As graduation nears, so does the season of track. North Tama has a tremendous history in track, the first state champions being Sid Dean in 1929 and Ralph Martin in 1930-32. Bruce Erickson still holds the state javelin record (state champion in 1937 to 1939), and his untimely death and honorary award established in his name has inspired others to "strive for the gold." Edwin Moore of the Waterloo Courier wrote of his death in 1939:
"There are a flock of youngsters in Traer and throughout the state who will, in the years to come, hear much of the deeds of Bruce Erickson. They must believe all of them because all of them are true."
These champions and some of their teammates ran the infamous blue oval at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. It is quite an experience to partake in, and one that state qualifiers and champions both alike never forget. Lori Ewoldt was kind enough to pass along her state track meet memories and I would like to pass them on to you in following:
Though many details escape me, there are moments from the 1979 track season that I will never forget. In those days, the goal of any high school athlete was to qualify for state. How you did when you got there was less important than the fact that you made it to state.
North Tama didn't have a track in 1979 but we still had a pretty good track team. We ran on the streets of Traer and drove over to Dysart so we could get a sense of running on a real track. Our team won a few meets including the Dysart Relays and the BGM Relays. We were thrilled when we won the district team title AND had several events qualify for the state meet. On the bus ride home we sang Queen's "We Are the Champions" over and over. Then we drove around Traer in a car caravan - honking horns and screaming as only teenage girls can.
We took a school van down to Des Moines for the 2 day state meet at Drake Stadium. The Drake track looked HUGE when we were warming up I was certain that it was longer than 400 meters. I ran the first leg of the distance medley and the second leg of the sprint medley. When you finished running your event, you would move to the infield and scream (like a teenage girl) for your teammates who were yet to run.
We were predicted to finish in fourth place as a team. I didn't care because the real mission was accomplished we were running at the STATE MEET. It never dawned on me that we could win the team title. That was a key difference between winning the title in 1979 and repeating as champions in 1980. In 1979 North Tama girls track was essentially unknown. That was not the case in 1980, and as a result I would say that the first title was the sweetest (my opinion).
Our group of seven was led by seniors Jana Hite, Robin Lundak and Kathy Visser. Junior Lori Drinovsky, sophomore Janice Ohrt, and freshman Dawn Kos rounded out the North Tama contingent. The camaraderie we shared is my favorite memory. I remember sitting together under a big shade tree waiting for our relay to start it had rained on Friday, but Saturday was sunny and warm. When we were on the infield of the track, we often looked at the crowd to find the loyal group of family and friends who had traveled to Des Moines to support us.
The last event of the entire meet was the mile relay I was thankful I wasn't in it because I did not like to run quarter miles. Jana, Kathy, Lori and Janice won the race for North Tama. We gathered our belongings from the infield and headed for the stands to greet family and friends. I will never forget Kathy saying something like "don't get too excited, but one of the race officials just told me that we won the meet." This wonderful news was soon confirmed and the North Tama celebration began in earnest. High school was not always a happy time for me, but at that moment, it would have been impossible to be happier. Though it has been many years since I have seen any of my 1979 teammates, I know we will always be united by this single event.
Looking back over 30+ years has also made me realize that I often took my parents for granted during those drama filled high school years. I assumed there would always be someone who loved me in the standsand there waseven though track meets occurred at the height of corn planting season. Dad and Mom you rocked then and you STILL ROCK NOW!
Best wishes to the state qualifiers from North Tama and I hope you continue the great North Tama tradition of track success and championships. Just to qualify to participate at the blue oval is an honor.
Next week, Tammy Devries Greiner shares her memories of the 1982 4x800 relay state championship.