Highlights — 1.3.11

MSR Digest

The new metropsportsreport.com website is up and running. Here are some of the stories we have posted: 

Wrestling rankings — Linn-Mar is No. 10 in The Predicament magazine’s Class 3A wrestling poll and has five ranked wrestlers.

Metro athletes earn honors — Three Metro athletes have been named players of the week by the Mississippi Valley Conference.

Former ‘Mr. Basketball’ dies — Former Waterloo West prep all-stater Chris Gaines, Iowa’s Mr. Basketball in 1986, has died of an apparent heart attack.

Tomorrow is a huge night for prep basketball in the Metro area. All 14 teams will be playing. Check metrosportsreport.com for scores, stories and stats.

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New website up and running

It’s moving day

By Jim Ecker

Metro Sports Report

It’s moving day for the Metro Sports Report and you’re invited to come along for the ride.

We promise, it will be a smooth, easy trip. We’ve been posting our stories at http://www.metrosportsreport.wordpress.com since late August, a blog site that served us well and delivered more than 28,000 hits in four months. It’s now time to say goodbye. We’re leaving wordpress and moving to our own website at www.metrosportsreport.com/ on Monday, Jan. 3 as we officially launch the new site for your enjoyment.

We’ve anxiously awaited this day and have worked hard to put an attractive product together. We hope you like it. Our new website will be a full-scale operation with multiple stories, pictures, display ads, standings, statistics, schedules, polls and other items on each page. By comparison, the wordpress website was limited to viewing one story at a time.

No more. We’re going “live” with 54 pages on Monday, featuring the seven high schools in the Cedar Rapids/Marion metro area.

We’re focusing on the winter sports for now, but we’ll add the spring, summer and fall sports as we move along.

Simply go to www.metrosportsreport.com/to get started. That gets you to our home page, where you’ll find a variety of stories, pictures and other information.

Across the top of the home page, you’ll see each of the seven schools listed in alphabetical order for your perusal. Click on your favorite school and go to the school’s home page, where you’ll find more stories, pictures and information.

At the top of a school home page you’ll see a prompt that says “select a team.” Click there and you’ll get a dropdown box with all the varsity sports, then click on your favorite team and go straight to the team page.

It’s simple: Go to the Metro Sports Report home page, go to a school home page, go to a team page. It’s all there, within easy reach.

We’re delighted that we received more than 27,000 hits on the wordpress web site in just four months, especially since we did little to publicize our temporary location. The site grew through word-of-mouth, links and creative clicking that got us many loyal readers in such a short period of time.

Our success on wordpress gives us great hope that our new website will be very popular and well-received in the community. Think of it this way: We had 28,000 hits on wordpress in four months, which probably would have translated to 84,000 hits (or more) during a 12-month period if we stayed put. Now that we’re moving to a full-service website, it’s reasonable to think we’ll get more than 100,000 hits in 2011 and possibly much more.

It’s going to be fun to find out. We’re excited about our new company and have been delighted with the response in Cedar Rapids and Marion. It seems like we’ve made a lot of friends in a relatively short period of time, and we’re just getting started.

It’s moving day and everyone is invited. (www.metrosportsreport.com)

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Book review — 1.2.11 Marion

Book gives insight into Hipple’s legacy

By Jim Ecker

Metro Sports Report

Marion native Dan Kellams gives readers a rare treat with his new book on former Marion High School coach Les Hipple, well worth the time for anyone interested in the school or the city itself.

Kellams, a Marion High School graduate who played for the legendary coach, provides a poignant biography of the stern taskmaster whose teams dominated the Wamac Conference in the 1940s and 1950s, while also providing a keen historical look at the city of Marion itself.

Hipple compiled a 105-42-10 record in 18 years as Marion’s head football coach from 1945-62 and won seven conference titles; collected a 310-120 record in 20 years as the boys basketball coach from 1945-65 and captured 12 Wamac crowns; coached the boys track team from 1945-62 with five league titles, and also won eight state cross country titles in a row.

