. Kayli Burrell was a 2nd team All-GRC honoree and sister Kamille was honorable mention. Other teammates were Jamie Lunsford, Laura McCann, Katie Ward, Keira Story, Lindsey Robertson, Emily Gay, Kelsie Parker, Cassie Carder, Brittney Hixson, Taylor Henderson, Katie Jarboe, Trisha Sprague, Maria Burge, Kinsey Batson and Amanda Eaton.
- 2003-04: Coach Rick Lin, 12-13 overall
- 2004-05: Coach Rick Lin, 15-11 overall
- 2005-06: Coach Rick Lin, 20-9 overall
- 2006-07: Coach Rick Lin, 18-7 overall
- 2007-08: Coach Rick Lin, 19-8 overall
- 2008-09: Coach Rick Lin, 21-7 overall
- 2009-10: Coach Rick Lin, 10-16 overall
- 2010-11: Coach Rick Lin, 4-20 overall
- 2011-12: Coach Rick Lin, 11-15 overall
- 2012-13: Coach Rick Lin, 17-10 overall
- 2013-14: Coach Rick Lin, 24-5 overall; Undefeated GRC Champions
District Champion, 2nd Place Gallatin Invitational, Consolation Lawson Invitational, 3rd Place Hamilton Invitational. Two of the five losses were to an excellent Trenton team (played Trenton three times, winning once); their sectional loss was to North Platte. Top scorers, Kailey Salmon and Sara Lin, each with over 1,000 for their careers, were also #1 and #2 all-time in career assists at GHS. The team included Kailey Elbert, Kaitlyn Hefley, Kylie Collins, Bailey Maxwell, Madison Rounkles, Tristyn Siegel, Aubrey Burns, Morgan Acree, Taylor Swalley, Sami Boyd, Taylor Rardon, Tatum Griffin and Taylor Sloan.
- 2014-15: 17-9 overall
- 2015-16: 15-12 overall
2016-17: 20-7 overall
- 2017-18: 19-8 overall
- 2018-19: 15-9 overall; GRC East 4-3
- 2019-20: 1-20 overall; GRC East 1-6
- 2020-21: 3-17 overall
- 2021-22: 4-20 overall
- 2022-23: 12-12 overall
Grand River Conference Terminates After 93 Years
The March 2, 2023, meeting between the school superintendents of the Grand River Conference produced the most significant change in the league’s 93-year history. By a vote of 12-4, the GRC will split into two new, separate conferences at the start of the 2023-24 school year. Neither new conference will retain the name Grand River Conference. Football drives this decision although disparity in basketball competition and in school enrollments are motivating factors.
The split comes just a few months after the announcement that Brookfield and Marceline would join the league in 2024-25 and Princeton’s shift to competing in 8-Man football and the GRC West. The two new conferences will be created from the schools of the East and West divisions to reflect those membership changes:
- Group 1 — Albany, King City, North Andrew, North Harrison, Pattonsburg, Princeton, St. Joseph Christian, Stanberry, and Worth County
- Group 2 — Brookfield, Gallatin, Marceline Maysville, Milan, Polo, Putnam County, South Harrison, and Trenton
While the approval of the new additions had been unanimous, Maysville, Polo, Putnam County and South Harrison dissented from the vote to split the conference.
Growing concerns about the competitive imbalance between the two divisions had yielded continuing discussions regarding the future of the league. According to GRC secretary-treasurer Mike Adkins, the conference athletic directors had voted earlier this year for an end to the cross-over series in softball, basketball and baseball and the conference wrestling championship had been abolished, in addition to separate track and field and scholar bowl meets and music events.
The 2023 basketball cross-over event, held in King City in February, perhaps displayed the starkest contrast in the imbalance. The East Division (larger schools) won 14 of the 16 games played and both championship games. Since the conference expanded to 16 teams in 2016, the East Division teams won 53 of the possible 65 conference championships in activities that involve schools from both divisions. It has been argued that a significant contrast in the enrollments between division schools contributes to this disparity.
With Princeton’s impending division change and the addition of Brookfield and Marceline, all eight of the future West Division schools are smaller in enrollment than any East Division school member. The conference’s largest school (Trenton) carries an enrollment of at least more than three times larger than any current West Division member.
At the March 2, 2023, meeting the school superintendents agreed that neither of the two new leagues would retain the name “Grand River Conference.” At this time, new names were not decided. It is noteworthy that four West Division schools comprise the original “Grand River Six” -– Albany, Bethany (now South Harrison), Grant City (now Worth County), King City, Maysville and Stanberry. The “Grand River Six” organized in December, 1929, in the offices of Stanberry Superintendent L.A. Zelliff.
— based on an article written by Brent Johnson, Tri-County Ledger (Gentry County, MO)