By Susan HarmanYour Prep Sports
NORTH LIBERTY – Liberty High School has risen from a corn field at the intersection of North Dubuque Street and North Liberty Road, but it’s still a year away from opening its doors to students.That doesn’t mean all is quiet at Iowa City’s third comprehensive public high school. Scott Kibby, the principal and athletic director, has helped form a booster club and already has teams that will wear the purple, black and silver of the Lightning.While the building and grounds are still a work in progress, the school district and Kibby in particular have begun the process of team building with freshman football and volleyball. The process is indicative of Liberty’s projected step-by-step, class-by-class growth.In 2017 Liberty will open with full classes of freshmen and sophomores from its attendance zone. Juniors and seniors at West High in 2017 may stay at West, but if they are in the Liberty zone they can elect to attend Liberty.
“Next year we’ll have ninth and 10th graders,” Kibby said. “The 10th graders we thought should have a ninth-grade experience that’s associated with Liberty where we can. That’s what’s happening this year, as we’re doing some selective sports even though they’re all going (to school) together at West.”Liberty freshmen will have their own teams in football, volleyball, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, softball and baseball.
“Why those particular sports? Those are sports where positions matter,” Kibby said. “Maybe it’s playing time, there’s more playing time issues in those sports. We tried to pick sports where we could start developing some of those teams and some of those positional leadership things, so that (for example) Liberty will have a quarterback next year.”
Whitney Lang is the freshman volleyball coach. Lang was on the West staff a year ago.
Jeff Gordon, a West graduate who played for Reese Morgan during the Trojans’ glory days in the ‘90s, is the Liberty coach. He lives in North Liberty and teaches at Cedar Rapids Prairie. He is assisted by Kris Thorson, who was the offensive coordinator for Morgan’s teams, and volunteer assistant Clint Feuerbach. Thorson teaches at Northwest Junior High.
Football has a full freshman schedule. Liberty will be one of the two freshman teams coming out of West High.Liberty’s players will be from its attendance zone and West’s from its zone. Because Liberty will not field teams in every sport there will be some overlap. A Liberty freshman football player who goes out for wrestling will be on the West wrestling team. But when soccer rolls around he will play for Liberty.
“It’s going to take a bob and a weave throughout the school year,” Kibby said. “And it’s really important that they’re part of that West community.”
Later Kibby will hire coaches for next year’s sophomore teams. Liberty will have varsity cross country teams in 2017 even though the school will be full of underclassmen and will be an independent in athletics.
The school will join the Mississippi Valley Conference, home of City High and West, in 2018.
While the details may be overwhelming, Kibby marvels at this experiment in which he’s cast as the mad scientist.
“It’s been interesting watching the grass roots of the school, the first teams that will be competing on behalf of Liberty,” he said. “They are super excited and their families are very excited.
“We’re even going to have a pep rally Tuesday, Aug. 23rd. Even though they are just freshmen we’re going to get everybody together and have a community night, and let everyone know what we’re doing and hopefully build some momentum.”