MARION

In Marion, a Tennessee college volleyball team came together

Carson-Newman traveling 1,500 miles by bus to support Cedar Rapids' Megan Oldenburger

Megan Oldenburger of Cedar Rapids Prairie (left) tries to block the hit of Cedar Rapids Jefferson's Raya George during a 2016 state regional semifinal match at Prairie on 10.25.16. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Megan Oldenburger of Cedar Rapids Prairie (left) tries to block the hit of Cedar Rapids Jefferson's Raya George during a 2016 state regional semifinal match at Prairie on 10.25.16. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A chartered bus stopped in downtown Cedar Rapids Tuesday afternoon, and a group of women’s college volleyball players stepped out of it to go to a restaurant for lunch.

It was the Carson-Newman University Eagles of Jefferson City, Tenn., but they weren’t in town for volleyball.

One of their players is sophomore Megan Oldenburger of Cedar Rapids. Her father, Steven Oldenburger, died last Monday at age 50 in O’Fallon, Mo., where he was a resident. He formerly lived in Marion.

His visitation and funeral were Tuesday in Marion. His obituary in The Gazette said “He had a heart of gold, a beautiful personality and a zest for life. ... Steve was the best husband, father and son.”

Megan’s coach and every one of her teammates came to Cedar Rapids on that bus to be with her. So did a friend of hers who is on Carson-Newman’s women’s soccer team.

“One of our teammates — one of our family members — had a tragic loss of her father,” said the coach, Dave Franklin. “So it became a no-brain decision for us that we’re going to go support her.

“Our school is a Christian university. They were very supportive of our decision and we were just very blessed that we had the means to make it happen.”

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The team began the 770-mile bus ride Monday at 5 a.m., and reached Cedar Rapids late Monday afternoon.

“When we rolled up on the bus, Megan got pretty emotional,” Franklin said. “We hurt for our teammate. The girls have become sisters, so it was emotional to have them here and be able to support her, but I think it was awesome for both parties.”

Oldenburger was a second-team All-South Atlantic Conference player for NCAA Division II Carson-Newman last winter after being on the league’s All-Freshman team a year ago. Besides being an All-Mississippi Valley Conference player at Prairie, she was a member of National Honor Society and Student Council.

“She’s been a two-year starter for us and one of our captains,” Franklin said.

It’s one thing to go across town or across the state. A 1,540-mile round trip in three days by bus is a statement.

“I’ve been here three years,” Franklin said. “Our first year was rough. We went 3-27. After the first season we set out to develop our culture. The culture the kids wanted was a family atmosphere and they wanted this culture to be an experience. Our last two years we came up with some core values. One is family.

“We want to build lifelong relationships, and lifelong lessons to be the best we’re capable of academically, athletically and personally."

The team will leave Cedar Rapids Wednesday at 5 a.m., scheduled to return to its campus 12 or 13 hours later.

Eagles really are majestic.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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