All-around athlete? Sheila Dentlinger


1983 grad credits her genetics; her brother says it’s work ethic 

Sheila (McGarry) Dentlinger was a terrific student-athlete when she attended Central DeWitt High School in the early 1980s.

Apparently she was just getting started.

The 2019 Central DeWitt Hall of Fame inductee later became a fabulous college athlete and, then she became a sensational mother.

Even when looking solely at her high school career, there’s more there than meets the eye. Dentlinger also was the salutatorian in her graduating class, and she graduated magna cum laude in college.

She chalks it up to genetics. She said there was plenty of God-given talent to go around in the household of 10.

“You probably have to give credit to my parents,” she said. “I have a sister who is a valedictorian and another sister who is a salutatorian. We got our brains from our parents, and we wanted to use them to the best of our abilities.”  

She’s humble, too, said her brother, Leo McGarry, vice president at First Central Bank in DeWitt.

“My guess is that her teammates would say she wasn’t a rah-rah person; I would guess she was more of a lead-by-example person,” McGarry said. “But I’m sure they were impressed with her work ethic — the way she went about her business.”

 Playing side-by-side with 2006 Hall of Fame inductee, Colleen Burke, they delivered a 1-2 punch that catapulted the Sabers to new heights in volleyball and basketball. 

She helped her volleyball team to a best-ever record of 25-5-1. The Sabers were ranked as high as No. 4 in the state as a result of winning four tournaments that season under Hall of Fame coach Pam Duncan.  

The basketball team also set a single-season win record, and the highlight of that year was defeating No. 1-ranked Pleasant Valley on its home court.

One of Dentlinger’s biggest fans was her younger brother, Leo. He went to nearly all of her games.

“She was great, because she would let me kind of tag along,” McGarry said. “She was No. 4 and I was No. 7. She was a great sister, and I’m glad she’s getting the honor, and I think it’s well-deserved.”

Playing in the 6-on-6 era, she averaged 27 points per game. At the time of her graduation, she held four school records, including scoring the most points, 46, in a game.

“I always joke about it,” McGarry said. “I remember asking my dad if I could go and he said, ‘No, you should get to bed early.’ I go to almost all the other games, but I don’t go to that one. And the next morning, I find out she scores like 50 some points. It’s like, ‘You gotta be kidding.’”

In both sports, she received the same recognition: Honorable mention all-conference as a junior and first-team all-conference as a senior.

Dentlinger attended St. Ambrose University and majored in biology, where she also took her volleyball prowess to new heights. During her senior year, she finished fifth in NAIA competition by averaging 4.92 kills per game. She was a first-team All-District selection in 1985, 1986 and 1987, and she was an academic All-American in 1986 and 1987. She earned second-team NAIA All-American honors in 1987. 

She led her team to NAIA District titles every season. She was inducted into the St. Ambrose University Hall of Fame 1994.  

She graduated magna cum laude in biology from St. Ambrose and later received her master’s in physical therapy from the University of Iowa. She is a physical therapist at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Carroll, Iowa, and an active community volunteer, most notably at Carroll Kuemper Catholic Schools and St. John’s Catholic Church. She married Joel Dentlinger, an engineering student and athlete, in 1990.

She says her greatest accomplishment is her four children.

“Kind of a neat story there,” McGarry said. “I mean, not too often do you have a household with two Division I athletes, a Division II athlete, and another son, who was a pretty good athlete in his own right, and all very good academically,” McGarry said. “All salt-of-the-earth people. So yeah, and rightfully so, that’s what she should be most proud of.”

Dentlinger again demurred.

“Well, my husband deserves half the credit,” she quipped.