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OUR STORY: The Perfect Season, Now A Perfect Reality

Lady Tigers Win First-Ever State Golf Title, Eden Lohrbach The Individual Champion Again

Perfection on a golf course, it’s just not possible, not unless someone out there has the ability to post 18 consecutive aces on a scorecard. You’d have better odds at winning the lottery in six consecutive weeks while dealing with the fact that you’ve also been struck by lightning three times during that span.

So, yeah, forget about perfection.

On second thought …

There is such a thing as a perfect golf season. The Gilbert girls’ team just achieved it. Junior phenom Eden Lohrbach did too. And it was a beautiful thing to watch.

Exorcising the demons of 2022 — more on that later — with two solid days of golf, our girls’ squad hoisted the program’s first-ever state championship trophy late Friday afternoon at Pheasant Ridge Golf Course in Cedar Falls.

Honestly, it wasn’t all that close.

Led by junior Eden Lohrbach’s second individual state title in three years, the Tigers led by seven strokes after Thursday’s opening 18 holes and then extended the final margin to 19 strokes by the time the Class 3A 36-hole tournament wrapped up on Friday. Rounds of 332-321 (653 total) on the 5,379-yard, par-72 layout easily dispatched runner-up Dubuque Wahlert (341-331-672) and third-place finisher Clear Lake (339-337-676).

At no time on Friday were our girls in danger of relinquishing the lead. The margin reached double digits early on when Josie Dukes and Macy Underwood started off strong, and it continued to steadily grow throughout the day as all of the golfers toured the course.

As for perfection, well, how about these numbers …

•There were some duplicates, but 86 teams attempted to beat the Tigers this spring, whether it was a dual, a triangular, a quad, or a tournament. All 86 failed.

•If you want to count the two-day state tournament as two separate events, then the number of foes reached 104. Again,104 failed.

•As for Eden Lohrbach, the math is even more ridiculous. She faced challenges from somewhere between 500 and 600 golfers in April and May. And she beat them all.

This was all expected, of course, considering Eden’s talent and the remainder of the team comprised of either talented freshmen with a familiar last name or cagey veterans. But I’d argue that makes the feat even more impressive. Each time our girls stuck a tee in the ground, there was a bull’s-eye on their backs. And it didn’t matter one bit.

There was a bit of redemption too as the girls subtly celebrated their achievement near the clubhouse on Friday. The scars of the Devastation Of 2022 are still visible, but hopefully now they’ll fade. In case you don’t remember (sorry girls), the Tigers took a 12-stroke lead into Day 2 of the 2022 state tournament at River Valley Golf Course in Adel, only to see their nerves and an unfortunate pin placement that made national headlines seize that title from their clutches and hand it to Clear Lake by two strokes.

The girls spent the 2023 season using that disappointment as fuel. And on the eve of last week’s state tournament, head coach Grant Walker and his girls burned those memories — quite literally — when they set the 2022 scorecard ablaze. The card may have turned to ashes, but the fire burning inside of the players only grew hotter as the week progressed.

Eden’s two-day total of 143 included a 2-under 70 in Round 1 and a 1-over 73 in Round 2 to give her a five-stroke win over runner-up Rebecca DeLong (73-75-148) of Clear Lake. Also the 2021 state champion and 2022 state runner-up, Eden plays a game most of us are unfamiliar with. Her high, naturally fading drive finds the fairway on virtually every hole. Her irons are crisp, and her wedge game is a notch or 12 above pretty much every golfer in the state.

And here’s a little bit of knowledge for you — had her putter been hot or even lukewarm on Friday, that 73 would have been more like 65 or 66. Over her last 15 holes, she burned the edges on a plethora of birdie putts, but her ball striking was so superior that it didn’t matter.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Eden’s game is her demeanor. Whether she penciled in a birdie or a bogey, she stayed laser-focused. She doesn’t throw clubs. She doesn’t grumble. And she’s always gracious to her playing partners. In other words, she’s an absolute joy to watch and a tremendous role model for her teammates and future golfers who hope to one day be just like Eden.

The University of Nebraska is getting a good one. A really good one. But not before she returns to Gilbert next year to attempt to win a third state crown. And is there anyone out there who doesn’t believe it will happen?

The other girls played their parts as well.

