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Pending Board Approval, Trent Becker To Take Over As Gilbert CSD Transportation Manager On May 1

The Gilbert Community School District is happy to announce that, pending board approval, Trent Becker will take the reins as our new Transportation Manager beginning May 1.

“I look forward to serving in this role in a growing district,” Becker said. “I’m hoping that my experience and understanding of the Gilbert culture will help me to have success in this new role.”

Becker has been a constant presence in the lives of Gilbert students for many years. Since 2007 he has served as an associate with the district, the first 14 years at the middle school before he transitioned to the intermediate building at the start of the 2022-23 school year.

Becker became a bus driver for the Gilbert school district in 2011 and has maintained a regular route over the past 12 years. He also serves as a driver’s education instructor through Street Smart during the school year and summers.

Active in the community, Becker helped to run the Gilbert youth baseball organization for 17 years. He also coached baseball inside the Gilbert school district for three years and has helped with event coverage on the Tiger Broadcast.

Becker feels his many years of service to both the community and school district will help him to thrive in this new position.

‘The relationships I’ve developed over the years with the drivers, students, and staff make me feel comfortable in the district and should help in the transition into this new position,” he said.

Becker and his wife, Tina, have two adult children, Joseph and Katherine, as well as two children who attend Gilbert Schools, Hannah, a sophomore, and Issac, who is in the seventh grade.

“I am thrilled to have Trent Becker lead our transportation department,” Gilbert CSD Superintendent Dr. Christine Trujillo said. “He has shown outstanding communication and leadership skills in his roles. Trent will help our district grow to be future-ready with his knowledge of transportation and of our Gilbert Community.”

Once A Tiger, Always A Tiger

Stacy Johnson retires as the head volleyball coach at Gilbert

With a smile on her face, Stacy Johnson exhales loudly as she stands up from a table inside the empty Gilbert High School commons area Wednesday morning. Emotionally, she held it together over a 20-minute stretch in which she was asked to play a game of, “This Is Your Life.”

She laughed. She smiled a lot. She reminisced on so many of the good times with descriptive details that made you feel like you were right there beside her in the volleyball huddle. And she reflected on those moments that make her proud of what she’s accomplished.

Make no mistake, she accomplished a lot over her 14 years with the Gilbert volleyball program, the last 12 as the head coach. But now, more than anything else, she’s content. She’s ready for that next chapter of her life, ready to see what that next chapter of Tiger volleyball looks like without her in charge.

Johnson, the only coach to ever lead Gilbert to the state volleyball tournament, has announced her resignation as the head coach. Her reasons for stepping away now are numerous, but at the top of the list is simply one word: Family. She says it’s time the most important people in her life get her undivided attention each fall.

“A lot of soul searching went into the decision,” Johnson said. “Is this the right time, is this not the right time? But over Christmas, we had all of the kids at home and they kept making comments like, ‘Mom, this is the time you can give to us.’ That put everything into perspective that this is the time. And the program is in a really good spot right now. The organization and the reputation the program has, the assistant coaches, and the players we have coming back and coming up. Putting all of those things together, in my heart I thought this is the time.”

Johnson’s daughter, Nessa, is currently a sophomore at Missouri Western State University where she plays volleyball. Getting the chance to watch her play on a consistent basis factored heavily into Johnson’s decision.

“As a freshman, I knew she wouldn’t play much so I thought I had time to dedicate to the Gilbert volleyball program and its players,” Johnson says. “But she was a starter on the team this past year and I don’t want to miss the next two years. I thought I would be selfish if I stayed (as the head coach at Gilbert) because I couldn’t give 100 percent to the program while watching my daughter play.”

Ian Smith, Gilbert’s activities director, commends Johnson on the program she ran so successfully and for making the decision that was right for herself and her family.

“Over the last year I’ve really gotten to know Coach Johnson and she’s just a great coach,” Smith said. “She’s taken Gilbert volleyball to unprecedented heights. And I couldn’t be happier for Stacy on making this decision where she can enjoy watching her daughter play collegiate volleyball. I’m really happy for her and her family that she can move on to this next stage in her life, and hopefully she’ll stay around Gilbert athletics for a long time and contribute in other ways.”

