Greene County's Paige Heaning shouts encouragement toward a teammate during the sprint medley relay at the Class 2A state qualifying meet last spring in Panora. The girls qualified six events for the state meet.  BRANDON HURLEY | JEFFERSON HERALD

Coming to Terms: Girls' High School Track

Local athletes share emotional responses to COVID-19 cancellations

EDITOR’S NOTE: This week’s issue marks the beginning of an extensive series detailing the emotional cancellation of the spring sports high school season. For the next month we will share comments from Greene County athletes in track and field, golf and soccer and how they have coped with Governor Kim Reynolds’ decision amid the COVID-19 outbreak and what they plan to do with their newfound free-time. First up, we feature the Ram girls’ track and field team.

Absolute shock and heartbreak.
The Greene County girls’ track and field team possessed immense expectations as they dug in for the 2020 season. The Rams were poised to reach tremendous heights after qualifying for six state events a year ago, boasting seven returning state qualifiers. This would have been head coach Derek Merk’s third season at the helm, perhaps guiding his best crop of athletes to date. The impressionable and enthusiastic unit was in line to create a whirlwind of noise and history before devastation struck, when COVID-19 ripped the entire schedule from their grasps. First, the state postponed the track season through April 13, before the worst news followed a few weeks later, as Governor Kim Reynolds canceled the entire slate of spring sports.
With a few weeks to come to terms with the devastating fate, several athletes on the Ram track and field team have offered their reactions. Below, we’ve compiled some responses from Greene County’s most veteran and instrumental leaders, hoping to bring some brief closure to the cancellation.

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Maddy Sigler, senior, 2019 state qualifier
Sigler has anchored several relays for a few years, securing a state berth in the spring medley last spring. She was robbed of possibly obtaining back-to-back state appearances when the 2020 season was canceled.
“Personally I am very disappointed and really sad that our spring sports have been canceled. I was really looking forward to having an awesome season with the group of girls we had. I was hoping to have one last season to make it the best one yet and I am just upset I didn’t get to experience it with my teammates.
I was most looking forward to all the memories my teammates and I were going to make this year and I most definitely think we would have made it to (the) Drake (Relays) and state. I’m really bummed we won’t be able to make those memories.
I believe we have all learned how to use our resources to continue to workout so we don’t lose anything while we can’t be with our coaches. I also think this will make us all realize how fast something can be taken from you and to never take anything for granted.
I will miss how close (my teammates and I) were with each other and our coaches and just how open we all were with one another. Sports (at Greene County) were so fun and no matter who you are or how good you are in a sport, you will always have awesome teammates to support you and push you to do your best.”

Sophia Ausberger, senior
Ausberger improved steadily throughout her athletic career, playing pivotal roles on the Boone swim team as well as the Greene County track and field squad. She was looking forward to the cherished camaraderie one final time.
“Personally, I’m missing out on my last track season, which would’ve been my sixth season since seventh grade. There is definitely a sadness there and a feeling of being unfinished or anti-climactic, but I’m reminding myself to be grateful for the five seasons I did get to have. I’m especially grateful that I gave my all every opportunity that I got, so I don’t have to leave feeling like I should’ve tried harder when I had the chance.
In all honesty, I have never been a great athlete. I participate in sports more-so to see how much I can progress and because I love having a community of people who share my passion for running and swimming. But this year, I had really hit my stride athletically, so I was looking forward to ending my sports career on the highest note possible, and riding out this peak of athleticism.
What I’m learning personally is how lucky we were to have coaches that cared about us and our progress so much. Having to motivate myself during at-home workouts is infinitely harder than having a coach and an entire track team to motivate me. I’m also learning to get creative working out, because as someone who enjoys being active, I just do not feel like myself without exercise. And as athletes, I think it’s really important that we learn how to take charge of ourselves because eventually, for everyone, there will come a day when we are no longer on a team and must progress from that point alone.
I am practicing being in college (to fill the void left by sports and school). Since this situation has thrown me into more independence than I’ve ever known, I’m throwing myself into what few classes I am able to take online, and learning what workouts I enjoy doing by myself that I can continue to do in college. Though it’s nowhere near ideal, this is a very unique opportunity that we have to stop, slow down, and really prepare ourselves for the future, so I’m trying to use this time to the best of my advantage in readying myself for the next step.
(I’ll miss) everything (about Greene County sports). I’m going to miss some of the best coaches I’ve ever had, (assistant) Pat Gerhardt and (head coach) Derek Merk, who went above and beyond for us. I’m going to miss dying of heat stroke in the weight room during the spring and summer, because that really is a bonding experience for your team. I’m going to miss the staples of our community, people like Misty Betty and Tom Cannan. What I’m going to miss most of all, probably, is the incredibly supportive team atmosphere I always felt with the track team, because not everyone gets to experience that.

Izzy Bravard, senior, two-time state qualifier
Bravard developed into one of Greene County’s top hurdlers in her three years with the track program, culminating in back-to-back state berths as a member of the 2018 and 2019 shuttle hurdle relay. She was also instrumental on the basketball team and plays a key role on the softball squad, which is still holding out hope for a season.
“The canceling of our track season affects me personally because as a senior, this is your last chapter of track. It is your last chance to get that (personal record) or season best, last chance to be with your friends, and last chance to qualify for state. Although the seniors and I will not get the last chance, we still are able to be connected through group chats and stuff like that.
I was most looking forward to running hurdles and being able to be with my friends at track meets and practices.
I think we can all learn from this to not take things for granted. I think a lot of us, including me, took things, such as school and sports, for granted. I didn’t realize how much of my time was spent either in the classroom or in sports. I think we need to thank our teachers and coaches more often for how much they do for us.
I plan to fill my time in by working with my show pigs, working on our (family) farm, and finding ways to help those in need during this crazy time.
What I will miss most about Greene County athletics is the fans who are always at our events supporting us and cheering us on whether we are winning or losing, and the relationships we get to build with not only our teammates, but our coaches, too. I am hopeful though to put on a Ram uniform one last time for this softball season.”