Hipple is a member of the Iowa Halls of Fame in both football and basketball, one of the few coaches to hold both honors, and his basketball teams were among some of the best in the state, regardless of classification. Marion High School named the school’s athletic fields after him in 1978, a fitting tribute to his career, but numbers and honors don’t do justice to the man or the book (“A Coach’s Life: Les Hipple and the Marion Indians”).

Hipple, who died in 1999 at age 86, was a strict disciplinarian who placed heavy demands on his players. He received strong support in the community during the glory years from parents and administrators, but times changed and support waned. He became a controversial figure and ultimately was fired, leaving behind a legacy of success, outstanding athletes, love, respect and some bruised feelings.

Hipple treated all his players alike — stars and deep reserves — and often said he didn’t care what his players thought of him at the time, but cared deeply about what they’d think of him in the future when they were grown men. There are several moving tributes to Hipple by former players, who indeed grew to respect the values he instilled in them as boys.

His rules were among the strictest in the state:

1) No smoking or drinking.

2) In bed by 10 p.m. every night, except Friday and Saturday, when a midnight curfew was allowed.

3) Dates with girls must be kept to a minimum. No going steady.

4) Cannot miss practice without permission.

5) May not drive cars except on Sundays (remember, this was the 1940s and ’50s.)

6) Use only proper language at all times.

7) Take best possible care of equipment.

8) Keep dressing rooms clean, home and away.

Players who violated rules were ordered to run endless laps, while serious or repeat offenders were kicked off the team.

“You, as a Marion Indian, cannot do some of the things other students do,” Hipple wrote in 1952. “If you think more of smoking, drinking, dating or going steady, staying out late at night, or riding around in automobiles, then you are not willing to ‘pay the price’ and it is best for you not to take out a uniform … To be on a championship team you have to be a champion yourself.”

There are still numerous “Hipplemen” in Marion, successful businessmen and fathers who learned valuable lessons from their coach. But no mistake, they feared the man and knew they risked dismissal, with no chance for appeal.

Kellams does an excellent job of describing some of the big games and championship seasons, but it’s the historical backdrop of the town and its rapid growth during this period that grips the reader. There are fascinating behind-the-scenes stories about Marion principals, superintendents, school board members and the athletes themselves, along with the role disgruntled parents played in Hipple’s demise.

There’s a telling segment about racial discrimination at the municipal pool, along with detailed accounts about growing up in Iowa in the early and middle parts of the 20th Century.

Kellams gives a balanced account of Hipple’s life, stressing his triumphs while not ignoring the shortcomings, but the author’s deep respect for the man comes shining through.

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Bowling — 1.1.11

Metro area bowling is booming

By Tom Fruehling
Metro Sports Report

Too bad high school letter jackets are no longer in vogue. Maybe then the newest group of prep letterwinners would get more recognition.

Right now, high school bowling is mostly a sport followed by the bowlers themselves, their family members and few fans. But that doesn’t mean it’s not popular.

“It is,” says Linn-Mar boys coach Andy Diercks, “the fastest growing high school and collegiate sport in the country. It’s had double-digit growth in terms of numbers in the past five or six years. And it just keeps growing.”

As it turns out, Eastern Iowa — more specifically, the Cedar Rapids and Marion metro area — is the hotbed of prep bowling.

“No question, the top bowlers in the state are right here,” says Don Wilfong, the longtime boys and girls coach at Prairie. “And our league (Mississippi Valley Conference) is by far the toughest week in week out.”

As a sanctioned high school sport in Iowa, it is a fairly recent phenomenon. Barb Staub, who with husband John owns Lancer Lanes in Cedar Rapids, has been in the family business all her married life and has taught youth for close to 40 years.

For many years, as her own children Andy and Stacy were tearing up the
local lanes, she informally directed an intramural club program at the
former LaSalle High School.

“I can remember when we had 103 students in the school, and 78 of them
were on the bowling team,” she says. “We’d get some of them together for a
state tournament, but otherwise there wasn’t really any organization.”

Wilfong, who’s been a bowler since his grade school days of setting pins
in his hometown alley at Belle Plaine, points out that it wasn’t until
1999 that bowling proprietors themselves in the state formed a formal
federation for high school competition. It followed a nationwide trend.