Johnson says she’d love nothing more than doing just that. She may not be the head coach in future years, but that doesn’t mean she can’t help out in other ways.

“I just love this sport and I’m passionate about Gilbert athletics,” she said. “I hope I can stay involved somehow.”

The Career: It Speaks For Itself

With 25 years of experience coaching volleyball at four different high schools, the majority of it coming at Gilbert, Johnson exits the stage with a resume any coach would be proud to wave in the air.

She won 266 matches and three conference championships during her time with Gilbert, including in 2020, the school’s first year as a member of the Raccoon River Conference. But that season holds a special place in her heart for more than just that accomplishment.

It was a unique season for myriad reasons. But the payoff was well worth it, as Gilbert reached the state tournament for the first and only time in program history. After stunning Waverly-Shell Rock on the Go-Hawks’ home floor in the regional final, the Tigers invaded Cedar Rapids and pulled off another shocker in the 4A state quarterfinals against second-seeded North Scott. Both “upsets” were 3-0 sweeps. The postseason run eventually ended in the semifinal round against West Delaware, but that hardly diminishes the memories for Johnson and her plays, one of whom was her daughter, Nessa.

“People that have been around for a while know that we were close three or four times before and could not get over that hump,” Johnson said. “So that was a huge milestone for the Gilbert volleyball program. Those girls overcame so many obstacles and so much adversity.”

Erin Bathie was one of seven seniors on that 2020 roster and she overcame her own obstacles to make it onto the court, where she delivered 204 kills on the season. Bathie suffered a serious knee injury at the state soccer tournament in June of 2019, but with Johnson’s guidance and encouragement she was able to return to the court and make a lasting impact.

“What I needed was somebody to motivate me and Stacy definitely did that,” Bathie said. “She was there with me, encouraging me. I loved playing for her.

“From her, I definitely took away that you can always try your best, give your best, and overcome anything.”

During Johnson’s 12 seasons at the helm, Gilbert won at least 20 matches nine times and crossed the 30-win barrier on three occasions in 2016, 2017, and 2019.

Johnson says her very first team as the head coach, in 2011, remains one of her proudest achievements. After a laundry list of talented players said goodbye to the program due to graduation, there weren’t high expectations for that 2011 group. And yet the Tigers went 27-6, including 8-1 in the Heart of Iowa Conference to win the league crown.

“We made the regional finals with a group of girls that would not give up that year,” Johnson said. “There was talent there, but they were total workhorses.”

Michaela Gibson, the setter on the 2011 team who doled out 661 assists that season, said it was Johnson’s consistent approach, fire, and passion that propelled the team to its lofty status.

“She just brought a lot of consistency and her expectations for everyone were the same, and they were high,” Gibson said. “She was fairly calm in practices, but when it was game time, she flipped a switch. She was very excited and she was the person we looked to to get us pumped up.”

Gabby Stearns laced 265 kills for that 2011 team during her senior season before she went on to run track at the University of Iowa, and 11 years later she gushes as she talks about what she learned from Johnson. Hearing of her retirement brought tears to Stearns’ eyes as she spoke about her former coach.

“She was such an amazing coach and she always believed in us,” Stearns said. “When I think back on my high school days and volleyball career, I always talk about Stacy and how great she was. I always looked forward to going to practice because I loved playing for her. We worked hard, but she always made me laugh, and she had a tremendous passion for volleyball.

“I would just tell her a great big thank you. One of the greatest high school memories for me is getting to play for Stacy Johnson.”

A bump in the road in 2012 was followed by eight seasons in which the Tigers won 210 matches, an average of 26.25 per campaign. From 2013-2020, Johnson coached five players — Alex Miner, Inga Rotto, Haleigh Hadley, Theo Rotto, and Nessa Johnson — to seven all-state accolades.

Eight of her players — Miner, Taylor Forth, Bree Richard, Inga Rotto, Hadley, Thea Rotto, Bathie, and Nessa Johnson — went on to play at the collegiate level. Miner, a two-time all-state player in 2013 and 2014, went on to an All-American career at the University of Missouri St.Louis where she remains to this day as an assistant volleyball coach and assistant athletic director for academics.

