“Year in Review” Quarter Two: One Last Good-bye, State Champions, and Controversy

One quarter down with three to go, it’s time to dive into the second quarter of this “Year in Review” brought to you by Two Rivers Bank and Trust as I’m Slaten Swords and it’s time for the sports.

Starting with the Iowa Wesleyan Outdoor Track and Field teams. Hunter Davis’s crew set records on the women’s side as Lilly Garnsey claimed the school record in the 3,000-meter Steeplechase at the Rittgers Invitational with a time of 12-minutes and 51.97-seconds. Her time was good enough for a 2nd place finish. Garnsey had already broken the school record time earlier in the season.

Zoi Smith took the other school record in the pole vault. As she reset her own mark with a vault of 2.15 meters or 7 feet.

Early April also saw the Mt. Pleasant school board approve the resignation of Panther’s head volleyball coach David Streeter.

Streeter was at the helm for back-to-back conference championship runs in 2020 and 2021 as he accumulated a 35-32 record over the two-year span. Logan Wall, the freshman head coach, would step up and take the position.

Controversy brewed in Fort Madison when the activities agreement between Fort Madison, Holy Trinity Catholic, and Central Lee was terminated by a 4-3 vote by the Fort Madison Community School District (FMCSD) Board. Nevertheless, two weeks later, by a unanimous vote, the FMCSD approved 13 new shared athletic agreements with Holy Trinity Catholic, Central Lee, and Burlington.

The Crusaders approved a lump sum payment of $20,000, compared to the previous $10,000, for the 10 shared programs of girls’ and boys’ track, soccer, wrestling, tennis, girls’ cross country, and baseball. The $20,000 figure was generated by an analysis of the fees that go into keeping the programs running. The generated percentage was 7.6% and $20,000 was considered more representative of that percentage than the previous $10,000.

The deal will have to be renewed annually. If both sides agree to split, then negotiations to come back together can happen at any time in the future. If one school decides to split while the other disagrees with the split, then the school that disengages cannot negotiate to reunite for a minimum of five years.

On the professional level, a former Central College offensive lineman and Mt. Pleasant graduate, Spenser Remick, competed at the World’s Strongest Man competition in Myrtle Beach. He managed to score 10.5 points at the event.

Garrett Cook joined Owen Vansickel at Cornell College as Cook officially signed to become a Ram in April. In Cook’s receiving career he caught 31 passes for 299 yards with 3 touchdowns. Cook stated that he will be looking to study Kinesiology as he has an interest in sports medicine or becoming a trainer.

Late April ushered in the Drake Relays and there were plenty of athletes from Southeast Iowa making the trip to Des Moines to compete.

Mt. Pleasant had Will Davidson compete in three events: the 100-meter dash, the 110-meter hurdles, and the 400-meter hurdles. Davidson claimed two Blue Oval standards over the course of the relays. The 4×100 relay teams for the boys and girls ran for the Panthers, as the girls’ team of Courtney Raub, Bailey Jalas, Tristian Shull, and Andi Scott finished in 51st place and the boys’ team of Mason Sloat, Davidson, Payson Coleman, and Avin Truong took 65th place. Lastly, Isaac Jerrel tossed the shot put, where he took 23rd place with a heave of 48 feet 0.5 inches.

Winfield-Mt. Union had Gabriel Hemsworth notch a time of 58.66 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles to finish in 16th place. Additionally, Cam Buffington leapt 20 feet 10.25 inches in the long jump to claim 11th place, while Central Lee’s Thomas Eschman flew to 8th place with a jump of 21 feet 1.75 inches.

Lastly, AJ Bonnesen of Danville ran the 3200 meter and finished in 13th place with a time of 9 minutes and 26 seconds, while Kade Benjamin grabbed 6th place in the high jump for New London with a leap of 6 feet 7 inches.