“Iowa has always had good youth bowling programs, so the base was there,”
says Wilfong, who has coached Prairie girls and boys for a decade.
“The kids wanted it, and the proprietor saw it was a good way to get more
of their friends involved in bowling.”

The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union established girls bowling teams
as a sanctioned team sport in 2005. It became an official boys sports just
last year.

Now schools have a set schedule of 12 meets in the school year, on a
weekly basis from late November leading up to the state tournament for
teams and individuals in Des Moines in late February.

According to Wilfong, there are about 50 teams in Iowa representing the
bigger schools (including all six from the metro area in the MVC) and a
similar number from smaller schools (including Marion High School).
His own Prairie contingent numbers three dozen boys and a dozen girls. And
while that’s one of the larger rosters among local teams, he says the rest
are catching up fast.

“And all the teams are all competitive,” notes Diercks, whose own passion
for the sport is shown by the fact that he and his wife, Makala, both met
and were married at their hometown lanes in Cherokee.

“We have tight matches every week. Bowling around here is on a whole
different level than the rest of the state.”

Bowlers must abide by the same eligibility rules as other athletes, and
coaches have to be certified by the state education association.
Diercks sees enormous benefits for both schools and students.

“Statistics show that students who participate in activities do much
better in class. It’s not really the case at Linn-Mar, but studies also
show that at a lot of schools the bowlers aren’t involved in other things.

“It gives these kids a chance to be part of a team,” he says.

In addition, it’s a relatively inexpensive sport for schools to offer,
since there are no equipment costs and bowling lanes charge minimal fees
to promote participation. Besides, there’s an array of college scholarship
funding available to young bowlers.

Wilfong says more and more small colleges, and even some universities, are
now fielding teams and recruiting athletes (Mount Mercy, for instance,
will begin competition next year). One of his four-year Prairie stars, scholastic
state recordholder Drew Balta, is a freshman full-ride scholarship bowler
at William Penn College. Also on full scholarship at Wichita State
University is Linn-Mar grad Melissa Sobolik.

On top of that, Diercks points out, national and local bowling
organizations have established scholarship funds just for participation in
youth bowling leagues.

“There’s a lot of opportunities out there,” he says, noting that his own
two young children already have funds set aside.

Wilfong’s daughters, Emily and Brianna, are getting money for books
from her bowling fund while studying at Kirkwood Community College.

“Unlike some other sports, there’s not a lot of risk for injury,” the
lifelong bowler says. “Unless you drop a ball on your foot.”

Posted in Boys bowling, Girls bowling, Jefferson, Kennedy, Linn-Mar, Prairie, Washington, Xavier | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boys swimming — 1.1.11 Linn-Mar

Lions go the extra distance

By Jim Ecker

Metro Sports Report

Swimmers at Washington, Jefferson and Kennedy can stroll down the hallways at their school and jump in the pool for practice. Not at Linn-Mar.

The Lions don’t have a pool.

Linn-Mar practices at Coe College, which requires a daily bus ride toward downtown Cedar Rapids. Coe has a terrific facility, but there are logistical problems.

For one thing, there’s not enough time for the Lions to practice before school in the morning. That puts them at a competitive disadvantage, because Washington, Jefferson and Kennedy all swim before school and after school.

For another, Linn-Mar cannot practice immediately after school because the Coe pool is booked with other groups. The Lions practice from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and don’t return to school until approximately 10 p.m.

“It’s a huge commitment for the guys,” Linn-Mar Coach Ralph Cortez said. “It’s a hurdle.”

The Lions lift weights in the mornings at Linn-Mar, but there’s no morning swim. So while the other Metro schools have two practices per day, the Lions are trying to keep pace with a single practice at Coe. 

The impact? “Huge,” Cortez said.

On top of all that, the Lions don’t have the Coe pool to themselves . They share the facility with other groups from 7:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., then have the water from 8:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Despite the restrictions, Linn-Mar finished ahead of Jefferson and Kennedy at the state meet last year and the program appears to be growing. Cortez had 14 swimmers when he became the head coach seven years ago, and now he has 35.

“We’ve turned out some really great swimmers, so I’m excited to see what will happen when the circumstances change,” he remarked.

