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The Lost Spring: Central Decatur

Boys track and field

Central Decatur’s boys track, a team representing in seven different state events one season ago, feels the season torn away from them was one they had a chance to be “in the mix” for a top-5 finish the state tournament.

Boys head coach Jon Pedersen said the talent and leadership on the team were going to put the Cardinals as a tough team at the state tournament.

“We felt we could compete at the state level this year,” Pedersen said. “I don’t know if we were a complete enough team to necessarily win a bunch of track meets throughout the year, but we would compete pretty well at the state level.”

Eight athletes that contributed to the long list of Cardinals represented events at the 2019 state tournament – Cole Pedersen, Tyke Hullinger, Haden Leymaster, William Gillis, Anthony Marks and Dakota Reed. Third-place state finisher at high jump, Cuay Spidle, is the only Cardinal boy making state and not returning.

Cole Pedersen was the leading contributor, qualifying in four events – 110-meter hurdles, 4x100 meter relay, long jump and shuttle hurdle. Gillis qualified in the 1,600 and 3,200-meter run. Hullinger and Leymaster qualified in the 4x100 meter relay. Marks was the final Cardinal, qualifying in the shuttle hurdle.

“Coming back we had some place winners and could hopefully score some points that way (at state),” Jon Pedersen said. “We really thought this was going to be Central Decatur’s best chance to compete at that level.”

With veteran place winners returning and a young core of sprinters and long-distance runners, “the future is bright” for the Cardinals, but the team was looking forward to this season.

In a stacked Pride of Iowa Conference, Jon Pedersen feels the conference had the potential to produce first, second and third place in the two-mile this season.

For Central Decatur, Gillis is one of the shining stars of the underclass group who Jon Pedersen expected in the top-3 of the state.

“William Gillis is a very talented young man,” Jon Pedersen said. “We honestly could not have foreseen that he would place third in the state in the two-mile, but he had those expectations this year.”

The season being canceled altogether, hurt the potential futures for a few Cardinals. Notably, Marks was part of the state qualifying shuttle hurdle group and was a key senior Jon Pedersen expected to break out.

“Anthony Marks was in that group,” Jon Pedersen said. “Anthony was our one guy that could be in that. I was really excited for him; he was really running well. You never know, if he comes out and has a great year, he could have the opportunity to go that J.C. (junior college) route.”

As the season remained in limbo, the team continued to receive daily updates on workouts from their coach with a message to stay prepared for the future.

Girls track and field

For Central Decatur girls track, the group is looking to build off of last season despite losing a major part of the program, Emma Atwood.

For the Cardinals, life without its four-event state qualifier, Atwood, was going to be difficult, but girls track head coach Jacob Stamper was excited for the girls’ potential this season.

“I was extremely excited (for this season),” Stamper said. “We gained some really good freshmen coming in. Emma was a big part of our team, but we returned [five] girls who also went to state last year.”

Despite losing Atwood, the expectations for the season remained high. Riley Bell, Lyndsey Dale, Maizee Lindsey, Carleigh O’Dell and Lauren Martin were the five other Cardinals to qualify for the state tournament.

Bell, Dale, Lindsey and Atwood qualified in the shuttle hurdle. O’Dell, Martin, Bell and Atwood were 4x100 meter relay qualifiers.

“We had talent, we had depth, there was excitement because so many got to experience last year,” Stamper said. “... I think this year could have been better than last year to be honest.”

With the season canceled, Stamper, like many coaches throughout the state, has not been able to interact with the team in person. Stamper has sent workouts to the team and is encouraged “to see so many of them stepping up and doing the work on their own.”

“The lack of face to face interaction has forced the team and I to stay connected through social media such as Facebook, text messages, email and Google zoom,” Stamper said. “It’s tough as a coach because I want to be out on the track working with the team and helping them prepare and refine their skills for the season, but instead I am stuck sending out the emails and checking in on everyone digitally. It is nice to have that option but it’s just not the same.”

Before the season’s cancellation, Stamper kept the girls updated with new information that came out, but he’s focused on keeping the girls looking ahead.

Stamper said staying positive and motivated are the main focus, but he feels for the group losing the season because of what they’ve contributed to the program.

“To have the girls work so hard from February through mid-March and then have this happen has been frustrating to say the least for myself and them,” Stamp said. “If the season doesn’t happen, then obviously the girls, myself and my assistant will be extremely disappointed and bummed out. We are just hoping that canceling the season doesn’t have to be canceled.”

Boys and girls golf

Central Decatur’s boys and girls golf teams were geared up for a stellar season before having the season cut short to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Four seniors made up the 14-athlete team – Kristin Schaff, Maggie Frank, Michel Evertsen and Grant Smith. Within the core four, Grand View signees Evertsen and Kristin Schaff were the duo head coach Calieb Kistler expected to lead the team and make a run at a state title.

“It is heartbreaking to my team this year,” Kistler said. “We have a couple seniors that have dedicated the last four years to golf.”

A two-time top-10 state finisher, Schaff was looking to make the state tournament three seasons in a row, putting in the work during the off season to take the next step, winning a state title.

“In the summertime, there is probably not a day that goes by that she doesn’t make it to the golf course in some capacity,” Kistler said. “An individual that works really hard.”

Evertsen, however, was a multi-sport athlete during his time at Central Decatur and wasn’t able to focus solely on golf as Schaff did. Kistler didn’t expect the time away from the golf to hurt Evertsen as much as some other players because of the purity of Evertsen’s swing.

“[Michel is a phenomenal golfer, but the multiple sports ended up kind of taking over his life and golf was always kind of on the back burner,” Kistler said. “His golf swing is one of the best golf swings we’ve seen around Central Decatur in a while. He was looking to do something this year with that golf swing.”

For the remaining seniors, Franks was the emotional leader for the team, uplifting her teammates at practices and tournaments, while Smith improved each season, shooting around the 80s as a freshman to some rounds in the 40s.

For the other 12 members of the team, Kistler has given the team drills to work on during the time off from the sport, and hopes with the leadership of this senior group, the future remains bright for Central Decatur golf.

“All those seniors, they set the tone for, ‘this is what you have to do every summer to be good,’” Kistler said. “Kristin’s leadership, she’s probably playing 2,000 rounds in the summer. Right there, that’s your standard of work ethic to make it to the level that she has, with the state, with the two top-10 finishes.”

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