Late April saw a trio of college signings with two coming from New London’s volleyball squad. Natalie Burden signed her letter of intent to continue playing volleyball at Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Burden collected 448 kills and 37 aces in her senior season.

Emma Nye, the defensive specialist with a knack for serving for New London, will be taking her volleyball talents to John Wood Community College in the fall. Nye’s senior season was her best defensively with 667 digs and her second best from the serving line with 65 aces. Her junior year was her best year serving the ball with 67 aces.

Furthermore, Central College will be adding a new member to their talented Dance Team this fall as Jordan Crooks has signed on to join the Dutch and major in Elementary Education. The Panthers finished in 8th place in Class X Pom at the High School State Team Championship and 7th in Class IV Jazz for the 2022-23 season.

The end of the month provided the most emotional moment of the year as the 4th annual student-athlete awards ceremony for Iowa Wesleyan, The Wesleys, commenced and provided the best good-bye to the Purple and White. Quickly going through the awards, the Female and Male Honor Athlete of the Year went to Brielle Baker of the women’s basketball team and Trace White of the men’s golf team.

The Women’s Newcomer of the Year was given to Isabell West of the women’s basketball team. West was also named to the Continental Athletic Conference (CAC) All-Tournament team, 1st Team All-Conference, CAC Player of the Year, CAC Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, CAC Newcomer of the Year, and honorable mention All-American. Gacoby Jones was named Men’s Newcomer of the Year as he was proficient from beyond the arc and a kleptomaniac defensively.

The Lori Williams Wright award was created in 2012 and was given annually to a senior women’s basketball player that exhibits athletic ability, leadership skills, and academic excellence. The award went to Brianna Wendland.

The Women’s Academic Team award went to the Volleyball team with six Scholar-Athletes. The Men’s Academic Team award went to the Men’s Golf team.

The Wesley Award given to the student who best represents Iowa Wesleyan in the community was the emcee himself, Brevin Wilson. A Mount Pleasant native, Wilson simply stated that he will forever wear purple and white.

The Best Dressed award was a secret one as judges brought forth a final list of four to be voted on by Twitter live at the event. The final four were Wilson, Nicole Shirrell, Morgan Pulido, and, to a big surprise Kurt Moon. Pulido and Moon shared the award after the 60-second voting timeframe.

Every team had their own MVP as voted upon by the coaching staff and here’s how it shook out. Men’s basketball was Henry Shannon. Women’s basketball was Isabell West. Logan Lucas was the pick for men’s cross country and Lilly Garnsey was the choice for women’s cross country. Major Niccum was football’s MVP. Alexis Hafenstine was picked for volleyball. For men’s soccer it was Alvaro Morera. Women’s soccer was Marta Cuenca Carcel. Trace White took it for men’s golf. Kurt Moon’s choice for women’s golf was Aubrey Duncan. Julian Figueroa’s team lead in batting average, home runs, and doubles earned him the MVP nod. Lexy Davis won the award for softball. Daron Jackson was the MVP for men’s track and field. Faith Younce, who also helped organize and gave out the awards on stage, was the MVP for women’s track and field. For men’s wrestling it was Lane Scorpil, who finished in 2nd place at the conference tournament to earn a trip to the national tournament. Lastly, Adaugo Nwachukwu was named team MVP for women’s wrestling.

The Men’s and Women’s Team of the Year and Coach of the Year was swept by basketball’s Jordan Ashton and Steve Williamson.

The Athlete of the Year for the men was Henry Shannon and for the women it was Adaugo Nwachukwu as she went undefeated and won her second National Championship.

Derek Zander kept one surprise until the end when he announced one final member joining the Iowa Wesleyan Hall of Fame. Mike Hampton will be the last Tiger to join the Hall of Fame. Hampton finished with over 660 career wins at Iowa Wesleyan as he’s also a member of the Iowa Girls Coaches Association, the Iowa Girls High School Coaches Association Basktball Officials, and the Southeast Iowa Officials Hall of Fames. Hampton was at a loss for words after receiving the honor.

