When Superintendent Dr. Bryan Thomsen announced he would be leaving North Callaway Community Schools for another job in a different district, most people familiar with the family were well aware of the ramifications of that move for the Thunderbird's athletic program when the school year ended.
That's because, once that dominoe fell the next to go was starting point guard and varsity quarterback Tully Thomsen, who had just completed his sophomore season in 2017-18, and then finally varsity softball coach Brandi Thomsen. But, after the rain eventually there's always sunshine and for North Callaway that came in the form of new varsity softball coach Mariah McKee, who has been a part of this athletic program for six years now and even played the game in college.
"Dr. Thomsen made the announcement in January that he would be leaving at the end of the school year. Then I had the discussion with Coach Brandi Thomsen that she would be leaving as well," said McKee. "When they opened the position for applications, I applied. Brandi has been nothing but family to me. We will all miss her and Dr. Thomsen so incredibly much. I hope to fill the shoes where she left."
Coming up for the Ladybird's is a skills clinic July 16-18 at Auxvasse junior high from 7-10 a.m. and at the high school from 9 a.m. to noon for females athletes entering grades 7-12. Prior to this the team hosted a youth softball camp for athletes in grades 1-5 June 4-6 and on June 11 the squad had a scheduled practice. North Callaway also attended the Centralia Team Camp June 12-13.
"The interview process went well. I had a sit down interview with Coach Mike Emmons, AD, and Mr. Jobe, our principle. We all seemed to be on the same page on where we wanted North Callaway softball program to go, how to get there, and how to sustain success on and off the field and in the classroom," McKee said. "I have worked for the North Callaway School District since 2012 as a Paraprofessional in the Special Education Department."
Last season the Ladybird's went 20-6 overall, 10-0 Eastern Missouri Conference, and won the EMO title. This included consecutive wins over Wright City 2-1, Van-Far 2-1 and Bowling Green 9-5 on Sept. 30 in the league tournament followed by Class 2, District 8, victories over Father Tolton 2-1 on Oct. 7 and Centralia 5-2 on Oct. 9. But, when it came to the district championship game, that's when North Callaway's luck ran out and it was Palmyra that came out on top 7-1.
"I applied for the head coaching job in March. I was notified I had gotten the job on April 19th. I played college softball at William Woods University, and have coached softball since 2012 for North Callaway," said McKee. "When I got hired to coach in 2012 It was so special to be able to come 'home' to my roots and coach the program that help build me. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity to be a head coach here and the chance to help build girls not only into good athletes, but good people."
Coming into the 2018-19 season the Ladybird's have several issues on their agenda that have to be addressed. Among those agenda items is the fact Community R-6 has left the EMO in favor of the Capitol Activities Conference. McKee also has no choice but to deal with the loss of not just Thomsen, but also last years senior class, which included Kallie Jo Lehenbauer, Carly Van Boening, Erica Garrett and Hanna Knipp.
"I am 28 years old. I went to Northwest Missouri State for two years then transferred to William Woods to play softball in 2010. I graduated from William Woods in 2012. I graduated from North Callaway in 2008. I played softball all four years," McKee said. "I was part of the North Callaway team that played for the state championship in 2007 (Danison is my maiden name). Being part of that team is what really shaped me as a player. That group of girls and I had played ball together our whole lives."