Four seniors show there are many way to be track and field stars
To be perfectly frank, only one senior on the New Hampton boys track team has a legitimate shot at making the state track and field meet.Jake Usher is a part of the Chickasaw 4x800 team that barely missed making it to Des Moines a year ago.The same quartet — the Usher boys, Nolan and Jake, Alex Schumacher and Keagan John — has posted the 16th fastest time in Class 2A this year and may be the Chickasaws’ best bet to make it to Drake Stadium next week.But this column isn’t about the boys who have shots at making state; instead, it is about four seniors whose chances of making it to Des Moines are slim to none.This column is about four seniors — Kam Pfaffle, Michael Drewelow, Oliver Perez and Miguel Salas — who represent all that is right with high school sports.They are the unsung heroes of New Hampton’s improbable run to a second-place finish at last week’s Northeast Iowa Conference meet.How, you ask? Didn’t that quartet combine for a mere 2.25 of New Hampton’s 107 points?But those four seniors are critical components to what has been a pretty cool boys track season for the Chickasaws, and the reason is simple — they personify what it means to be great teammates.None of them entered this season with hopes of winning titles or even scoring a ton of points; in fact, my guess is that they knew they would “fill out” varsity lineups and even have to compete in junior varsity events.How easy would it have been for them to say something like, “I’m a senior, why do this? Why practice with hardly any shot at glory?”Yet, they came out. They’ve worked hard. And, trust me, they contributed, and they deserve standing ovations.Don’t take my word for it; take their coach’s.“We’ve had great senior leadership in so many ways this year,” Scott Frerichs said Friday afternoon, “and I think you saw that last night. ... They are a big reason we have such great chemistry on this team.”With my two sons competing on this team, I’ve seen it all season.Hang around the New Hampton “team camp” at a meet, and you realize this team gets an A in chemistry.Led by four seniors whose track careers — barring an honest-to-goodness miracle — will end Thursday night at the Class 2A state qualifying meet, this may be the loosest track team I’ve seen in my 30-plus years of covering track and field.Nothing is sacred with these guys, and I’ve seen each of these four seniors – Pfaffle, Drewelow, Salas and Perez — crack up their teammates right when they needed it the most.On Thursday night, my youngest son, Noah, experienced disaster in the discus. After consistently throwing in the 120s for most of the season, his best throw was 99 feet and he finished next-to-last in the event.He was, in a word, crushed.The Noah of 2016 would have folded in the shot put, but there were two of those seniors — Drewelow and Pfaffle — giving him crap, snapping off jokes and getting him in the right frame of the mind.It worked. Noah came up with a career-best throw in the shot put, and while I’ll give my kid credit for bouncing back, I wonder if it would have happened without that senior leadership.When he threw the shot 47 feet, 4 1/4 inches, Drewelow shouted to him, “Nice job, Noah; now double it.”Sometimes the best way to take on pressure is with a laugh, and these seniors get it.I wish to God there was something like a 4xgreat teammates at the state meet. If there was, Kam Pfaffle, Michael Drewelow, Oliver Perez and Miguel Salas would be on top of the state’s leaderboard.Last week, those four seniors, along with their classmate Jake Usher, would have been honored during Senior Parent Night, but alas, the New Hampton Invitational was cancelled because of crummy weather.That’s too bad, because, in my opinion, they deserved that moment, for they are truly track stars.