Moving into early May, Aaiden Ashton announced that he would follow his brother Jordan Ashton to study business and play basketball at William Woods University. Aaiden Ashton was a focal point for the Panthers the past two seasons as he put up 511 points and secured 213 rebounds.

Mt. Pleasant boys’ tennis had a terrific season that saw the Panthers finish with a perfect 8-0 conference record. Owen Vansickle claimed the gold in the conference tournament and All-Conference honors.

In doubles, Jake Ensminger and Phoenix Watson fell to Fairfield’s Garrett Flanagan and Jace Hannes in the championship round as both teams earned All-Conference.

McKenzie Vradenburg of WACO will continue running at the collegiate level after she signed her letter of intention to attend Truman State University and join the Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field team. Vradenburg will also be majoring in Criminal Justice.

Iowa Wesleyan athletics officially wrapped up with Continental Athletic Conference awards for softball, baseball, and outdoor track and field.

Starting with softball, Alexis Davis was named 1st team All-Conference catcher after her stellar year at the plate. Davis was named CAC Hitter of the Week after her 7 for 8 performance against Waldorf that saw her smack a grand slam and finish the weekend with 5 RBIs. Davis tallied 3 home runs, 25 RBIs (tied for 2nd on the team), 9 doubles, and 3 triples.

Aspyn Harrison was great in the circle but was even better at the plate, which is why she was named 1st team All-Conference for the infield. Harrison led the Tigers with a 0.435 batting average and doubles with 11.

Kara Krieger was named 2nd team at-large. Krieger led the team with 28 RBIs, triples with four, and runs with 35.

Lastly, Jordan Lantz was an at-large bid for 2nd team All-Conference. Over the course of the season, Lantz batted 0.383 with a 0.485 on-base percentage and a 0.519 slugging percentage. Lantz notched 16 RBIs, nine doubles, one triple, and 13 runs.

The Tigers ended the softball season with a 19-24 overall record with an undefeated conference record (4-0).

For baseball, Julian Figueroa was named 1st team All-Conference after seeing the ball as a grapefruit for the entire season. Figueroa had the team lead in batting average (0.430), on-base percentage (0.492), and slugging percentage (0.664).

Cauy Massner earned 2nd team All-Conference honors after leading the Tigers pitching staff in wins with 8 on the season. Where Massner did most of his damage was in conference games. The transfer went 2-0 on the mound allowing only 3 runs in 14 innings of work equating to a 1.93 ERA.

Lastly, Sage Bonner was named 2nd team All-Conference third baseman. Bonner batted 0.370 for the season, which placed him second on the team. Bonner was second on the team in home runs with three and third on the team in RBIs with 24.

The Tigers finished the regular season with a 21-20 record and a 4-5 conference record and fell in the conference tournament.

For the women’s outdoor track and field team, Bri Hunter earned two All-Conference nods after her incredible performance in the throwing department to finish with six career All-Conference awards. Hunter ripped a third-place discus throw of 125 feet 11 inches in rainy conditions. Hunter followed that with a throw of 44 feet 2.75 inches, which placed her 2nd in the shot put.

In the 3,000-meter steeplechase, Lilly Garnsey finished in 3rd place and grabbed the All-Conference title with a time of 12 minutes and 49 seconds. Garnsey also took 3rd place and an All-Conference award for her performance in the 10,000-meter run with a time of 42 minutes and 18 seconds.

For the men’s team, Jabez Rivers raced to a 3rd place finish in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 55.66 seconds and an All-Conference honor. Rivers also finished in 3rd place in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 15.67 seconds.

Lastly, KeRon Blackwell tallied his 2nd career All-Conference honor after leaping 6 feet 2.75 inches in the high jump. It was his first outdoor All-Conference honor.

Shifting back to high school, we had the state track and field meet at Des Moines and here are the highlights from the multi-day event.