On Day 1, Ella Lohrbach fired an 83, and twin sister Ava Lohrbach added an 89 along with Macy’s 90.

On Day 2, Ava went pin-seeking with an 81, and Macy matched her to shave nine strokes off her opening-round score. Josie took five shots off her Day 1 total with an 86.

Don’t sleep on what Sydney Lynch did either. Her schedule late in the week consisted of the opening round of state Thursday morning, followed by a quick drive back to Gilbert to help the Tigers’ soccer team reached the 1A state tournament. Sydney and her dad, Rob, turned right back around and made it to Cedar Falls late Thursday night so Sydney would be ready for Friday’s second round.

I’m exhausted just typing that.

So, what does the 2024 landscape look like for our girls’ team? With only Lynch exiting due to graduation, and with Haley Loonan in the fold, there’s no doubt the Tigers will be among the favorites to win the state championship again. That’s probably being too modest. Truth serum time — they’ll be the favorites. That’s a lock.

I can’t wait to follow it all again.

OUR STORY: When “We” Is Bigger Than “Me,” Dreams Can Come True

As I sat in the air-conditioned (that was a plus) media center inside Drake Stadium going through photos this evening, a vision suddenly entered my mind. It was a look into the future. Let me try to paint you a picture.

It’s 50 years from now and four women in their mid- to late-60s convene near the front door of Gilbert High School. First they hug with tears in their eyes, and then they laugh as they chatter on and on about their lives. And then they hug some more before locking hands and walking side-by-side through the doors.

They head directly to the trophy case and quickly find what they came together for. It’s a picture of four bubbly teenagers on a sun-speckled Iowa afternoon, all of whom have a gleam in their eyes and a smile that reflects pure joy.

They just stare at that photo. And they remember how it was at that moment they became Gilbert legends.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, those four women are Clare Stahr, Sophia Bleich, Keira Andersen, and Sarah Feddersen — Gilbert’s latest collection of talent to bring a state title to our halls. They accomplished that feat earlier today when they lived up to their billing as Class 3A favorites in the girls’ 4×800-meter relay on the opening day of the 2023 Iowa Coed State Track and Field Championships.

They didn’t just win a state championship. They left everyone else in their wake. Their winning time of 9:29.11 broke their own school record by more than seven seconds, and it left no one else in the class with a chance. Solon, thought to be their closest competitor leading up to the day, finished second … a full 10 seconds behind our girls.

As Jonathan Moxon so eloquently tells his teammates in Varsity Blues, that’s heroic.

But what made the moment, the race, and the day so special wasn’t just the gold medals the girls wore around their necks out of the stadium. It was how they captured those gold medals. Simply put, they did it by running for “we” instead of “me.”

In my nearly 23 years as a sports writer, I watched many, many … many state-meet relays. Not all of the time, but often enough title-winning teams had one or two superstars and two or three others who had one mission: get the stick to the stud.

That’s not how it went for our girls. Because, honestly, we’ve got four superstars, unique in their own ways. They were able to put it all together because they worked for it. They dreamed about it. They pushed, and nurtured, and celebrated each other. And when the spotlight was at full brightness shining right in their eyes, they never blinked. Not once.

As for the race itself, it was incredibly nuanced. It really was worth the price of admission.

Clare Stahr was handed the toughest task on the lead-off leg, but to see the look in her eyes … the girl is a bulldog. For 400 meters, every stride was a fight as she attempted to wedge herself out of a large pack, and as she made the turn on her second lap, she was 10th. Over her final 400 meters, she showed why lead-off runners don’t come any better. She took off, passing one girl after another, and by the time she handed the baton to Sophia Bleich, she had pushed Gilbert into the top four.

Seemingly always smiling, Sophia put together the leg that was the turning point in the race. Calmly, methodically, she inched closer to the leaders, and as she reached the scoreboard with 200 meters remaining, Sophia said see ya. She came to the front stretch neck and neck with the leaders, and was the first to hand off the baton. Just like that, Gilbert was in the lead.

For good.

Next up was Keira Andersen, a freshman with talent for days. She could have been nervous. Many in her shoes would have been. She could have tightened up. Many in her shoes would have. But with a clear track in front of her, Keira simply went for a run like she was back home in Tiger Stadium. Her stride was even, her pace was perfection. And as the seconds ticked, the gap widened and widened … and widened some more.

