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All-Americans: Ali Stark, Mt Vernon volleyball, 2011; & Roxanne Rolland, Vikette basketball, 1984

The biggest difference between being a high school sports star in 2011 and 1984, says Roxanne (Wellner) Rolland, may be technology.

Roxanne, who now lives in Mount Vernon, led the Vinton girls to the Iowa High School Basketball State Championship in 1984, earning the title of Miss Iowa Basketball. She was also named an All-American. This season took place toward the end of the six-player basketball era en Iowa.

Now, 27 years later, Rolland is again part of one of Iowa's biggest stories in high school girls athletics. Her daughter, Ali Stark, led the Mount Vernon volleyball team to an undefeated state title season. Ali did on the volleyball court in 2011 what her mom did on the basketball court in 1984: She earned the title of "best in Iowa" at her game.

"It's been an extremely humbling feeling having a daughter excel in a sport she loves and to experience unprecedented success throughout her HS career," said Roxanne. "It's been especially gratifying this year -- her senior year - as her volleyball team finished undefeated and she went on to receive some of the highest accolades in the State of Iowa and nationally. My Vinton Vikette basketball team also had an undefeated season my senior year with some degree of individual recognition to follow."

A plaque on the wall at VSHS honors Roxanne as one of the members of the 1984 National High School Athletic Assocation's Girls Basketball All American Team.

The difference, she says, is that the Internet and other modern technology help more people to know more, and see more, of Ali's accomplishments than they could know or see of her own in 1984.

"This is where I feel technology may have had the biggest impact," said Roxanne. "With the Internet, it broadens the audience, opens the lines of communication, provides visibility to individual statistics, etc. It ultimately makes it much easier for athletes to gain national recognition. You can certainly Google Ali Stark and fine a plethora of articles, video clips, awards and/or other types of recognition. But you'd be hard pressed to find anything if you were to Google Roxanne Wellner."
Ali, who attended school in Vinton before moving to Mount Vernon, is the granddaughter of Ken and Liz Stark of Vinton. Ken is a Viking Hall of Fame member who earned that honor for his many years of coaching. Ken willingly plays the role of the proud grandfather.

"You are always very proud of your grandchildren," he said. "I talk about her everyplace I go. Ali has said that she got her height from Grandpa Ken."

Next year, Ali will play volleyball for the University of Illinois, which has offered her a full scholarship. In addition to being named the Player of the Year at the 2010 State Volleyball Tournament, Ali has been named the Gatorade Iowa Player of the Year. She was also named to the Under Armour All-American first team as well as the First Team of the American Volleyball Coaches Association's High School All-American Team. ESPN also named her as one of the top 25 college recruits of 2010.

During the 2010 season, the 6-foot-1 Stark recorded 324 kills, 232 digs, 66 service aces and 62 blocks for the Mount Vernon Mustangs.

"It has been said many times that Ali is extremely coachable and that coupled with her tremendous natural talent makes watching her very enjoyable," says her mom. "The best part of all, though, is her unassuming and humble demeanor. She is a genuine team player and a silent leader on and off the court. This is truly a testament to her character given the level of recognition she has attained. As the parent of such a talented athlete, you want so much for them to perform at their highest level (and the level you know they are capable of) and for them to receive much-deserved recognition."

Still, said Roxanne, there are many challenges to being a player (or her parent) experiencing that kind of success.

"It makes for a very stressful season for the parent since these are all factors outside of our control," says Roxanne. "But on the flip side (and to Ali's credit), these are things that Ali isn't the least bit concerned with. She knows what she needs to do and has proven to be a solid performer; all these good things follow naturally."

Now, Roxanne is married to Vinton native Brian Rolland. She describes herself as "the proud Mother of seven children (four biological and three step-children); ages ranging from 21 yrs to twin toddlers (age 4)." She also works full-time in Iowa City as the treasury manager for Marsh USA, Inc.

"Our daily lives are very hectic as you can imagine," she said. "We are extremely busy with club volleyball right now with Ali competing on the Iowa Rockets 18R team and Marissa Stark competing on the Iowa Rockets 16R team. Both will be competing in the Colorado Crossroads National Qualifier next week in Denver, CO. Having two daughters playing top notch volleyball but in two completely different positions has been enjoyable. Marissa stands 5'6 and is the Libero/DS for her team as opposed to Ali who stands 6'0 and dominates offensively."


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Comments (2)

Awesome. It is truly great to have a daughter like Roxanne and a grandaughter like Ali.
What fun!!
By: Rich Wellner on March 10th 1:39pm
Great article and able to catch up with former students! (Roxanne, that is)
By: Judy T on March 10th 6:28pm

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