History was made during the spring and summer seasons and the senior class at South Tama County High School was a big reason for it.
There was the first postseason victory in more than 20 years, two no-hitters, a conference championship sweep and a pair of state titles. Many of those were in lieu of the Trojans' outstanding senior class.
Every year, the spring season is the busiest with four coed sports that fill up nearly every day of the week. There's soccer, track and field, tennis and golf to keep sports writers, family and friends busy.
This year's STC soccer season was a rough one early, but both teams improved later in the spring. The girls' squad was young, but its three seniors led the way most of the season. The Lady Trojans were winless in 2013, but despite being less talented than their opponents, they fought hard and nearly pulled off an upset in their final game.
On the boys' side, the experienced Trojans spent most of the spring adjusting to a new coach who had a different style. By the end of the season, most of the players bought in to the new coach's hard-nosed, no-nonsense style. Behind a strong core of seniors, the Trojans won a playoff game at Grinnell several days after being blown out by the Tigers.
Meanwhile, the STC tennis teams were busy on the courts most of the spring, when they weren't rained out or canceled for cold weather. The boys' squad remains young and inexperienced, but the girls' team returned a talented group of juniors. The Lady Trojans finished second in the North Iowa Cedar League and won a handful of duals.
On the golf course, it was more youthful STC teams. South Tama's boys golfers improved their team score from 2012 with a youthful roster. STC finished fourth at the conference meet and should have a promising 2014 spring.
Last year's state placing STC girls' golf squad lost five of its seven members to graduation in 2012. However, it returned junior Paige Van Dyk, a fourth-place finisher at state as a sophomore. Van Dyk and fellow junior Carrie Cibula recruited four other players this spring to make a full squad, but it was Van Dyk who made the headlines.
Van Dyk won every meet she competed in this spring. She shot low score after low score, despite an odd start to the season with several meet cancellations and unusually cold weather. Other top golfers from 2012 moved up to Class 4A this year, which helped her at state. After dominating the first day at state, Van Dyk won the 3A title as the second day was rained out during the middle of the round. Odd finish to an odd spring of golf.
South Tama's seniors showed their prowess, leadership and athletic abilities during the track and field season. They led both STC teams to NICL West Division titles, several state medals and a state championship relay. It was a track season to remember at South Tama and one I'm happy to say I witnessed.
Where do you even start when talking about the track and field season? Ladies first. The STC Lady Trojans turned heads and made a name for themselves this spring. Coach George Corum came out of retirement to coach a girls' sport for the first time in his life. Puns aside, Corum was the man for the job. He held the Lady Trojans accountable, challenged them past a point they had never been pushed before and instilled a confidence that should carry over to every other girls' sport at South Tama.
The first sign of success came at Ballard on April 26. The Lady Trojans won their first track and field meet in years after winning eight events at the meet. With confidence high, they traveled to Grundy Center three days later for the NICL West meet.
Here came the second sign of success. Hoping to be one of the top four teams a year after placing last, South Tama came through with a performance nearly as shocking as the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey's "Miracle on Ice" victory. It stunned me. At the end of a day that saw ups and downs all over the track and in the field events, I thought STC finished third, at best.
As the Grundy Center public address announcer read the team scores, I listened closely. They weren't fourth. Not third. Not second. Oh my gosh! South Tama had stunned the NICL West. Screams from the entire STC girls' squad could be heard for miles. Pandemonium ensued on the infield. Smiles lit up faces and tears rolled down cheeks. South Tama beat rival East Marshall by seven points.
The Lady Trojans won only two events and both came in the field. Junior Samantha Holtz won the discus and placed second in the shot put. Senior Shelby Bradley, who played soccer instead of running track during her junior year, won the long jump. Fellow seniors Jade Rohach, Kaleigh Sieck, Kelsey Kupka and Nicole Berry also helped the Lady Trojans win the conference title.
While the girls' track NICL West title was a surprise, the boys' championship wasn't as big of a shocker, but the Trojans lived up to their slogan this spring "Shock the World". The Trojans dominated the meet, winning eight events and beating second-place by 28 points. It was coach George Kuhter's first track conference title during his 20-year tenure at South Tama.
The boys' track and field team was led by seniors, including Kyle Stephenson, Sam Kuhter, Daryl Bidwell, Brady Ellenbecker, Clay Waterbury and Kaleb Davenport. Stephenson, Davenport and Kuhter won the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash and long jump, respectively. Ellenbecker and Waterbury helped junior Tyler Martens and sophomore Robert Tyynismaa win the 4x800-meter relay win the NICL race, while Bidwell was on the 4x100 and 4x200-meter NICL title-winning relays with Stephenson, Davenport and junior Dylan Kalinay.
South Tama rolled on through its district meet and into the state meet. Stephenson and Kuhter earned medals in the 200 dash and long jump at state. The Trojans' 4x200 relay finished third and ran its season-best time.
The highlight of the weekend at the "Blue Oval" was the 4x100 state championship. Davenport, Kalinay, Bidwell and Stephenson dropped their relay time the final four times they ran it this spring. It was a great way for the three seniors to walk off the track as champions of the fastest relay.
A few days after the state meet, South Tama's baseball and softball seasons began. Both squads lost only a pair of seniors from their 2012 rosters, so expectations were high surrounding both summer teams.
Seniors and several younger players helped the STC baseball team finish its season with a 20-12 record, which was five more wins than the 2012 summer. Kuhter and sophomore Dalton Doyle each threw a no-hitter from the mound this year. South Tama will miss its baseball seniors, especially Noah Bearden, who's been behind the plate during his four-year career.
South Tama's pair of softball seniors also led their squad. Riley Craun and Rohach were two of the best hitters and defensive players for the Lady Trojans and both were recognized by NICL coaches with all-conference honors. They helped the Lady Trojans win two more games than they won in 2012, while also being very competitive in almost every contest this summer.
The STC softball team won its first postseason game in more than 20 years when it beat Union. STC's last postseason victory was believed to be in 1991, if not earlier. A few days later, STC gave rival East Marshall a run for its money by scoring 10 runs on the Mustangs, who later went on to qualify for the state tournament.
Both summer seasons ended with difficult-to-swallow losses, whether it was giving up too many home runs or committing too many errors. Now that the weather outside has cooled to autumn-like temperatures, let's look forward to the fall sports season. This year's upcoming senior class is also loaded with talent, so here's to hoping they can bring the same level, or better, of success that the class of 2013 brought to South Tama.
Vince Lombardi said it best "Winning isn't everything, but wanting to win is."