By “circumstances,” Cortez means Linn-Mar getting its own pool someday.

“It has been proposed and it has been taken forward, but it always stops,” he said.

Cortez, 47, is not complaining. A successful swimmer himself at Fresno State from 1982-86, he’s proud of his team. He said most of the swimmers have “great” GPAs and are involved in other school activities.

“They’re busy, busy people,” he said.

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Championships — 12.31.10 Xavier

‘X’ marks the championship spot

By Jim Ecker

The lane that leads into the Xavier High School parking lot is cleverly called the Avenue of the Saints, but it also could be called Championship Alley.

The private school on the northeast side of Cedar Rapids has won 21 state titles since 2003, making it one of the most successful schools in the state, regardless of size or classification.

Xavier has won six state titles in girls soccer, four in boys soccer, three in girls basketball, two in girls cross country, two in boys cross country, two in boys track, one in baseball and one in football.

“Some schools are known as a football school, some are known as a basketball school,” said Mike Winker, Xavier’s activities director. “I’m very proud of the fact that it’s been multi sports.”

Xavier offers 19 varsity sports for boys and girls, and the Saints have won state championships in eight of them. They’ve won at least one state title for eight straight years and claimed six titles in 2006.

“I am surprised that we have won that many,” Winker said. ”When we started putting up banners and the team pictures, we were hoping to have two or three or four, maybe, after 10 years. It’s just been unbelievable. I’m pleasantly surprised.”

Xavier High School opened in 1998-99, the result of combining Regis and LaSalle into one private high school. The girls basketball team won the first state title in the winter of 2003, opening the floodgates.

“When they won it, it told everyone in this school that, ‘Hey, we can win it here,’ ” Winker remarked. “I think it gave people the confidence that Xavier can win state championships. Until you win that first one, people don’t know if that’s realistic or not.”

Coach Tom Lilly and the Saints also claimed state 3A titles in girls basketball in 2005 and 2007, giving them three banners.

Xavier won the girls state cross country title in the fall of 2003, giving the school two crowns for that calendar year. Xavier also won two state titles in 2004 and two more in 2005, showing the school was here to stay. Then came a truly banner year when the Saints notched those six titles in 2006.

The Saints captured crowns in girls cross country, boys cross country, boys soccer, girls soccer, baseball and football in 2006. All state titles are impressive, but the Class 4A state title in football was especially rewarding because Xavier’s enrollment is much less than some of its big-school 4A competitors.

Officials at the Iowa High School Athletic Association think Xavier is the smallest school to ever win the 4A football crown in state history.

“That’s pretty cool,” Winker said. “It’s a neat accomplishment.”

 Winker said former Xavier principal Jeff Henderson helped instill an attitude that the Saints could compete at the highest levels.

“It took some time,” Winker noted. “We had growing pains in terms of getting everybody on the same page.

“It’s so important that parents are on the same page as the coaches, administrators and the kids, because if the kids go home and hear, ‘We can’t compete, the other schools are too good,’ that doesn’t help.”

Lilly’s first state title in girls basketball in 2003 paved the way.

“It told everybody else, we can do this,” Winker said. “And it was almost like there was a race amongst the boys to be the first boys team to win a state championship.”

The boys soccer team won the race in 2004. All told, Xavier girls have won 11 state titles and Xavier boys have won 10 titles.

Regis and LaSalle were playing in smaller conferences when the two schools combined to form Xavier. The Saints joined the Mississippi Valley Conference with larger schools from Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Dubuque, Waterloo and Cedar Falls and had to compete in 4A football, but not everybody at Xavier thought it was a good idea.

“There were a lot of people in our community that thought we can’t be a 4A school, we can’t compete in the Mississippi Valley Conference,” Winker said.

Winning the Class 4A football title in 2006 dispelled that notion. Many of Xavier’s state titles came in lower 1A or 3A divisions, but the football team conquered the biggest schools in the state. 

The banners for all 21 state titles are displayed at the top of the basketball court at Xavier. You can get a stiff neck from looking up and counting, because it’s crowded up there.

“I think I have room for maybe nine more,” Winker said with a smile.