Inga Rotto, who bashed 1,072 kills under Johnson’s tutelage from 2014-17, went on to have a sterling collegiate career at UNI where she was a first-team all-Missouri Valley Conference selection. She never forgot where she started and that was under Johnson’s wing at Gilbert.

“Something I really appreciated about her when I was playing for her was that she gave us leadership,” Inga Rotto said. “She was a demanding coach and she had really high standards, but she listened to us and our opinions. When it came game time, she turned it on and had the plan that she thought was the path forward.

“The Gilbert volleyball program is where my confidence grew. It’s where my leadership abilities grew, and it’s where my skills grew.”

Johnson’s list of personal accolades includes three times being named the Ames Tribune Coach of the Year (2017, 2019, 2020). She was also the 2015 District Coach of the Year, and in 2017 she was named the IGCA Coach of the Year.

But perhaps one achievement that few people know about, and one that will continue to benefit Gilbert volleyball for years to come, was her involvement in the design plan for the high school gym when it was built in 2013.

Johnson worked diligently alongside then athletic director Don Knock to design the drop down volleyball net system that remains today and makes matches at various levels run smoothly and efficiently.

“I was fortunate enough when we bonded for the school and went through it that the school board let the coaches have a say in things,” Johnson said. “Don and I went down to Kansas City to visit a couple of schools that had that system, and then we were able to work with the contractors to get what we wanted. The Booster Club was an amazing support because they donated a lot of money to put those in, and eight or nine years later it’s definitely been worth it.”

So many stories. So many successes. And the pride exudes from Johnson as she talks about all of it one final time.

“I don’t know if I can explain in words how proud I am of everything we’ve accomplished,” she said. “Personally, I’ve reached a lot of goals and accomplishments myself, and between the players, the coaches, the administration, the parents, all of the support … everything they’ve given me throughout the 14 years, it couldn’t have been done without that big pool of resources.”

The next time Johnson takes in a Gilbert volleyball match, it will be in the role of a spectator. But that fire will still burn in her soul, and that will to see the team win will never leave.

Johnson is a volleyball coach. She always will be. And we’ve all been fortunate that she’s called Gilbert home for so many years.

She’s a Tiger.

Then. Now. Always.

The Family Business

Siblings, parents, grandparents … it seems every Fisher loves to swim. GHS students Josh and Chris Fisher are the latest family members to live in the pool, and theirs is a story of success.

It’s a cold, dark winter morning and Gilbert High School students and brothers Josh and Chris Fisher are out of bed and starting their day long before their peers. Their dad, Joe, has left the warmth of his bed too before the clock strikes 5 a.m., and as he ventures into the living room he sees his sons are waiting for him to leave.

This is what the Fisher family business is all about. It’s about passion, not profit. And for them, trekking to the Dan Flannery Pool at Ames High long before the sun has even peaked its head over the horizon is a gift, not something to grumble about.

“I like to say to people that it’s a lifestyle,” Joe Fisher, who doubles as dad and head coach of the Ames boys’ swim team, says. “It’s early mornings, late nights … nobody knows about the 10 workouts a week.”

The work ethic, the dedication, it’s paid off. Later this week, as members of the Ames High team, Joe will take his two sons and a handful of their teammates to Iowa City for the state meet where the Little Cyclones have their sights set on a top-three trophy. Josh and Chris will both swim in four events. Josh, a junior at GHS, will have 11 state-qualifying events under his belt by Saturday evening, while Chris, a sophomore, will sit with six.

That’s where they are in the present. But to understand how they got there, you first need to travel back in time a few generations.

The Family Business

Joe wasn’t the first Fisher to get bitten by the swimming bug. That distinction actually goes to his mom, Deb, who grew up in Chariton. Fun fact: Deb learned the butterfly stroke at a camp run by swimmers from the University of Iowa, which just happened to be the home of coach David Armbruster, who is credited with helping to perfect the stroke in the 1930s.

Joe and his siblings grew up in the pool and were all talented swimmers at Ames High. Joe was a state champion and later swam collegiately at Iowa State.

Soon enough, the cycle started over once again with his own children. Lauren Fisher, a 2022 Gilbert graduate, now swims at Minnesota State, and younger brother, Ryan, an eighth grader at Gilbert Middle School, will follow his brothers into the high school pool a year from now.

