Murken Column: We Will Never Know What Stories the Spring Sports Season Would Have Brought But I have My Own Idea
Your Prep Sports
I love my job.
Hopefully anyone that is a regular reader of this column, a follower of Your Prep Sports or has met me in person already knows that.
I absolutely love what I do but Friday was no fun.
Spending an afternoon asking questions to high school seniors that had recently learned they wouldn’t get a chance to chase their dreams or reach their goals on soccer fields, tennis courts, tracks or golf courses this spring was not something I was looking forward to.
More honestly, I was dreading the calls to coaches and athletes that found out the spring sports season was cancelled due to the currently coronavirus pandemic.
As is almost always the case, I was completely in awe of the area athletes I cover.
The answers I got were mature well beyond what anyone would expect from any high school student, let alone one that had recently had their own athletic career cut short.
What started out as an assignment I wasn’t excited to tackle turned into a story I was proud to share thanks to the interviews I conducted.
Like most everyone else, part of me knew the announcement that was made Friday by the Iowa High School Athletic Association and Iowa Girls High School Athletic was inevitable.
It was still a jolt.
For most of the afternoon I was devastated.
My heart aches for all the kids and coaches I cover.
I see first-hand how much they care, how hard they work and how much their respective sports mean to them.
The interviews I did with Solon senior Gabbi Bullard and Clear Creek Amana senior Nick O’Connor changed my attitude.
Both seniors were directly affected by Friday’s announcement but managed to see a bigger picture and look past their own immediate disappointment.
After spending my afternoon sulking I spent my evening thinking of a way to celebrate the area spring athletes.
Your Prep Sports will continue to run Senior Spotlights on the website.
If you are a senior spring athlete or know one that would like to be featured reach out to us @yourprepsports on Twitter and we will get you a form.
Still, all night I couldn’t help but think of this lost spring season. I kept running through the events I’d cover, the area athletes I would interview and the stories I would tell.
I couldn’t sleep so I got up and wrote down what I imagined I’d be doing this spring.
Here they are – the things that would have happened during my coverage this spring.
The Forwald/Coleman Relays would have run smoothly in the snow
Mother nature dumped a few inches of snow across eastern Iowa on Thursday evening.
No matter, the annual Forwald/Coleman Relays would have gone on at Raffensperger Track at City High on Thursday as athletes took one final shot at qualifying for the Drake Relays.
Few schools run a smoother track meet than City High, a long-time tradition that goes back to former coaches like John Raffensperger and Terry Coleman for whom the meet is named.
As current City High boys coach Mike Moore confirmed on Friday not only would the meet have gone on Thursday it would have run on time despite the weather, “Raff wouldn't have it any other way,” Moore said.
Regina would win the 1A soccer title
One thing that you learn quickly covering soccer in Iowa, never bet against Rick Larew and his Regals in the postseason.
Regina is the three-time defending 1A champion and has closed those championship seasons on seven, eight and nine-match winning streaks.
This year’s Regina team would feature one of the state’s top scorers in Alec Wick and senior goal keeper Josh Dutchik who owns a 9-0 record in state meet matches.
There are other great teams in Class 1A but until someone knocks off the Regals they remain the champs.
West Branch would win the Class 2A state golf title
Sometimes the story is just too good not to come true.
After Virginia became the first number one seed in the history of the NCAA tournament to lose its opener you just knew the Cavaliers would go on a magical run the following season.
You could feel it.
That’s this West Branch golf group.
The Bears had unfinished business after finishing four strokes back of Des Moines Christian at the 2A state meet last season that was shortened to one day and returned three of its top four scorers from its runner-up state meet team.
Ashlyn Keeney would win a Drake and State title
Nothing in sports is ever a given, I’ve seen enough to learn that lesson long ago, but this seems like a pretty safe prediction.
Keeney emerged as one of the state’s best distance runners last season winning the Drake Relays 3,200 and adding Class 4A state titles in the 1,600 and 3,200.
The Liberty High standout is simply too dedicated, too talented and too good to not have added to those totals this spring.
The West High vs. City High soccer doubleheader would not disappoint
Another easy call, the annual boy/girl soccer doubleheader between the cross-town rivals always lives up to the hype.
Last season was no exception with the West High boys and City High girls winning 1-0 decisions.
The soccer is exceptional and the talent level and energy is always high on both sides but it’s the atmosphere that stops this event from ever failing to meet expectations.
Fans pack the stands at the University of Iowa soccer field and students sit on blankets lthat line the grass along the sideline.
It’s as good as an atmosphere as there is for regular season soccer in this state.
Ben Robison would lose his voice by the end of the Thursday session at state track
Few coaches are as passionate as the leader of the Clear Creek Amana boys program and you can hear it in his voice, or what’s left of it, after a big meet.
By the time I would have caught up with Robison following the first session on Thursday his once booming voice would be reduced to a raspy whisper after hours of hollering words of encouragement to his athletes in and around Drake Stadium.
Caroline Schaeckenbach would win the 400 hurdles
Schaeckenbach certainly has the talent to win the 400 hurdles, the City High senior showed that last season winning the 4A title in career-best time of 1:03.37.
Her repeat title in the event would be all about keeping with tradition.
The only other athletes in the storied history of the City High track program to win the 400 hurdles, Teesa Price and Sarah Plock, each won back-to-back titles in the event.
Audrey Koch and Jessica Moonjelly would win state doubles title
Good things happen to good people and the West High tandem of senior Jessica Moonjelly and Audrey Koch are two the nicest kids I’ve ever met covering high school sports.
Koch and Moonjelly are both ultra-talented individuals and could have easily gone the singles route this season at state after finishing runner-up as a doubles team last year at the 2A state tournament and the West High team could possibly have had a rematch with the West Des Moines Dowling team that it fell to in straight sets in last year’s title match
However, in my mind of hypothetical stories I’d like to write the two played doubles and won the state title they narrowly missed last season.
Brad Stiles’ West High soccer team would get better as the season went along
There would be a rough stretch or two early in the season for the defending 3A runner-up Trojans, it seems like there always is.
Those early-season stretches that often result in Stiles’ voice raising to a volume that can be heard all the way across Barker Field always seem to be short-lived and long gone by the time the calendar flips to May.
The West High soccer team clicking on all cylinders as the season comes to an end is its own spring sports tradition.
Chip Hardesty would make me laugh
At some point this spring I would have made my way to a City High tennis meet and as he always does Hardesty would have made time mid-meet to squeeze in a conversation.
We’d talk tennis, City High sports in general and maybe even a little politics and somewhere along the line Hardesty would have me chuckling. Guaranteed.
I’ve never covered a City High tennis meet that didn’t have such a conversation and never walked away from one of those discussions without a smile on my face.
Brent Sands would make me cry
I knew this was coming from the time I sent out preseason surveys.
Several years ago the long-time Solon girls coach nearly got to me when I interviewed him for a story about the Spartans’ state medal winning shuttle hurdle relay team that featured his two daughters.
The younger of Sands’ two daughters, Peyton, is a senior this spring.
I planned to talk to Sands at some point during the season about last time coaching his daughter and I planned to get watery-eyed at some point during the process whether it was during the interview, transcribing the quotes or writing the story.
Sands cares as much about the athletes he coaches as anyone I’ve met which makes interviewing him about those kids extremely enjoyable.
It’s also what had me prepared for the inevitable emotions of interviewing him about coaching his own kids.