Throughout its 100+ year history, the Aurelia School District has always encouraged its students to have a well-rounded education, including participation in extra-curricular activities.
Aurelia has usually fielded very competitive athletic teams, especially during the halcyon days of the old Sioux Valley Conference. The 1972-73 boys' basketball team, coached by Duane "Nobby" Buttenob, won 24 games in a row before being upset by Rock Valley in tournament play, and made it to the State Tournament the next year, and again in 1978, when they finished third in the state.
The football team, coached by Lyle Poulson, posted three consecutive undefeated seasons in the late 1930s, and the 1962 team, coached by Bill Hodam, posted a solid 8-0 mark. From 1963-67, the Bulldogs lost just one game each season.
There were no football playoffs in those days, but Aurelia, then coached by Neil Phipps, lost a close game to Paton-Churdan in the 1986 State championship game, and when the school's decreasing enrollment brought about Aurelia's move to 8-man football in the 2000's, the Bulldog boys were again among the top teams in the state, qualifying for the state playoffs several times under the guidance of Coach Myron Radke.
Track and field was a specialty for Bulldog teams under Coach Hodam in the mid-1950's-1960's, and though the team never won a State Team title, they were runners up in their class several times. That success on the track continued in later years, too, and when they shared sports with Alta for a few years in the 1990's, the shared program performed impressively at the State Meet in 1991, 1992, and 1993.
One unique aspect of Aurelia High School sports is the fact that the boys and girls' teams did not share a team nickname. I'm not sure if Aurelia is the only school which has had that situation, but it was certainly not the norm Of course, like many things which seemed "normal" at the time, it didn't really sink in that this situation was not the norm. While the boys' teams were always the Bulldogs, the girls' teams, which started in the late 1940's or early 1950's, were always the "Atoms."
The boys and girls also had different conference affiliations for awhile, too, as not all of the schools in the Sioux Valley Conference had girls' athletic teams for many years. When I was in high school, for example, only Aurelia, Sanborn and Hartley had girls' basketball teams, so aside from playing each other twice a year as the opening game of a boy-girl doubleheader, the girls had to scramble about to get games, sometimes traveling as far as Inwood for a game.
The Atoms won sectional basketball championships in 1955, 1961 and 1970, and the 1975-78 teams, coached by Buzz Curry, won something like 40 straight conference games, capping that stretch with an appearance in the 1978 State Tournament, where they dropped a close first-round game to a much larger school (Ames).
More schools added girls' sports in the 1970's, and Aurelia, which had only had girls' basketball through most of the 1960's, added both boys and girls' golf in 1968. In 1989, the Aurelia girls golf team finished second at the State Tournament, while the boys' team captured the school's one-and-only sports State Championship that same year. The next year, Aurelia began sharing sports with Alta, and the Alta-Aurelia boys, now in Class 3A, took the State title again.
In the 1970's, Aurelia fielded its first girls' track team, and they had some fine teams in the late 1980's. Softball, which the school had played in the 1950's, also returned, and volleyball for the girls and wrestling for the boys soon joined the list of available sports at Aurelia.
Sports has not been the only successful extra-curricular activity at Aurelia, by any means. The speech and drama students have always excelled at both the regional and state levels, and the band and choir, including the jazz versions of each, have been especially successful.
The concert band, under the direction of Don Jackson, was invited to perform for the Iowa Bandmasters Association in Des Moines on two occasions in the 1960's. Both the concert band and concert choir earned many I ratings at contests, and several Aurelia music students have been named to the All-State Band, Orchestra, or Choir, topped by one year in the mid -1960's, when an unbelievable dozen of its 100-plus members were selected for the All-State band or orchestra.
Perhaps the greatest thing about the outstanding record of Aurelia High School students in extra-curricular events is the fact that many students took part in several of the offered extracurriculars. The "star" football and basketball players, for example, often also played in the band, sang in the choir, had a lead role in the school play, or perhaps participated in "all of the above." Well-rounded is an apt description of the type of education many Aurelia students received over the years.
By the way, many of the students who were standouts in extra curricular activities were also pretty sharp in the classroom. More about that in the next installment ...