2003 — Class 3A girls basketball, Class 3A girls cross country

2004 — Class 1A boys soccer, Class 1A girls soccer

2005 — Class 3A girls basketball, Class 1A boys soccer

2006 — Class 3A girls cross country, Class 3A boys cross country, Class 1A boys soccer, Class 1A girls soccer, Class 3A baseball, Class 4A football

2007 — Class 3A boys cross country, Class 1A girls soccer, Class 3A girls basketball, Class 3A boys track

2008 — Class 1A girls soccer, Class 3A boys track

2009 — Class 1A girls soccer

2010 — Class 2A boys soccer, Class 1A girls soccer

Posted in Baseball, Boys soccer, boys track, Cross Country, Football, Girls basketball, Girls soccer, Xavier | Leave a comment

Boys basketball — 12.30.10 Linn-Mar

Typical teen with atypical talent

By Tom Fruehling
Metro Sports Report

To hear basketball phenom Marcus Paige tell it, he’s just a typical teenager.

Marcus Paige

The baby-faced 17-year-old Linn-Mar junior has loads of friends, some close ones from other schools he’s known since playing YMCA ball together in grade school. He’s active in a number of school organizations, his favorite being one that has him reading books in elementary classrooms.

“I like being with the little kids,” says the soft-spoken, polite young man. “And I think it’s important that the big kids be role models for them.”

He has his own role models, too. His dad, Ellis Paige, is a juvenile probation officer, and his mom, Sherryl Gaffney-Paige, is a longtime English teacher at Marion High School and until this year the Indians’ girls basketball coach.

The parents met while basketball stars at Mount Mercy College. Paige has always been close to his big sister Morgan and says he misses her more than he thought he would when she left this year on a basketball scholarship at the University of Wisconsin. Morgan’s a blue chipper in her own right, an all-stater on her mother’s very successful Marion teams.

Like most boys his age, Marcus has a collection of video games, which may partly explain his delicate touch with a basketball. But he says his folks are strict about homework and doing well in class.  Since his freshman year at Linn-Mar, he’s never had less than straight A’s.

But all things considered, he contends, “I really lead a pretty simple life.”

Except that a few weeks ago, he spent the weekend at the University of North Carolina and came back with yet another of the dozens of offers he’s received to play major college basketball. His first two came when he was in the eighth grade, from Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa, and it’s been a steady stream ever since.

Illinois Coach Bruce Weber has hung out in the Linn-Mar gym this year. At a recent game, Cyclone Coach Fred Hoiberg and Bill Self of Kansas stood side-by-side against the wall at one end of the court. Hawkeye Coach Fran McCaffery’s come-a-calling more than once.

UCLA and Virginia are also in the mix, and the 6-foot-1 southpaw point guard says he plans to narrow his list of suitors to a handful after this season.

“It’s going to be a difficult decision for him to make. He’s got so many great options,” says his coach Chris Robertson, who has the Lions 6-0 at the winter break and ranked No.1 among big schools in the state. “But Marcus has a great, great future. He understands the game so well and never gets too high or low. He’s so intelligent, it’s like having an extension of the coach out there.

“And he’s a tremendous teammate. He gets everyone else involved. He’s a great leader and just a great kid. He’s humble and unselfish. He makes everybody else better.”

Paige has displayed those skills since second grade, when he teamed up on the Cedar Rapids Twisters AAU squad with current Metro high school senior stars Kasey Semler of Marion and Wes Washpun of Washington.

“We were pretty much interchangeable at point guard,” Paige says of the trio that stayed together for five years. “We had good chemistry.”

For the past four years, from April through July, he’s played 60 games or more all over the country with the top-flight Martin Brothers select AAU team out of Waterloo. He’s started all three years at Linn-Mar, and his team has never lost a game at home.

Two years ago, the Lions lost in the state tournament to the Harrison Barnes-led Ames juggernaut; last year, they lost to Southeast Polk in the semifinals while Marcus was slowed with mononucleosis.

Robertson points out that his versatile point guard has always been surrounded by all-staters, so he’s been counted on more as a distributor of the ball rather than the main scoring threat. It’s a role that suits him fine.