On day one of the meet, AJ Bonnesen of Danville picked up a personal best time of 9 minutes and 10 seconds to win the gold in the 3200-meter run. Bonnesen now holds the school record in the 3200. Bonnesen added a 2nd place finish to his state championship after the boys Class 1A 1600-meter run. Bonnesen completed the mile in 4 minutes and 21 seconds.

Staying with Danville, Alaina Gourley finished with a personal record time of 59.79 seconds and an 8th place finish to earn a point for the Bears.

Winfield-Mt. Union’s Cam Buffington leapt to a new personal record and won the gold in the long jump with a leap of 21 feet 8 inches. Simeon Reichenbach of WACO captured 3 points in the long jump with his 6th place finish.

The Wolves also saw Gabriel Hemsworth earn a point for his 8th place finish in the boys 400-meter hurdles with a time of 55.42 seconds.

In the boys’ Class 1A discus, WACO’s Oleh Shtefanchuk finished in 3rd place with a throw of 158 feet 2 inches.

Moving up a Class to 2A but staying with long jump, Wyatt Mertens of Van Buren County vaulted 21 feet 8.5 inches to place 8th in the long jump, while Thomas Eschman jumped 21 feet 10 inches and claimed 6th place for Central Lee.

For the Van Buren County boys’ team, Anthony Duncan claimed an individual state championship in the Class 2A 400-meter hurdles with a time of 54.97 seconds. Tyler Stoltz captured points for the Warriors with a 7th place finish in the high jump with a leap of 6 feet 1 inch.

New London captured their first points of the meet with a 7th place finish in the distance medley relay with the time of 3 minutes and 40 seconds. The team of Boden Pickle, London Franklin, Brigham Porter, and Rylan Martin captured two points for the Tigers.

Martin claimed a spot on the podium with a 3rd place time of 1 minute and 57 seconds in the 800-meter dash.

Kade Benjamin of New London and Triston Miller of Columbus were in a showdown for the boys Class 1A high jump competition as they both cleared 6 feet 6 inches. Benjamin nailed his first jump for 6 feet 7 inches clinching the state title for himself. This made it back-to-back individual state championships for Benjamin.

Miller took down the boys’ Class 1A 110-meter hurdle state record that stood since 1997 in the preliminary then captured the state championship in the finals. Columbus took home another state record in the boys 4×100 meter relay with the team of Jeff Hoback, Riley Kaalberg, Miller, and Kaden Amigon with a time of 42.69 seconds.

The team of Kaalberg, Dante Zuinga, Alexander Rees, and Triston Miller helped Columbus’ chances at a team championship after finishing in 3rd place in the boys Class 1A shuttle hurdle relay with the time of 1 minute and 1.01 seconds.

Burlington’s girls’ Class 4A 4×100 meter relay team of Christella Boyer, Sophie Brown, Kierah Wiseman, and Mylee Stiefel claimed 5th place with a time of 48.87 seconds, the season best time.

Will Davidson of Mt. Pleasant also grabbed points for the Panthers in the 400-meter hurdles as he took 3rd place with a time of 54.13 seconds. Davidson then finished in 2nd place in a terrific race in the 110-meter hurdles as he grabbed 8 points for the Panthers with a time of 14.33 seconds. In the field events for the Panthers, Avin Truong took home a 5th place finish in the long jump with a leap of 21 feet 7.75 inches and Isaac Jerrel finished in 8th place in the shot put with a heave of 51 feet 3.25 inches.

The Mediapolis boys’ team had a special competition that ended in the Bulldogs sharing the Class 2A crown with Williamsburg and here’s how it happened.

The 4×800 meter relay of Jeff Cambell, Owen Schmidgall, Solomon Zaugg, and Logan Rosas took 4th place with a time of 8 minutes and 4.05 seconds.

Anthony Isley gained 8 points for the Bulldogs in the 400-meter dash after a 2nd place finish with a time of 49.97 seconds, a personal record. Anthony Duncan of Van Buren County finished right behind Isley with a time of 50.04 seconds.

