Greene County Hall of Fame: STILL THE BEST
By BRANDON HURLEY
The 1994 season was a year of redemption.
The Jefferson-Scranton girls’ track and field team was mentally tested and possessed the skills to succeed, but had fallen short of expectations a year prior. A finish outside the top 10 after finishing runner-up in 1992 was more than a tad disappointing.
Former Jefferson-Scranton track and field head coach Mavis Sawhill as well as assistants Tim Buenz and Kelly Simpson knew they were on the cusp of something great. At the time, it was simply a matter of pushing their girls to believe. They lacked the necessary confidence of a champion. Henceforth, a familiar phrase began spreading through the high school hallways.
“Hi, state champion,” sang the dozens of veteran track and field stars as they passed each other on the way to class. That’s all it took, a few choice words, initiating a run that’s never been matched since.
Perhaps a promise of bear crawls added even more fuel to the fire.
The Jeffettes overcame a number of obstacles along the way. But they were also a group that possessed unique characteristics and a will to win. There was the notorious dust storm in Gowrie. A promise of a dream and the confidence to achieve it.
The 1994 Jefferson-Scranton girls’ track and field team, to this day lays claim to the school district’s rarest feat.
Simply put, the Jeffettes remain the only squad in school history to win a state championship. Yes, there have been individual champions prior to and after, but never has another team – in boys or girls athletics – brought home the prestigious championship, which is why they are all now members of the Greene County High School hall of fame.
The 1994 J-S track team compiled 56 points to win the state title, easily evading runner-up Davis County, who scored 32. At the time, it was the largest margin of victory in more than 20 years. And boy, did that two-day showing display some of the greatest performances in school history.
It was a team anchored by diversity.
Allison Drewry won the 100-meter state title and also anchored the state championship-winning 4x100-meter relay (Missy Wolterman, Deisha Goshon and Brandy Meinecke). Drewry grabbed hold of the baton as her anchor leg began, nearly 10 meters behind. The Rams pulled out victory by 1/100 of a second.
She also captured a silver medal in the 200-meter dash. Drewry went on to run track for the University of Iowa.
Drewry’s stellar performance was a rewarding come back story, as the state meet during her junior year was cut short as a result of a foot injury. She could only compete in the first of the three days, derailing her extremely high hopes.
She placed fourth in 1991 and ‘92 in both the 100 and 200. Drewry won the 1994 Drake Relays 100-meter dash championship. Hopes were incredibly high when she and her teammates took to the track in 1994.
The state title-winning Jeffettes placed within the top six in 10 of their 13 events in Des Moines. They brought home three state titles, three silver medals and two bronze.
Kris Curnyn won the discus state title for the second straight year and was runner-up in the shot put. Curnyn would later go on to became one of Iowa State’s most decorated field event stars.
The 1994 senior class secured four Raccoon River Conference titles and four district championships. They were a class of dominance, with all seven seniors at one time or another, each securing spots on the state medal stand during their four year careers.
The 4x800-meter relay of Wendy Lautner, Wolterman and Jessi Betts and finished runner-up with a school record time of 9:40.21
The 1992 J-S team finished second thanks to Curnyn’s first state title, which meant expectations were high once the 94 season arrived.
It was a long, time-consuming process that finally came together in a perfect storm of sorts.
“I remember coming back from Drake Stadium on a school bus, being escorted by a fire truck and a police car,” three-time state champion Kris Curnyn Hagedorn said Jan. 16 on the Jefferson High School stage. “It gets me every time. The community was waiting for us. That’s amazing. The sirens were going around the square, and the town was waiting for us.”
Perhaps nothing stands out as vividly as the bear crawls. The coaches promised to perform the grueling conditioning tactic from the 50-yard line after each meet victory. The reward for a state title was each coach bear crawling the entire length of the Drake Stadium football field.
“That’s a memory I’ll never forget,” Curnyn Hagedorn said. “It was amazing.”
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The allure of nature’s most delectable snack nearly derailed a once-in-a-lifetime spring.
Amy Luft’s love for cookies, in her opinion, as relayed by head coach Mavis Sawhill, had caused her to gain a few extra pounds prior to the 1994 season. The junk food had slowed her distance times as well. So, simply enough, she gave up the cookies for the betterment of her team. Luft’s mental discipline played off, allowing her to secure a pair of state bronze medals in both the 1,5000-meter run and the 3,000-meter run, becoming one of the most pivotal members of the J-S state championship squad. That’s just one of the many stories depicting the Rams’ incredible passion during the spring of 1994.
“We had a dream,” former head coach Mavis Sawhill said Jan. 16, speaking to a stage full of her former athletes. “You deserve this honor.”
The 4x100-meter relay of Wolterman, Deisha Goshon and Brandy Meinecke Peterson was the spitting image of coach Sawhill’s “Dream Team.” The coaching staff was constantly in search of athletes that possessed the necessary skills.
“We looked for the person who had the personality to take the (baton) hand off in crowds,” Sawhill said Jan. 16. “It required feisty girls. But we had to find four girls that knew each other well, too.”
Each member of that 1994 squad received a plaque honoring their induction into the Greene County Hall of Fame a week ago, and only a small handful failed to show. Some of the athletes have become educators themselves, while others have turned to a career in coaching, much to the pride of their old coaching staff.
“They all handled breakups and spats with friends. They left that off the track,” Sawhill said. “They had a desire to be a teammate to everyone on the team. All the girls on the team are state champions.”