That set the stage for Sarah Feddersen on the anchor, a sophomore who just a few months ago had no idea how good of a runner she was (news flash: she’s incredibly good) when she decided to give track a try for the first time. I said it right when she grabbed the baton from Keira and headed on her way: Game Over. Nobody was going to catch her. And nobody came close.

This was four ultra-talented runners coming together with a common goal. It took work. It took sacrifice. Ask them now and I’m pretty sure they’d quickly tell you it was all worth it.

Congratulations, girls. You’re state champions, a moniker no one can ever take from you.

You got exactly what you deserved.

Melody Honored With Ed Thomas Award

New National Honor Society Members Introduced, Senior Awards Distributed

Faith. Family. Football.

Those are the three pillars that legendary Iowa high school football coach Ed Thomas lived by prior to his untimely and tragic passing in 2009. As a way to honor the legendary Aplington-Parkersburg educator and coach, each spring the Iowa Football Coaches Association selects one individual from each class as the recipient of the Ed Thomas Award, and the winners are chosen based on their commitment to character and integrity.

In the state of Iowa, there is no greater honor bestowed upon a student-athlete. All-conference and all-state accolades are tremendous achievements. But the Ed Thomas Award takes it to another level.

And now, the honor has come to the halls of Gilbert High School.

Iowa Football Coaches Association member Ken Winkler made a stop at Gilbert Wednesday night during Senior Awards Night to surprise soon-to-be GHS graduate Ben Melody with the Ed Thomas Award for Class 3A.

The IFCA couldn’t have chosen a better recipient than Ben, who demonstrates empathy and compassion on a daily basis as he makes his way through our halls. He consistently puts others first, and his work in bringing Moving Forward to fruition will have a lasting impact on our district long after he’s a student.

“I was absolutely pumped to hear Ben was receiving the Ed Thomas Award,” Gilbert Head Football Coach Graham Lundt, who nominated Ben for the award, said. “Ben has such a positive influence on our football program, school, and community. His legacy of what he has done off the field will be felt forever.

“Ben is an inspiration to not only his peers, but the adults around him. In my coaching career, I cannot think of a more deserving student-athlete than Ben.

Gilbert Activities Director Ian Smith echoed Coach Lundt’s thoughts.

“Getting to know Ben over the last year is one of the greatest honors of my education career,” Smith said. “He’s a top-notch individual and the impact he’s made on the Gilbert school district will be felt for years to come.

“Winning this award is extremely fitting because of the young man that Ben is, and I’d like to thank Coach Graham Lundt for nominating Ben for this great honor.”

The Ed Thomas Award was just one piece of what was an incredible evening inside the GHS auditorium. The evening began with 29 new members being inducted into the National Honor Society, and it was followed by Senior Awards Night, where accolades and scholarships were handed out to a large number of our 2023 graduates.

The list of new National Honor Society members, as well as all of the award and scholarship winners, are listed below.

Congratulations to Ben on his prestigious award. Congratulations to our newest National Honor Society members. Congratulations to all of our seniors on their achievements.

It was a great night for our students and our school district!

2023 National Honor Society — New Members

•Olivia Blumhagen
•Sadie Breyfogle
•Averie Bruner
•Abby Deal
•Carly Dolan
•Adalyn Gauck
•Will Hawthorne
•Ella Henningsen
•Taryn Hicks
•Zoey Jones
•Mia Kautman
•Nathan Lee
•Mayson McQueeney
•Kiera Miler
•Kilee Miller
•Gretchen Mizerak
•Laurel Mizerak
•Vivian Nally
•Elle O’Brien
•Abby Patel
•Taylor Puck
•Kaylin Richards
•Anna Saltzman
•Mollie Schnormeier
•Elizabeth Smith
•Andrew Soupir
•Reese Wilson
•Carter Winter
•Kylie Zeigler

Senior Awards Night Winners

•Ed Thomas Award — Ben Melody.

•Bernie Saggau Award — Owen Kautman.

•IGHSAU Iowa Girl Award — Abby Greder.

•HAMO Foundation Scholarship — Cody Wirth, Nolan Weber, Maria Saltzman, Lauren Nissen, Owen Kautman, Ava Henningsen, Alex Harswick, Emma Nelson, Brooklynn Nees, Connor Clark.

