Sparland High School “Hilltoppers”

Sparland High School
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November, 2005
Sparland’s First School Building
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Sparland, Illinois

The History of Sparland High School

The town of Sparland (population 504) is located just west of the Illinois River on Il. Route 17 at the intersection with Il. Route 29.  Its location in the middle of Marshall County places it about 25 miles north of Peoria.  The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad cuts through the center of town.  Gimlet Creek runs through the middle of town and Thenius Creek trickles through the north side.

The history of Sparland High School is long and storied.  It was probably established in the late 1800s.  It served the kids of Sparland for generations, possibly more than nine decades.  It survived quite well until the early 1990s when consolidation talks took place with nearby Mid-County High School in Varna.  This effort became reality in 1995. The result was the creation of the newly named Midland School District, with the high school remaining in Varna.

School Bell
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Sparland High School

The fate of the original Sparland High School building is being sought.  The first Sparland School Building is pictured above. It was later replaced by the school which is still used today as part of the Midland School District.  We are hopeful a fan of the area will provide the information for us to share.

Sparland High School Quick Facts

Year opened:                 probably late 1800s

Year closed:                  1995

Consolidated to:            Midland School District (Varna)

School nickname:          the “Hilltoppers”

School Mascot:             the Goat / Ram

School colors:               Red & White

School Fight Song:        “We’re Loyal to You Sparland High”

                                                University of Illinois Fight Song Tune – words provided by Tim Moline

We’re loyal to you Sparland High

                                    We’re red and we’re white, Sparland High

                                    We’ll back you to stand

                                    ‘Gainst the best in the land

                                    For we know you can stand, Sparland High!

                                                Rah! Rah!

                                    So pass on that ball, Sparland High

                                    We’re backing you all, Sparland High.

                                    Our team is our game protector:

                                    On, Boys for we expect a

                                    Victory from you Sparland High!


                                    Fling out that dear old flag of Red and White,

                                    Lead on your gallant sons who bravely fight,

                                    Like men of old, on giants,

                                    Facing reliance, shouting defiance



                                    Amid the broad green plains that nourish our land,

                                    For honor, labor, and for learning we stand.

                                    And unto you we pledge our heart and our hand,

                                    Dear Alma Mater, Sparland High!

Sparland HS Building Gymnasium
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The feature sports for the Sparland High School kids was Basketball and Baseball.  It is known they also offered Track.  These three sports are represented on the IHSA web site ( The accomplishments earned by the boys in these sports are listed below.

Boys Basketball

A total of five District titles were won during the existence of Sparland High School in boys basketball.  The records of these and other great Sparland teams is unavailable.  We are also looking for coaches names for these teams.

1939-40                                                               Coach Lev Wallace

1940-41                         District Champions

1941-42                         District Champions

1956-57                         District Champions

1957-58    16 – 11                                                 Coach Bill Rogers

Sparland Hilltoppers of 1957-58
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Submitted by Terri & Mark Taylor (Click on photo for enlarged version)

1961-62                         District Champions

1964-65                         District Champions

In 1994, Mike Sommer, a Sparland High School basketball player, competed at the Class A “Three-Point Shooting Contest” at the State Tournament. In the first round, he scored 12 shots and eight in the second round to tie for the championship. In a tiebreaker, his two shots were not enough to become Class A champion compared to the four his opponent made.

Baseball Field / Cinder Track
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Sparland HS

Boys Baseball

Though they did not bring home any IHSA hardware, there was one four year period when everything clicked for the Sparland diamond men.  From 1962 to 1965 the Sparland boys sported a record of 59 – 21!  They were lead by Coach Robert Newell, himself a former star athlete and state track meet medalist in the javelin for nearby Lacon in 1927.  These teams and their yearly overall records are listed below.