Brooklynn Olson, junior, 2019 state qualifier
Olson is a stalwart in the two throwing events, qualifying for both the Drake Relays and the state meet a season ago. The junior placed 11th in the state discus last year and had already broken an indoor school record before the season was taken away.
“The cancellation of spring sports affected me in a way that makes me very sad and frustrated. I am missing a year of a sport I love, knowing that I could have done so much this season. I had so many goals and worked so hard for this season to complete those goals but those will just have to wait till next year.
I was looking forward to a lot of things, going to meets and having fun with all my teammates, which I now can call some of my closest friends. But, the one thing that I will say would have been the best was to compete in the Drake Relays and state. I had a great experience last year at state and was hoping to continue it this year.
Being an athlete, this is just a way of life. There are lots of things that happen and we can’t control when they come up.
During this time of quarantine, I am going to take time and get ahead in my school work and continue to train and get better so I can have a breakout season for my last year in high school.”

Brianna Osterson, junior, two-time state qualifier
Osterson is one of Greene County’s most versatile athletes, qualifying for state in the long jump twice already as well as anchoring a pair of state-qualifying relays. She placed top 10 in the 2019 Drake Relays, top 10 in the 2018 state meet as a freshman, and finished in the top 25 in the 2019 state long jump.
“Canceling spring sports has affected me very personally because track and field is my favorite sport. Running and jumping is my thing and I feel free and strong when I do those things. Not being able to do something I love and strive for, hurts me.
I was looking forward to several things this year. One, I feel as though I could have improved my long jumps skills further and could have pushed myself to the next level. Second, we had some incoming freshmen that were going to help us accomplish a big task - breaking the school record in a few relays. Thirdly, I was looking forward to being with my teammates and having a fun and adventurous season.
This pandemic is something that nobody saw coming. With that being said, I think I learned that things can change at any time. We can’t always expect everything to stay the same. Another thing I’ve learned is that this will only make me stronger. Just because sports have stopped doesn’t mean I have to. I can still work out and run and continue to make myself better for next year.
Without sports or school, I have been working on the farm - from getting farm equipment ready to picking up rocks. I have also been watching plenty of Netflix shows and movies. I think keeping myself busy and occupied is the best way I’m going to get through this pandemic.”

Makala Kafer, junior, 2019 state qualifier
Kafer has excelled as a Greene County runner for three years, qualifying in two state events last spring as part of the sprint medley relay and the shuttle hurdle relay. She’s also a vital member of the cross country squad and a team manager for football and wrestling.  
“The cancellation of sports is very disappointing to me. Me and a few other girls worked our butts off all winter to perform a great track season and that chance has been stripped away. This is saddening not only because I knew how badly I wanted a great track season, but also because I know my teammates did as well. I really believe that this season would have been one to remember with not only amazing relays, but with an even more amazing team behind it. One other way the cancellation has affected me is by taking away the last sport to watch my brother Colby perform in. (Colby broke several records in his career in both football and track and field).
I never miss any of Colby’s sporting events, but especially not track ones. I’ve watched him fail, succeed, and grow in a long-jump and I am sad that I will never get that chance again. He has had a great past three years with track and he deserves one more shot also alongside his teammates.
There are two main things I was looking forward to the most (before the track season was canceled). The number one goal this year was to build and grow as a team. I wanted everyone to get a taste of inner success and feel rewarded around their teammates. Whether that was winning a race, having a (personal record), making it to the Drake Relays, state, finally going off the blocks correctly or even if it was making a new friend, I just wanted my teammates to feel accomplished on our track team.
The other thing was making it to state. Going into high school, my one main goal for sports was to make it to state all four years on track. I have worked really hard to make that happen and I was willing to work even harder this year.
But I did not only want the state meet for me. I have some pretty hard working teammates that just as equally or even more deserve to go to the state meet. I always have looked forward to state, it is amazing, action-packed, and just a lot of fun. I wanted to try and get a lot of the track team to qualify this year in many different areas and I think we could have. Sadly, we will have to wait for next season.
I think athletes will learn now to never take their sport for granted from this lockdown. I think almost any track kid would take the pain from a hard practice or the chilliness from a track meet if that meant that they got to run again. It will help the individuals realize that they truly do love the sport even on the hard and best days. For me, this lockdown has opened my eyes even wider to how much I care for the sports and the ones included in it, and how I really do miss it.
If I am being completely honest, I am not sure yet how I will fill the missing void. As of right now, I am normally not where I would be as an athlete at this time. But that is okay because these are not normal times.
I will try to take this time and reflect on how I truly want to be on and off the track. This makes me want to work even harder to be the best I can be because I never would have guessed that I would be where I am right now.
When it comes to the next sports season I will work my hardest knowing how I felt when I was not able to perform. And as for school, I will be completely ready for what is thrown at me. Because like I said before, I will learn to not take different things for granted. I will find a way to figure out how to deal with the void I am in right now, but I know for a fact when I am back with my teammates, coaches, classmates, and teachers, that I will be completely ready and will give 100.”

Annie Twillie, junior
“Spring sports being cancelled affects me because the goals that I set for myself this season can no longer be accomplished.
I was looking forward to a good year and hoping to improve my times from last year.
Never take anything for granted.
I plan to keep doing the track workouts so that I can be better for next year’s season.”

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