Twice last year, a group of community members encouraged others to pass a vote for a $29.4 million general obligation bond for Creston school updates and renovations, but twice they were denied.
There were two main reasons a person voted no on the measure. The first was taxes. These voters didn’t want taxes to go up for any reason. The second group felt the bond prioritized athletics over academics. Comments were made about academics needing to be the top priority.
After only a few months covering Southwest Iowa athletics, I’ve come to see the inaccuracy of the statement.
Let me preface by saying, academics and the arts are important; however, for the purpose of this, I will speak to the necessity of athletics for our youth.
In school, we learn many things. We learn the quadratic equation, writing in MLA style and the period table of elements. While surely some professions use these learnings, the vast majority of us haven’t used any of these outside the classroom.
The athletes I have covered this year showed me the attributes they have learned and demonstrated in athletics, and let me tell you, we have a lot to be proud of when it comes to these kids.
Last weekend was state track, and it really hit me how fortunate we are to have these athletes representing Southwest Iowa. The character they’ve shown will take them far in life, and the world needs these positive traits.
In Leksi Gannon of Murray, I see kindness and sincerity. She watched an athlete take first in the 100 meter dash and become the first female athlete from Newell-Fonda to win a state championship. Gannon narrowly finished second, missing the chance to be Murray’s first female state champion.
Yet she was all smiles and genuinely congratulated the girl on her achievement. She stayed positive, had great things to say about her competitor, and came back to win the 200m dash and her title as Murray’s first female state champion.
In Gabe Funk of Lenox, I see leadership and maturity. As a freshman he became a state champion as a part of the shuttle hurdle relay team. As a sophomore quarterback, he led his football team to the state semifinals. Funk presents himself maturely through these victories, and is a joy to watch.
In Chris Aragon of Creston, I see patience and determination. He did not make the varsity lineup for three years, but didn’t let it deter him. He continued to improve himself and fight to earn his spot. This year, he capped his high school career competing at state in both wrestling and track, along with being named co-outstanding male athlete of the year.
How many times in life have we all been told no? Being able to push through that will make the world of difference for him going forward.
In so many athletes, but particularly Ryce Reynolds of Mount Ayr, I see humility and grace. Being as successful as he is, it cannot be easy to remain grounded. He told me his faith plays a big role in his ability to remain focused.
He goes out of his way to talk about other athletes, his teammates and God as motivators. People are gravitated to him because of his talent and success, but they stay fans because of his character.
In Max Chapman of Creston, I see fortitude and resilience. It doesn’t matter how badly a wrestling match goes, he will dust himself off and enter the next bout thinking he’s “the baddest man on the mat.” I admire his ability to put the past behind him and walk out with confidence. It’s no doubt a big reason for his success.
Maybe you’re thinking of course these athletes have good character, they’re successful. And that’s fair. To that, I give you the Creston/Nodaway Valley girls soccer team.
In them, I see perseverance and positivity. They finished the season 1-15 and didn’t finish seven games due to the 10-point rule. It would have been so easy to throw in the towel, and say I’m done with this.
But never would you have known these girls were pushing through this adversity. Every game, they smiled. They congratulated each other. They talked about what went well. And guess what? Every game, they got better.
Watching them, the improvements were blatant. They continued to smile and persevere through what could have been a miserable season. Covering home teams who rarely win can be difficult, but with this team, it wasn’t. They never let up; they never stopped trying. Watching them improve as teammates and players was one of the highlights of the spring season.
Here’s what I’m trying to say: doctors and teachers and engineers are important. But good people with patience, determination, maturity, kindness, perseverance and humility are vital. We should not diminish any avenue in which our youth are learning these attributes.
Creston boys soccer coach Chad Malmanger said it best. “The score at the end of the game doesn’t make them a better neighbor in life.”
These kids have done us proud. Now it’s our turn to show them they’re worth it. If the group goes for a bond again, I would encourage you to vote yes because athletics are important, and these youth are the future of our world. Someone paved our way and now we’re being called on. It’s time to answer that call.