“Our kids played all of the sports when they were little and they enjoyed them, but they really took off with swimming and really had a lot of fun,” Joe says. “When they were younger, I liked to joke that I didn’t know I was addicted to the smell of chlorine. When they started getting into swimming, I hadn’t been around it for so long, but I would just sit and watch practice because I love to watch kids swim so much. That’s how I ended up getting into coaching.”

Josh and Chris love every aspect of swimming, but when they hone in on one thing, you quickly realize they’re no different than any other prolific athlete. It’s the competition that gets their adrenaline pumping, and the losses linger in their memories for a lot longer than the successes.

“For me it’s the competitiveness of it,” Josh, who will compete at state individually in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle, as well as the 200 and 400 freestyle relays, said. “All through the years, it’s just built and built. A lot of people at school don’t really see it, but when I’m in the water I can get really competitive. I just hate to lose. I still do lose to some people and that drives me even more.”

Chris nods his head as his older brother speaks and offers a similar story.

“It’s the competitiveness, and it’s just always been super fun for me,” Chris, who will swim in the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke, as well as on the 200 and 400 free relays with his brother, said. “Not doing swimming just doesn’t sound right to me. I want to see myself win and I want to see my team do well.”

Joe sees similar characteristics in both of his boys, but there are some differences as well. Josh is a student of the sport; always analyzing, and never afraid. There’s a reason he anchors the relays; he’s not afraid to lay it all on the line and he refuses to shy away from a challenge. Chris is cerebral as well and he sees a win for his team as a win for himself.

“Josh is the kid that has the goals (written) on the mirror and he sees them every day when he wakes up,” Joe says. “And when he reaches one, he changes it immediately. He’s crazy when he trains because he brings it every day.

“Chris is just extremely gifted. Like his brother, it’s never quite good enough, and when you get him into a relay, that’s the pressure he lives for.”

To read Joe’s words is one thing. To hear him speak about his sons, the pride pours out with every syllable.

The brothers are competitive with each other as well, but Chris defers to his brother when the topic of who is better swimmer bubbles to the surface. However, Josh is quick to point out that his younger sibling continues to close the gap day by day.

“Earlier this season, we swam a 200 IM against each other and I smoked him by like three seconds,” Josh says. “But he went a lifetime’s best! That’s what drove him and that was great. The downside is that when one of us loses, it doesn’t really go well.”

Josh won district titles in the 200 and 500 free a week ago, and he enters the state meet seeded sixth and seventh, respectively, in the two events. Chris was a district runner-up in the 200 IM and heads to state seeded 14th. He’s the No. 22 seed in the 100 back.

Ames has the third-fastest qualifying time in the 400 free relay and it sits 12th in the 200 free.

What does all of this mean? For starters, it means the brothers are both thinking about state medals. With 32 qualifiers in the individual events, the top eight times in the prelims will advance to the A final. The next eight will advance to the B final.

“In the prelims, I just want to make it back to the A final,” Josh, who was seventh at state in the 200 and 500 free a year ago, said. “In the finals, a dream would be the top three in both of my events. As a team, we want to get third, that’s the big goal we’ve had all season.”

As an underclassmen, Chris is a bit further down the qualifying leaderboard in his individual events, but he has his own lofty goals.

“Last year I placed 32nd in the 200 IM and this year I’m hoping to make it to the B final,” he says. “A big stretch is the A final. The backstroke, I didn’t swim it last year, but I hope I can get into the B final.”

And when the state meet is over, the Fisher boys will take a short break – a very short break – before they get back at it with their club season. Another fun fact: they swim for the Ames Cyclone Aquatics Club (ACAC), which just so happened to be formed in the living room of Joe’s parents some years ago.

The club season runs from March through July, and again from September to November leading up to the start of the high school season.

This is what they do. This is what they enjoy. This is the family business. And they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Everything we live, eat and think is swimming,” Josh says with a grin. “But the big thing with it is we’ve always had fun with it. It’s what we love.”

And with their talents and successes, it’s obvious that swimming loves them right back.

Gilbert Community School District

Gilbert Community School District

103 Mathews Drive, Gilbert, Iowa 50105  |  (515) 232-3740