Maybe Kali Gulick won’t pop off the page at you.
Even-tempered and relentlessly modest, the 6-foot-2 Glacier High School senior would not immediately stand out in a crowd were it not for the fact that she stood, literally, head-and-shoulders above it. She is soft-spoken and shuns the spotlight, coachable and kind, and her unselfish nature outweighs her formidable competitiveness.
A three-year varsity player in both volleyball and basketball — and a former varsity softball player, too — Gulick is nonetheless rarely the one who gets noticed when the postseason rolls around, earning just second team all-state honors in volleyball, and second team all-conference accolades in softball and basketball. She is a gifted athlete and will play basketball in college, talented enough to earn a scholarship to Montana State University-Billings, but in her most statistically notable season thus far (2017-18) she produced just nine points and four rebounds per game.
But no statistic or award properly captures what Gulick does, or who she is, or what she’s meant. And as her time at Glacier winds to a close, there are few athletes who can draw higher praise.
“As a dad, when you have a daughter, Kali Gulick’s the one you want them to be like,” Wolfpack basketball coach Bill Sullivan said. “(She) makes great decisions whether you’re on the basketball floor, whether you’re in the classroom, whether you’re out in the community. Just a great personality, great person, great girl.”
There is one number that pops off the page for Gulick: her grade-point average. The oldest child of a pair of Division I college athletes, Gulick made it a goal before high school began to graduate with a perfect 4.0 GPA, while playing 10 seasons of interscholastic sports. She’s on track to do just that.
“Not being one of those 4.0 kids (myself), I thought this is crazy,” Patrick Gulick, Kali’s dad, said. “Kali’s just a hard-working kid and she takes that same focus with academics. If she’s not at practice, generally, she’s in her room studying.”
Patrick played football at Montana State University and his wife, Stephanie, was a volleyball player at the University of Montana. Their three children, Kali, Sidney and Carson, grew up in an active house and competed at just about everything, from basketball to softball to checkers. Sports, in fact, were a part of Kali’s life before she could even walk.
“Kali made her first basket at six months old,” Patrick recalled. “We used to hang a little plastic basketball hoop (while) she’s sitting on the floor, and we would clap if she made it … she figured she needed to put it in the hoop.”
Gulick grew quickly, standing 6-2 by the time she first arrived at Glacier as a freshman, but that did not prevent her from honing a balanced all-around game on the basketball court. She is a dangerous 3-point shooter, capable ball-handler, and an extremely smart player with an uncommon feel for the game.
“She knows what to do in certain situations, knows exactly what (her) role is on this team and what (she) has to do, and who the kids are (she) needs to get open,” Sullivan said.
Gulick’s versatility and, just as importantly, humility, make her valuable on the court no matter what kind of day she’s having. Case-in-point: At the first crosstown game of the season on Jan. 10, Gulick misfired on most of her perimeter shots in the first half but helped lead the Wolfpack to victory as a screener, rebounder and defender while scoring just four points. Despite her natural athleticism, high skill level and competitive drive, she’s never been the type of player who demands the ball or the spotlight.
“I just need to do what my team needs,” Gulick said. “If we need me to rebound, I can do that. If we need to score points, I’m going to try to do that. Whatever our team needs at that point, I will try to do that.”
That selflessness was on display during the fall sports season, too.
“The very first word that comes to mind is conscientious,” Glacier volleyball coach Christy Harkins said. “Highly conscientious and extremely caring about other people.”
Gulick was the leader of a fairly young volleyball team in 2018, and earned that responsibility by breaking free, somewhat, from her soft-spoken nature. When she missed time with an injury and could not travel with the team, Harkins said her absence was felt in multiple ways.
“Of course we missed her play but we really missed her taking care of everyone,” she said. “She communicated strongly with everyone, communicated strongly with me; Kali had really taken the reigns on that all season.”
The same is true this basketball season, where Sullivan said Gulick’s presence has kept her teammates motivated and upbeat.
“She’s the person that’s going to make sure that you’re feeling good about the game when you make a mistake,” Sullivan said. “Friendships and relationships are important to her. Having fun and making sure everyone else is (having fun) is where she shines.”
Glacier’s hoops team is off to a 5-2 start following their crosstown win, and the Wolfpack hopes to return to the state tournament, where they pulled off a memorable first-round upset of Eastern Conference champion Billings West a year ago. After that will come the awards, when Gulick is once again unlikely to find her name among the state’s top individual honorees, an omission she will almost certainly ignore.
What may catch her attention, though, is the idea that she has set an enduring example for years of Wolfpack athletes to come.
“That’s our hope,” Harkins said. “Kali’s the ideal kind of kid we want. Maybe she didn’t end up first team all-state, but she is who we as coaches want to be around, who we want our own kids to (have as) role models, who we want our team members to follow and see the right way to live your life, whether you’re top team all-state or not.”
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