I was 15 years old when my dad made his only trip to the Iowa State Basketball Tournament as a coach. For years, Spencer's teams were expected to get there but fell short, often bested by the Storm Lake Tornadoes in district play. Eventually, though, the stars aligned and with the entire Spencer community cheering them on, the "Cardiac Kids" finally earned a journey to the tourney. The SHS Field House, an enviable venue (made even better by an incredible pep band), was filled to capacity all season. Every member of that team played with intensity, heart and character. When they arrived in Des Moines, the out-pouring of support was overwhelming. The Tigers were the Cinderella story and the sentimental favorite. Complete strangers and fans from other tournament teams offered good wishes and endless encouragement. When one of the Spencer players needed an emergency repair to his uniform, we rushed the jersey to Younkers department store where an alterations expert made the fix while we waited. The kind woman spoke very little English and I was ecstatic for the rare opportunity to put my limited Spanish to the test. When we tried to settle the bill, she wouldn't accept payment. She simply said, "I hope you win the game".
When the tournament concluded, the Tigers had fought their way to an amazing second-place finish. However, when Spencer's team and fans were awarded the Sportsmanship Trophy, Veterans Memorial Auditorium erupted with an emotional ovation. The year was 1976. To this day, I swell with pride when I think of that moment.
In the last week, I've been disheartened by the news of unsportsmanlike conduct in the gym that holds a mountain of beautiful memories for me. As a former SHS student athlete, I send my apologies to the Tornadoes and their community. Like others, I'm now asking, “How did we get here?”
— Kay Brandsma LaFrance, SHS Class of 1978