South Central (Calhoun, Ia.) volleyball team regroups after tornado rips through town

South Central (Calhoun, Ia.) volleyball team regroups after tornado rips through town

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South Central (Calhoun, Ia.) volleyball team regroups after tornado rips through town

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South Central Calhoun volleyball players (from left) Allison Birks, Shelby Kingery and Julia Seil returned to the school's gym after a tornado last May kept the team out. (Photo: John Naughton/The Register)

South Central Calhoun volleyball players (from left) Allison Birks, Shelby Kingery and Julia Seil returned to the school’s gym after a tornado last May kept the team out.
(Photo: John Naughton/The Register)

LAKE CITY, Ia. — The gym floor at South Central Calhoun looks like it did before the tornado hit.

That’s a comfort to the Titan volleyball team, which had to hold practices and matches at the district’s Rockwell City middle school gym as the high school was repaired after being damaged May 10.

The team returned to its usual location last week.

“It’s just good to be back to normal,” junior Allison Birks said.

Perhaps you recall the details of the storm. The quiet of a Sunday night in this western Iowa town was shattered when a EF1 tornado roared through Lake City, tearing off the roof of the school.

About 150 people were at the school at the time, attending a senior class awards ceremony. Everyone was ushered to safety before the storm hit.

“We thought it was a joke,” said volleyball player Julia Seil, who rode out the storm in the school basement.

When she and others emerged, she could see broken glass and children’s toys strewn around the school grounds.

For the remaining eight school days, classes were relocated to other buildings in the community: a local bank, the city hall and churches.

Rebuilding went on — the track has been resurfaced this month, too — while athletes adapted to other facilities.

“It’s great to see the community jump up and do it,” principal Randy Martin said.

The school’s adaptation to new buildings was a contrast to Seil’s initial reaction when she saw the damage in town.

“I thought we’d just call it done,” Seil said.

There are new lights in the hallway outside the gym. Three trophies that were damaged have been repaired.

The volleyball team (15-7) is back on schedule, too.

The Titans held open gym at Rockwell City this summer. That continued into fall, when players adapted to a gym with higher ceilings.

“I really wanted to play in our old gym,” senior Shelby Kingery said. “We had to spend a lot of time to get used to the Rockwell gym.”

The players had to shuffle their travel schedules, too. Players who normally would practice right after school had to wait until the middle-school squad was done with its practices in Rockwell City.

The school grounds were first opened Aug. 22. Players couldn’t venture into the Lake City gym until Aug. 31.

There was never a doubt that the school’s volleyball team would return to its familiar surroundings.

“They weren’t going to tell us we couldn’t play volleyball,” said Birks, a four-sport athlete. “We were 100 percent sure of that.”

The return to a normal high school sports routine, with fans cheering in the stands, has given the community a lift.

“It’s very important that they’re supporting us through the season,” Seil said.

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