Coming to Terms Part III: Boys' Track: A HURDLE NEVER CLEARED
By BRANDON HURLEY
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second week of an extensive series detailing the emotional cancellation of the spring sports high school season. For the next month or so we will share comments from Greene County athletes in various athletics and how they have coped with Governor Kim Reynolds’ decision to halt sports amid the COVID-19 outbreak and what they plan to do with their newfound free-time. next up, we feature the Ram boys’ track and field team.
May was positioned perfectly to pave the way for a remarkable run of history. Making an appearance at the annual state track and field meet wasn’t going to be enough for this crop of Greene County athletes.
Not only does the reality of no spring sports cut deep, it also robbed several seniors of their final chance at championship glory.
This was the year. A class with dozens of records in tow was ready for one last hurrah, a fitting cap to a historic era.
Nope. Unfortunately, Coronavirus and COVID-19 will forever stand in the way. There’d be no shot at multiple state titles, no opportunity to defend their district crown. The Greene County boys’ track and field team was another victim of Governor Kim Reynolds’ decision to cancel the remainder of the school year, and with it the spring sports season, and perhaps it's one of the most unfairly hit.
Then, a cold dose of reality struck a devastating blow, ending the season before it ever really began. As the government decision began to sink in, head coach Chad Morton witnessed his athletes stutter at a loss for words. What made it even more frustrating was how the coach had to break the news. He was forced to do so digitally, and not in person.
“I’m sure they were disappointed, but it was more silence than anything else I heard in our online video meeting,” Morton said. “I think some kids anticipated the decision that was made not to host spring sports. Some asked if they would have a chance to compete this summer yet.
Morton continued, “I told them we would have to wait and see. I encouraged them to continue to workout not just per chance we would have some opportunities this summer, but for their well-being.”
After securing a top 15 team finish at state a year ago, blessed a veteran core complete with plenty of state-tested athletes returning, these Rams were ready to pounce on their competition. Colby Kafer and Carter Morton were hoping to each secure their fourth straight state appearance while Greene County had eyes on a potential team title. But, that was all wiped away, and it hit his athletes hard, coach Morton said.
“It is very disappointing to me that I was not able to coach all my seniors. I know they all would have had stellar years,” the coach said. “They have all worked hard less past 3 years. Now I just sit back and say ‘just imagine what they could have done.’
The Greene County senior class had broken four school records during the three years prior, and Morton believes they would’ve threatened to set at least three more records if they given the chance. Their improvements, he said, have been nothing short of remarkable, and he had plenty of faith they could achieve even greater success.
“Look at the growth these kids have made from year-to-year,” the coach said. “Breaking school records since their freshman year. Most school records are broken athlete's senior years.”
Greene County senior Colby Kafer is the school-record holder in the long jump (22-06.5) and has re-written several times throughout his career. He was prepared for redemption this spring after placing second a year ago at state. He’s a three-time state qualifier and also a Drake Relays qualifier. Sadly, he’ll graduate without that final chance at history. The young athlete has become the epitome of resilience, battling various, sometimes severe injuries while still setting the all-time Greene County career rushing record as well as the single-season mark last fall. Morton has been along for the ride the last three years, as an assistant on the football team and as the head track coach. He’s witnessed Kafer’s humility and grit first-hand, guiding him to become an even more chiseled model of success.
“Colby is a rare breed of athletes these days,” Morton said. “He is relentless on what he is willing to give up for his team, school and community.”
Morton was blown away by Kafer’s unselfishness when he chose to sit out a 100-meter race last spring knowing that fellow teammate Tyler Teeples would have a better shot at winning if he didn’t enter as well. Kafer also never once complained when he had to split backfield duties during his junior campaign, a year after being the primary running back and setting school records. That is a true testament to his character, Morton said.
“Through all of Colby’s athletic career he has kept his head down and just lead by example,” Morton said. “Competing through injuries is most impressive. And he still competed so well that no one would have know he was injured.”
Carter Morton was in line to improve on his bronze medal in the Class 2A state high jump a year ago along with medal-stand appearances in both hurdles events. He’s signed on to perform for the UNI track and field program next fall.
Jaxon Warnke, a fellow senior and vital member of various relays, also shared his thoughts on the cancellation:
“Overall, I just miss being out on the track with all my teammates. I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of this.
I was most looking forward to competing with not only other teams, but with my teammates as well. I was also looking forward to seeing our teams growth from last year.
I learned how to self-motivate (during the pandemic). I realized that it’s easy to sit around all day and get lazy, but if I really want to succeed next year, I need to put in the work now with no excuses.
I’ll miss the ‘family bond’ most. In every sport I’ve played, I’ve always felt a family-like bond between all my coaches and teammates. The coaches make sure everyone has each others back, no matter what.
Without school or spring sports, I have a lot of free time, so I work and workout a lot just to keep my mind busy, otherwise I’ll go insane from boredom.”
For an in-depth first-hand account from Carter Morton, a fellow Greene County track and field athlete, head to the adjacent story on the first page of sports.