A 4th place finish in the sprint medley relay with Cole Lipper, Jackson Hutcheson, Noah Schmidgall, and Isley racing to the time of 1 minute and 34.75 seconds.

In the 800-meter run, Logan Rosas finished with a state championship time of 1 minute and 56 seconds, while Owen Schmidgall finished in 5th place with a time of 1 minute and 58 seconds.

Isley contributed 8 more points to the Bulldogs after his 2nd place finish in the 200-meter dash with a time of 22.23 seconds.

Solomon Zaugg took 3rd place in the 1600 meter run with a time of 4 minutes and 24 seconds. Lastly, the team of Rosas, Levi Arnold, Schmidgall, and Isley competed in the 4×400 meter relay and finished in 3rd place with a time of 3 minutes and 23 seconds, giving the Bulldogs 62 total points.

The golf season wrapped up at the end of May as Mason Shelledy of New London finished tied for 18th with a score of 22 over par at the state tournament.

In Class 3A, Washington’s Roman Roth played magnificently as he finished as the individual state champion. Roth finished 1 under after the two days of competition.

In Class 1A for the girls, New London finished in 2nd place as a team with a score of +153. Taylor Phillips led the team with a silver medalist finish as she shot an 82 on day two for a total score of 16 over par. Emma Nye finished in 12th place with a score of 42 over par after shooting an 87 on day two.

Olivia Hines of Mediapolis collected a 3rd place finish as a sophomore last year; now, she grabbed the silver medal after her 20 over par performance in Class 2A.

Washington finished in 4th place for Class 3A with a team score of 341 (+112).  The top golfer for the Demons was Kaylin Long after she tied for 4th place shooting a 13 over par with a round two score of 79.

The Southeast Conference released their honors for the soccer season in the middle of June with Charice Auwerda named 1st team All-Conference; additionally, Auwerda was named SEC Player of the Year since she led the conference in assists and tied for the top spot in goals.

Kiera Frazier was named to 1st team All-Conference for her astounding defensive performance.

Elly Manning was also named 1st team All-Conference and team MVP for her 24 goals.

Sonya Simon, a sophomore, was also named 1st team All-Conference for her defensive play.

Tori Wilson and Bizzie Richtman, both sophomores, earned 1st team Honorable Mention. Wilson had 10 goals and 7 assists and Richtman was a staunch part of the Panthers tough defense.

Mt. Pleasant finished the season with an 11-6 record and finished 3rd in the conference. It was the Panthers 5th consecutive winning season.

On the boys’ side, Mt. Pleasant had Dylan White and Mario Carapia Segundo named 1st Team All-Conference. White led the team in goals with 14—3rd in conference—and tied for the lead in assists with 3. Rudy Ruiz Motta was 2nd in the conference in saves with 115, landing him on the Honorable Mention list alongside Jackson Newman.

The end to the spring sports season brought the spotlight to baseball and softball as we saw a glimpse of how well Burlington Notre Dame’s season would go, as the 5th edition of the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association had the Nikes ranked 8th in Class 1A.

The end of June had the Southeast Conference determined for both the boys and girls as Burlington claimed both conference championships. Nevertheless, Mt. Pleasant’s baseball team finished with an 8-7 conference record and a winning record as here’s one of the highlights of the season. The Panthers softball team suffered some bumps and bruises, but still had some special moments.

The Iowa High School Sports Network (IHSSN) provided another bit of controversy as they announced a pay-per-view platform for streaming devices after providing free live coverage since 2005. A lawsuit is currently ongoing after the decision.

Time to discuss the game plan after a half of play here for this year’s “Year in Review.” Tomorrow, the third quarter will take us to Carroll for the baseball state tournament and get the fall sports season underway. I’m Slaten Swords and we thank Two Rivers Bank and Trust for sponsoring “Year in Review.”