By JACK CLARK
MT. VERNON —
As a multi-sport athlete, Linda Sanders showed a grit and determination in leading her teams on both the basketball court and in field events for the track team while at Mt. Vernon Township High School.
For that reason, Sanders is being inducted into the MVTHS Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2013.
“That class (1980) was special for me because their freshman year was my first year here at Mt. Vernon,” longtime Lady Rams basketball coach Sara Rennie said. “That was really the first group of girls that I had spent four years of high school with. That was a special group for me and Linda led the way with her athleticism. She was a three-sport athlete (basketball, volleyball and track). Back then, most of the girls were multiple-sport athletes.”
Rennie said Sanders began playing with the varsity at an early age, and once she started, she never stopped.
“In her freshman year, she started playing some varsity about midway through the season,” Rennie said. “She finished the year playing quite a bit of varsity minutes. Her sophomore year, she was a starter and her feet never left the floor.”
Rennie added that Sanders became a mainstay in the lineup as soon as she first took the floor for the Lady Rams.
“For three years, she was out there. She was one of our many scorers and our main rebounder,” said Rennie. “She was just a phenomenal athlete.”
Rennie said that Sanders was instrumental in the early success of the Lady Rams basketball team.
“In her sophomore year, we won our first regional tournament, but lost in the first game of the sectional,” Rennie said. “In her junior year, we won both the regional and the sectional tournaments. When she was a senior, we won the regional and that was the first year that they held a conference championship. We won that too, with a record of 14-0. That year we set a school record with 23 wins and three losses. We ended up losing to Belleville West in the sectional final. She had a phenomenal run in basketball.”
That phenomenal run put Sanders above the mystical 1,000 career points level; she could rebound too.
“She scored over 1,100 career points and her career rebound average was probably 11.5 - 12.0 rebounds per game. She did some great things in her career,” Rennie said. “In those four years, she really came on strong in basketball. She went on to Rend Lake (College) to play basketball and volleyball for two years, then on to SIU-Carbondale to play basketball for another two years. Linda was a good student, and a good representative of this school, and of this community.”
For Sanders, the roundball court wasn’t the only place she shined. Sanders was also a record-setting member of the Lady Rams track and field team, which included setting a school record in the discus throw as a senior in 1980 with a length of 114 feet 11 inches. That season Sanders was named as the most dedicated participant on the team.
“Linda was always dedicated and very loyal,” said Sherry Payne, a former Lady Rams track and volleyball coach, talking about Sanders. “The kids went through a lot back then, since girl’s athletics was still very new.”
Payne said Sanders was very good at keeping her grades up while the volleyball team endured some very late nights on the road.
“Some nights we were playing as many as seven games. We might get back home at 1 a.m.,” Payne said. “But Linda always kept her schoolwork up. She was just a wonderful, wholesome girl. And she had the total support of her family. She was just a very strong player and morally, a good person.”
As a freshman in 1977, Sanders placed second in the South Seven conference meet in the shot-put, with a throw of 35 feet two inches, then second in the district meet with 33 feet 11 inches. Sanders qualified for the state track-and-field meet, then threw 35 feet while there. Her best throw of the season was 36 feet four inches in a meet against the Benton Lady Rangers.
After sitting out her sophomore year, Sanders returned as a junior, setting a new record (at the time) in the conference meet at 40 feet three inches and one quarter.
As a senior, Sanders qualified for the state meet in both the shot and the discus. She was also the South Seven conference champion in each of those events, with a shot put throw of 38 feet 10 and a half inches, and a discus throw of 114 feet four inches.
“Linda was always the same, whether it was volleyball or track,” Payne said. “Even though track is a team sport, it’s still an individual sport and Linda would even practice on her own.”