This season, however, Paige has boosted his average to around 18 points a game, to go along with his usual arsenal of assists and steals. He has hit more than 60 percent of his field-goal tries, about half of his 3-point attempts and almost 90 percent of his free throws.

“He’s become more explosive,” says his coach.

This coming Saturday, Jan. 8, Linn-Mar travels to the Twin Cities to take on perennial suburban powerhouse Apple Valley at the 20,000-seat Target Center, home arena of the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves. For Marcus Paige, it likely won’t be the last time playing in the spotlight on the big-time stage.

So much for the simple life.

Posted in boys basketball, Linn-Mar, recruiting | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Football — 12.29.10 Marion

Hawkeyes’ Reisner makes former coach proud

By Jim Ecker

Metro Sports Report

Marion High School football coach Tony Perkins was watching the final minute of the Insight Bowl Tuesday night with his family when Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi hit tight end Allen Reisner with a 33-yard pass to clinch the game.

Allen Reisner

Reisner played for Perkins at Marion, and everybody in their house had the same reaction when he caught that ball and nearly scored.

“All of us were out of our seats,” Perkins said Wednesday morning. “We were really excited.”

The Hawkeyes faced 3rd-and-short at the Missouri 40-yard line with 53 seconds left, nursing a 27-24 lead. Just about everybody, including the Tigers, expected a safe handoff to Iowa tailback Marcus Coker, who enjoyed a record-setting night, but Stanzi faked to Coker, rolled right and hit a wide-open Reisner for a 39-yard gain to the 1. It was a perfect play.

“If you watched the rest of the season, they did that a lot with Allen,” Perkins said. “He was the get-out-of-jail-free guy all year.”

Marion used Reisner as a tight end and “H” back during his career with the Indians, similar to his duties with the Hawkeyes. In fact, the Hawkeyes borrowed some of those plays from Marion when they were recruiting him.

“They asked if they could put some of that in (their playbook),” said Perkins, who was happy to oblige. Reisner, a 6-foot-3, 248-pound senior, caught three passes for 50 yards in the bowl game. He finished the season with 42 catches for 460 yards and finished his UI career with 69 catches for 834 yards and four touchdowns.

“He is just a quality young man,” Perkins said. “With all the bad news of athletes getting in trouble, you never heard any of that with Allen.

“I’m very, very proud of what he’s done at Iowa. It was a pleasure to coach him.”

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Facilities — 12.29.10 Prairie

New gridiron for Hawks this fall

By Mike Deupree

Metro Sports Report

Anyone familiar with outdoor activities at Prairie High School over the years probably also is familiar with with occasional football games played in mud, canceled band practices and other inconveniences brought on by the Iowa weather.

Rocky Bennett

Those problems should be history soon, thanks to a large-scale renovation of John Wall Field that’s scheduled to be finished before next football season. It’s the latest phase in a series of facilities improvements at Prairie, where upgrades for the baseball and softball programs are nearing completion and a 1,000-seat concert hall has been in use for a couple of years.

“A lot of fantastic things are going on,” said Rocky Bennett, Associate Principal and Activities Director at Prairie, citing cooperative efforts by the College Community School Board, the Prairie booster club and “many, many others. I can’t say enough about all they’ve done.”

The big news at the football field is replacement of natural turf with an all-weather surface. The College Community School Board will be taking bids on that and other parts of the project soon.

It should make a huge difference for participants in football, soccer, marching band and physical education, whose practice and competition requirements put heavy demands on the field and suffer when it isn’t usable.

“Two springs ago we had 67 or 68 cancellations,” recalls Bennett. And that number doesn’t take the effect on football into account.

The update is not limited to the new surface. It also includes the addition of 1,500 seats to the 3,400 now available, plus work on restrooms and perhaps construction of storage space. Bennett was reluctant to put a price tag on the improvements, because the extent of the work is still to be determined, and bids are still to be solicited.

Considering the need to make final plans and the fact construction always seems to encounter delays, could the goal of having the work finished next summer be a little optimistic? Not in Bennett’s view.

“It will be done,” he said confidently. And for the future, he added, “I’m hoping every child in this district has an experience on that field.”

