8 edited by Joseph Geni
Sports Feature February 20, 2004 9
Images from the final
day of games at Darby
Gymnasium, left to
right: The crowd
celebrates a 3-pointer
during the men’s 108-
105 win over Knox.
Trek Langenhan ‘07
pulls up for a trey on the
wing against the Prairie
Fire. Hannah Phelps
‘04 sells “Save Darby” t-
shirts during a break in
the action. Katy Bowen
‘06 and the women’s
basketball team walk off
the floor following a
71-52 victory over
Knox. Background: The
south end of Darby
photos by Jillian Caly,
Meghan Kirkwood and
Missy Sharer ‘91 and
Laura VanSickle ‘90 led
basketball to its greatest Banners for Missy Sharer ‘91 and Laura VanSickle ‘90, the only two Grinnell basketball
heights players to ever have their numbers retired. photo by Jillian Caly
Darby Gym by Colin Sollitt “From the ‘50s to 1963, the Grinnell High School would use the come.”
by Bradley Iverson-Long VanSickle had a commanding presence on
Darby Gym is not just a place for Grin- the court. “She had these long arms with
nell athletes to make sports history, but a really pointy elbows and a thick blonde
place to honor sports history. Beside the braid,” Toft said. “She was like a Valkyrie.”
banners lining the rafters for volleyball and VanSickle also was determined and
basketball team accomplishments, two ban- durable. She played all 86 games during her
ners hang from the south wall of Darby four-year Grinnell career, starting 84 of
honoring the stars of Grinnell’s last basket- them. Laura regularly played through pain.
ball powerhouse program, the women’s Andy Hamilton ’85, then an assistant
teams of the late 80s and early 90s. Num- coach, remembers one game against
Missy,” said Wood.
“I wish I would have had more than
one year to play with Laura,” said Sharer.
“I think that if we played a couple more
years together, we could have come close to
being national champions.”
After VanSickle graduated, Sharer took
control of the Pioneers’ 1990-91 campaign.
She led Division III scoring, averaging 33.1
points per game, and was named a Kodak
After responding to extraordinary demands put on the current building for basketball games,” said Johnson. “The high school games
facilities, an enormous building complex, in an architectural style would be on Fridays, sometimes Tuesdays, and the college games
incongruous with the rest of the campus, was being constructed on would be on the weekend.”
With the upswing in the men’s basketball team’s fortunes, the
students’ zeal for the team grew enormously, and the crowd became
among the most intimidating in the Midwestern Conference.
Darby II: The Return ber 40, Laura VanSickle ’90 powered the Monmouth: “Laura got hit in the eye in
Pioneer women to their first winning warm-ups. A ball caromed off her face. Her
First Team All-American.
“Missy’s 33 points a game were in stan-
record, and number 30, Missy Sharer ’91 eye was swollen up and she had an icebag dardized basketball, not the way it’s being
the northern half of the Grinnell College campus. Named after some Sometimes, though, certain college officials wouldn’t like Grin- “The crowd’s support in here for the basketball team is the best Grinnell’s volleyball and basketball teams led the team to a Mid- on during announce- played in Grinnell now,” Eskildsen said.
of the largest donors in Grinnell history, it had the latest in modern nell inhabitants to intrude too much. “My husband, who played on I’ve ever seen,” said men’s basketball manager Marie Liska ’07.
amenities. Was it the East Campus building cam- the Grinnell High School basketball team, “It’s all about the crowd and the game,” fellow manager Katherine will have a new gym by the winter of 2005 west Conference Cham- ments. Then she “She averaged 33 points in a half court of-
pionship in 1991. turned around and fense.”
