Just a few miles north of I-70, there in the middle of the quaint farm country of Lafayette County and just east of a two-laner, sits Santa Fe High School.

Don’t be fooled by the district’s R-X designation. It’s firmly on the state sports map, put there by the volleyball and girls track & field programs.

As standout athlete Yvette Buhlig Pearce put it, “Whoever came to try out, the coaches were able to blend the talent to make something magical. And it was fun for all of us to be part of that magic.”

What a place indeed, and the success is why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct Santa Fe’s Volleyball and Girls Track & Field Programs with the Class of 2020.

Santa Fe High School Volleyball has advanced to 22 Final Fours, earning seven state titles (1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 2015). Meanwhile, Santa Fe Girls Track & Field has surged to nine top four finishes at the MSHSAA Track & Field Championships, winning five Class 1 state championships (1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990).

The volleyball program began in 1975, three years after passage of federal Title IX legislation that required public schools to field women’s sports teams. By the end of the decade, the Chiefs had their first Final Four team, with the 1979 squad earning a fourth-place finish.

“This was my first head coaching job, and I found the ladies to be aggressive, willing to work and possessed an unusually strong will to win,” Jerry MacLean said.

The coaching lineage started with Sydney Goosen (1974) and on to Tom Anderson (1976-1977), MacLean (1978-1982), Charlie Bock (1983-1989), Emily Rhoad (1990-1993), Kim Bishop (1994-2002), Becky Heins (2003-2004), Stacy Thomas (2005-2010), Kinsey Harms (2011-2018) and Ashton Sander (2018 to present).

The Chiefs finished as the state runner-up five times (1980, 1998, 2005, 2006, 2019) and placed third four times (1981, 1990, 2013, 2014). Meanwhile, it had fourth-place finishes in 1979, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2011, 2012.

Bock, a teacher, was eager to help after the 1980 season. He teamed with MacLean in 1981 and again in 1982, the first perfect season (27-0) in program history. Bock then led the program to six consecutive state titles, with players calling themselves, “Charlie’s Angels.”

Bock credits athletes.

You see, many of the girls worked on family farms, staying in shape during summers by pulling weeds from nearby bean fields daily from 5:30 a.m. to noon. That was in addition to a summer volleyball camp and a summer league.

“They were willing to work hard, and senior leadership was strong all the way through,” said Bock, an inductee of the Missouri High School Volleyball Coaches Association. “I remember once I told them we weren’t having practice (in order to get a mental and physical break). Fifteen minutes later, they were knocking on my door.”

“From one generation to the next, it’s impressive to see the ladies pass their traits on to their children,” Bock said. “Santa Fe has the tradition of being difficult to beat.”

Two of the school’s best athletes, Pearce and Sadie Limback, were emblematic of the programs’ backstory – they were three-sport athletes. They combined for 19 All-State honors, with Pearce (1988 graduate) going on to star at the University of Missouri while Limback (2018 graduate) is at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

“Back then, it wasn’t pressure. It was expectations (that drove the mindset),” Pearce said. “And that was set by seniors.”

In track, MacLean coached the first three state championship teams, while Bill Fox coached the program to its fourth and fifth state titles. Santa Fe was a state runner-up in 1986, placed third twice (1980, 1983) and was fourth in 1981.

In fact, the program has had 10 state champions – all covering each decade since the 1970s. It began with the 1979 4×800 relay.

Athletes were driven to compete year-round. Sam Potter-coached girls basketball players, who were in shape going into the spring. Jim Lund contributed to the success by coaching the throwers.

“Everybody trained as a quarter-miler and, if you can do that in a small school, you can be tough,” MacLean said.

The coaches strengthened the foundation by employing summer workouts for grade-schoolers, who then competed in AAU events.

For whatever sport, support was overwhelming.

“It was a focal point for the community,” Pearce said. “And they were vocal. There would be a number of times whenever Santa Fe crowds outnumbered a hometown team. … It was just a fun time.”