The revamping of the baseball and softball facilities already is done, or nearly so. Construction workers were on the job even as the snow began to fly last month on a new press box and a building for concession sales and restrooms. Those are among the finishing touches of a project that has been in progress several years.

“I took over as Athletics Director six years ago and started right away working to renovate the baseball and softball fields,” Bennett said.

The fields were stripped and resurfaced, the dugouts replaced. Baseball and softball players have two indoor batting cages now where they can sharpen their eye, both located at nearby Prairie Creek Elementary School; those units will be joined by three more, one located with the two existing cages on the stage and the other two in the basement of the South gym.

The upgrades have been varied and extensive, and in Bennett’s view, necessary.

“If you want award-winning bands and teams and (other) activities, you have to have top facilities,” he said, taking the opportunity to once again express gratitude to those who are making it possible.

“It takes a village,” he said of the task of making the wide-ranging project a reality. “The district has stepped up huge.”

Posted in Facilities, Prairie | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Swimming — 12.28.10 Jefferson

Honored by Hall, Santee shuns the limelight

By Jim Ecker

Metro Sports Report

Lee Santee has been an assistant swimming coach at Jefferson High School for 39 years. That’s a remarkable achievement, but he didn’t think it was worthy of any special honors.

Les Santee

“I thought I was only doing what I was supposed to do,” he told the Metro Sports Report.

The members of the Iowa High School Swim Coaches Association felt differently and inducted Santee into their Hall of Fame in November.

“I was surprised,” he said. “I didn’t expect it.”

Santee, 65, figures the Hall of Fame should be for elite swimmers and legendary head coaches, not a career assistant who was just doing his job.

“He doesn’t want that recognition,” said Ryan York, Jefferson’s head coach. “It’s not about him, it’s about the kids. He always wanted to make that very clear.”

This time it was about him, however.

York, 33, swam for Santee at Jefferson. So did hundreds of others, boys and girls.

“He is Jefferson swimming,” York said. “He’s a great motivator. He knows if you were having a bad day, he knew the right thing to say.”

Santee returned for his 39th season despite suffering a moderate heart attack in August.

“I talked to him the day he was at the hospital,” York related. “He said, ‘I’ll see you at practice on Monday.’ There was not a hint in his mind that he was going to retire.”

Santee had an operation on Thursday and had every intention of attending practice that Monday with the Jefferson girls’ swim team, but he didn’t make it. “My doctor said I couldn’t go,” he remarked.

He missed two or three days of practice and missed one meet. Then he returned.

It’s hard to keep Santee away from the pool, even though he wasn’t a high school swimmer himself. He grew up on a farm near What Cheer, Iowa, and Tri-County High School did not have a swimming team.

“I swam in the middle of the night, out in the river, setting fish lines,” he said.

Santee began teaching in 1967, and in 1972 Jefferson swim coach Jim Taylor asked him to help coach the team.

“He said, ‘I need somebody who can work with people,’ and I said, ‘Well, I can do that,’” Santee related.

A career as an assistant swim coach was born, even though Santee knew little about the sport.

“Nothing,” he said. “Absolutely nothing. I learned on the job.”

He never aspired to become a head coach.

“I was asked several times by different schools, but no, I never wanted to,” he said. “I was busy with other things. Being an assistant coach allowed me to kind of be several places at once.”

Santee taught at Taft, Harding and Jefferson before accepting an early-retirement package in 2002, but he never retired from coaching. York, who is half Santee’s age, doesn’t want to think about him retiring.

“It’s been a pleasure working with him,” York said. “I look forward to it every day.”

The Jefferson boys’ swim team practices at 5:30 in the morning. Santee beats them to the pool.

“Every morning,” York said. “He’s there at 5 or 5:10 every morning. We get there and just chat.”

Santee, who lives on 32 acres in Swisher, is accustomed to getting up early, dating to his days on the family farm neat What Cheer when he had to milk cows by hand.

“You did your chores first, then you had breakfast,” he said.

He’s still doing his chores, and after 39 years it landed him in the Iowa High School Swim Coaches Association Hall of Fame. They think he’s the only assistant coach in the Hall of Fame, but nobody is sure.

“It’s quite an honor,” he said.

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