paign of 2003? No, it was the Darby Gymnasium would be chased out of the gym by [Grinnell Sparks ’07 concurred. “The Darby experience is all about the crowd
“They’re the greatest “They’re the greatest scored 34 points. It Sharer’s statistical accomplishments
building campaign of 1943. “I love shooting bas- coaching legend] John Pfitsch,” explained and the treys.” Darby Gymnasium and the Physical Education Complex have long women basketball play- was hard for me to drove the team’s success. The 1990-91 Pio-
Darby hosted its first collegiate game on Dec. Johnson, “and then my husband would just run Much like that first win over Cornell 10 years earlier, the final been institutions at Grinnell College; however, the College has decided ers to come out of Grin- women basketball even look at her with neers won a school record 20 games, and
7, 1942, one year to the day after Pearl Harbor. kets with my family around the building and rush back in the other win was just as dramatic, with Steve Wood ’04 hitting the game- that due to their age and outmoded space and equipment, they need nell” said Ted Eskildsen, took the Midwest Conference tournament
(Grinnell beat Iowa State, 37-30.) Since its official side… It was great of the College to share.” winning shot at the horn. Only this time, the fans stormed the floor to be replaced. players to come out of that eye, but she had
completion the following year, the facility has been and hearing the echo
VanSickle and Sharer’s a fabulous game.” in Darby, defeating Illinois College 77-69.
Darby has not been a stranger to celebrity not once but twice, first after the shot, and, after officals put 0.6 As a part of Grinnell’s drive to renew the on-campus facilities, a 10- coach at Grinnell. “Laura Grinnell.” Despite her force- In her last game, Sharer led Grinnell with
the site of commencement ceremonies, lectures, off of Darby’s walls either. On Oct. 29, 1967, Martin Luther King, seconds back on the clock, again after visitng Knox failed to score. person board of administrators and professors, authorized the building VanSickle was definitely ful play, Wood re- 42 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.
conferences, dances, concerts, and a speech made Jr. spoke in the gym, urging Grinnell College “I would have liked to keep the 18 point spread,” said Arseneault, of a large athletic complex north of Tenth Avenue last September. Set the best post player to —Ted Eskildsen, former members Laura as “a During one stretch, she personally scored
by Martin Luther King, Jr. Moreover, it has been a with every bounce. It students to “stay awake during the revolution.” “but that game was just extraordinary.” around Rosenbloom Field, the complex will consist of an aquatic
center for the entire town. Nationally known college basketball coach Though the crowd has played its part in the Darby experience,
ever come out of [Grin- women’s basketball coach typical Grinnellian. 10 straight points.
Darby came into being when the women’s gym-
feels like the ‘Hoo- David Arseneault, the fabled Pfitsch, and count- Arseneault emphasizes the facility’s charm.
center, “performance gymnasium,” and a field house. According to a nell]. Missy was the She was very sensitive “In that championship game, Missy
Grinnell College news release, included in the plans are “an expansive greatest competitor ever of the thoughts and loaded the team on her back and helped
nasium burned to the ground in 1939. When the siers’ movie.” less commencement speakers also have walked “My favorite moments in Darby is taking my two kids over there pathway from the Rosenfield Campus Center, across Tenth Avenue to a to play at Grinnell Col- feelings of her team- them win,” said Hamilton.
women took over the men’s old gym between ARH
and Noyce Science Center and the men demanded
—David Arseneault, the floor ofthe PEC was completed in 1971,
and watching the snow fall,” he said. “I love shooting baskets with
my family and hearing the echo off of Darby’s walls with every bounce.
vista overlooking Rosenbloom Field and other views to the north.” lege.” mates.” “We really set a precedent,” Sharer said.
With construction already underway, Grinnell expects the Beyond being teammates, roommates “(Laura was) a wonderful representa- “Since then, the athletics at Grinnell have
another gymnasium for themselves, the College men’s basketball coach many of the athletic functions were transferred It feels like the ‘Hoosiers’ movie.”
performance gym that will replace Darby to be completed in the and wallmates, VanSickle and Sharer both tive of Grinnell,” said Eskildsen. grown and are really strong now. I’m really
swung into action. They built an Art Deco gymna- to the new facility, so Darby’s functions were Despite renewed enthusiasm in the facility, Darby is no longer as
winter of 2005. Upon the gymnasium’s completion, construction will were named the GTE Academic All-Ameri- Sharp-shooting 5’8" guard Missy Sharer proud to say that I went to Grinnell.”
sium with the best “modern equipment, training reduced to hosting basketball and volleyball modern and innovative as it once was. “The facility has outlasted its
begin on the other facilities. Completion dates remain uncertain. can Player of the Year. Each won the award, came to Grinnell in 1989 as a transfer stu- Missy Sharer finished her brief two-year
resources, and recreational areas.” The Athletic Director’s Adminis- games. But although it was no longer the sole athletic hub of the usefulness,” said Arseneault.