1957-58       5 – 4                                 Coach Bill Rogers

Third Place – Tri-County Tourney

Sparland High School Baseball – 1957-58
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Courtesy of Terri & Mark Taylor (Click on Photo for Enlarged Version)

1961-62     20 – 10     Good Record       Coach Robert Newell

1962-63     12 – 5       Good Record       Coach Robert Newell

1963-64     12 – 4       Good Record       Coach Robert Newell

1964-65     15 – 2       Great Record     Coach Robert Newell

Boys Track & Field

One Sparland athlete brought home a medal from the IHSA State Track Meet.  Only his last name is currently available.

1928      Anderson          Pole Vault           5th Place

Girl’s Athletics

It is presumed that the Sparland HS girls also competed vigorously in sports over the years.  Basketball, Track, Volleyball, and maybe Softball were thought to be offered.


From Misty Winn-Phelps:

“Our school had 110 kids in the high school when I graduated in 1991. The only girls sports we had were volleyball and softball..then there was co-ed track. As for boys…basketball and track.  Baseball was available, but we had to co-op with another school (I can’t remember which one, but it seems it might have been Henry).”

From former coach Jim Johnson:

“I coached at several levels of grade school sports at Sparland in 1964-66, and by then, the old “hilltop” school building, thus the nickname “Hilltoppers” for the high school teams, while the grade school teams were known as the “Sparks”.  The high school’s mascot was the mountain sheep, while the grade school used a lighting bolt.) had become the grade school, a new high school building and gym having been built on the west edge of town — still on the river bluff that represented the hilltop of Sparland.

The old high school (now the elementary) gym floor had a floating center line, permanent stands on both sides, and a stage at the east end.  A large section of classrooms was situated on the floor directly over the gym, and movement within them caused the plaster ceileingin the gym to partially collapse at least once (fotunately AFTER the season was over.)

Sparland had some great athletes — Rick Sutherland, Chuck Scoon, Bob Ratliff, Steve Endress, Stan Spellious, and Denny Bogner, to name a few, and Marty Parrish who, along with Sutherland, Scoon, and Spellious, would have been a football coach’s dream, as all had all-state capability.  But alas, Sparland never fielded a football team.  Fortunately, however, a consolidation of Sparland with Mid-County of Lacon-Varna also ushered in the first football in Marshall County since Mid-County dropped the sport after the 1955 season (during which I, as a Washington High School freshman, played against Mid County twice, with Washington winning both contests, 33-0 and 14-0) via the creation of a “co-op” team among Midland, Henry-Senachwine, and Wenona,  But Sparland athletes alone could have held their own in football had they ever been given the opportunity!”

From Lucinda Murphy Russell:

“I am a member of Sparland’s alumni and had heard from my mother-in-law that Sparland did have a football team long ago.

In the 50’s Bill Moody was one of the best basketball players. As the buzzer was about the end the game, he threw the basketball across the gym and made a basket.

During that era, there was an annual freshmen initiation.  Our freshmen class (1955) was the last students to get initated.  Examples: Floyd Murphy had to wear womens heels and borrowed a pair of size 10 shoes from Mrs. Wilson (music teacher living in Lacon). Wearing a garlic necklace, dozens of braids, clothes on backwards was required of someone.  I had three bruises on my leg from a cattle prod was used by Tom Peugh during the afternoon event in the gym.  Doreen Streitmatter and ? were blindfolded and had to chase a marble across the gym floor.  The class had to walk downtown from the high school at the top of the hill in their “costume” and scrub the downtown sidewalk near the post office with a toothbrush. Most other details have dimmed with age. We were the last class to get initated.

I enjoyed seeing the Sparland High School website.  Thank you.”

Can You Help Us Out?

We are looking for an avid fan of Sparland or even Marshall County to assist us in filling in the missing parts of this page.  If you would like to share information please complete a School Submission Form or a Guest Comentary Form.  We are especially appreciative of sharing photos of the old high school building and great teams of the Sparland HS past.  You can e-mail these to us at or write us at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago,  Il.    60631

Schol Building Cornerstone – “1955”
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Sparland High School

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