Designed by the firms of Cesar Pelli & Associates and Sasaki & which recognizes the best student-athlete dent from Marshalltown Community Col- Pioneer career as Grinnell’s leader in career
trative Assistant Patty Johnson, who was “born and raised in Grin- College, Darby was also rejuvenated as Grinnell’s technological cen- As part of a sweeping plan to modernize the facilities and to bring
Associates, the building will be built in brick with a large usage of from over 450 Division II and Division III lege. three pointers and free throws, and second
nell” and “has spent all but five years” of her life here, reminisces ter when ITS moved in in 1974. Since then, the Craft Workshop the campus closer together, the College accepted a deal to tear down
glass, reflecting the styles of the Bucksbaum Fine Arts Center and the schools, during their respective senior years. “I got recruited again to go to a Divi- in points. “When we needed points, Missy
about the amenities. and the KDIC studio and office have been added, attracting a host of Darby to make way for the Rosenfield Campus Center, which should
Noyce Science Center. According to a Grinnell College news release, VanSickle, a 6’2" post player from Lee’s sion I school, and I just really didn’t want was going to score,” Wood said.
“There were plenty of locker rooms,” she said. “The southern non-sports-playing students into the building. be finished in two years.
the project is estimated to cost 20 million dollars. Summit, Mo., also holds the Pioneer to play Division I basketball,” said Sharer. VanSickle and Sharer’s numbers will
end of the gym used to have reserved seating. The seats looked like In May of 1994, Darby entered its golden afternoon with the re- Protective of their stadium, the students and community mem-
Funds for the capital improvements mainly comes from the College’s women’s record for points and rebounds. During the 1989-90 season, Sharer and hang in the rafters at the new gym, although
they were speckled marble.” emergence of the men’s basketball team and their crowd-pleasing full- bers alike started wearing “Save Darby” t-shirts and protested the
assets, but there has been enormous enthusiasm from the alumni and “We knew that Laura would come VanSickle formed a potent outside-inside it is unlikely anyone else will be joining their
With World War II well underway, Darby provided “physical court press imminent demise of the Gym, saying it was an integral part of the
friends of the College. “Nearly six million dollars in gifts, raised in just through with points for us, and get to the combination that led to 16 wins and took illustrious company soon. “It is a little awk-
education resources and an assembly area for the hundreds of men “One of the greatest moments that I remember is our first big Grinnell experience. However, Patty Johnson looks ahead.
the previous nine months, have been announced,” Grinnell College free throw line and get us rebounds” said the Pioneers to within three points of the ward for me to see those retired numbers,”
on campus in the Army Specialized Training Program in 1943-44,” win against Cornell College, when they were still in the Midwestern “It’s just progress you know,” she said. “You can get swept up in
President Russell Osgood said in a news release. “We continue raising Jen Wood ‘92, Laura’s teammate. Midwest Conference Championship. That said Grinnell men’s coach David Arsenault.
according to the Grinnell College website. Conference,” said head coach David Arseneault. “The crowd was the emotion, but it’s just progress.”
funds and expect that board approval of this marvelous design will Jessica Toft ’89, third in career assists at year, Sharer led all Division III players in “We have had so many players on the men’s
When the Army left Darby after the war, the College and Grin- half students, half came from the community. We won on the buzzer
generate additional gifts and enthusiasm.” Grinnell, said “every time I passed it to three point shooting percentage. “Missy side who were equally deserving of this sta-
nell High School moved in. shot, and the students rushed the floor. It was a sign of things to
—Colin Sollitt Laura she could put it in the basket.” played off of Laura and Laura played off of tus.”