•GEA Future Teacher Scholarship — Addison Pink, Jessica Stoker.

•Athletic Booster Scholarships — Owen Kautman, Lauren Nissen, Cason Eggert, Julianne Lundvall.

•Key Cooperative Scholarship — Abigail Dies, Cody Wirth.

•Grandma Jensen Scholarship — Judith Ruiz-Ortiz.

•Story Medical Foundation — Brooklynn Nees, Madeline Roche.

•Beta Tau Delta Sorority — Brooklynn Nees, Madeline Roche, Brock Christensen.

•Marge Bly Scholarship — Madeline Roche, Owen Kautman.

•VL Schwenk Scholarship — Zach Holtan.

•Clare E Shepard Scholarship — Brooklynn Nees.

•Fine Arts Booster Scholarship — David Hinderaker, Jessica Stoker, Lane Maxson, Seera Smadi, Anna Tallman.

•DAR Good Citizen Award — Ben Melody.

•Award from Central Iowa Realtors — Alex Ruba.

•Chris Covell Scholarship — Jessica Stoker.

•Bob Jensen Scholarship — Ben Melody.

•US Army Scholarship — Storm Cichy.

•Ames Noon Kiwanis Club Scholarship — Madeline Roche, Owen Kautman.

•DMACC Scholarships — Maggie Fink, Madelyn Sabus, Ozzy Sents.

•Bethany Life Scholarship — Madelyn Sabus.

•FFA Alumni Scholarship — Abby Dies, Julianne Lundvall, Wilson Lofstedt, Makayla Britcher.

•Bill Ludwig Lions Club Scholarship — Madeline Roche, Maria Saltzman.

•GRIP Mentoring — Lauren Nissen, Jackson Stensland, Ben Melody, Aidan Wimmer, Brock Christensen, Jake Danilson, Carson Ragaller, Erik Soenksen, Owen Kautman, Brooklynn Nees, Owen Wirth, Addison Pink.

•Dr. James McKean Memorial Scholarship — Eden Gildehaus.

•League of Women Voters — Maria Saltzman, Madeline Roche.

•Class Clown Award — Josh Huang.

•Cory Keith Patterson Award — Hank Johnson.

•Lindsay Ellingson Memorial Scholarship — Owen Kautman, Madeline Roche, Johnna Rotto.

•Pro Nails Scholarship — Madeline Roche, Lauren Nissen.

•Geil Family Scholarship — Lauren Nissen, Madeline Roche.

Sports Nutritionist Ellen Davis Excited For Journey At Gilbert

Davis to begin working with high school student-athletes on May 4

As a high school athlete, Ellen Davis constantly raised eyebrows, and that’s not hyperbole. She went by Ellen Ries back then when she put together one of the most decorated running careers in the history of Iowa high school athletics.

How fast could she run the 800 meters? As fast as she needed to in order to reach the finish line first. Seriously. She was that good. Her long stride, her focus, and her talent were equaled only by her competitive drive.

If she was in the race, the odds were good — pretty close to 100 percent, actually — that everyone else was battling for second. And every single one of those other runners knew it too.

Over her four years at North Linn High School, Davis won 13 state track titles and two state cross country crowns. She was a Drake Relays champion as well before embarking on a collegiate career at the University of Missouri.

And that’s where her story took a turn. In the short-term, it was for the worse. But as she looks back now at the big picture, she knows everything happened for a reason.

Those low moments? They made her into the person she is today, someone who dedicates her professional life to helping student-athletes learn the things she didn’t necessarily know as a 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old.

Davis was bitten by the injury bug over and over again during her early years at Missouri. An ankle injury just four weeks into her freshman year was just the tip of the iceberg. Over the course of three years, she sustained five stress fractures and no one could answer the most important question: Why?

“It was a hamster wheel of pain and sadness and a lot of fatigue,” Davis says now, thinking back to those early days at Missouri.

Davis went in search of her own answers and, thankfully, that led her in the direction of the dietetics program at Missouri. She learned about nutrition, about fueling her body, about how the food you put in your body is not only vital to performance, but also recovery.

It paid substantial dividends. By the time Davis exited Missouri, she had earned all-Big 12 honors and qualified for the 1,500 at the NCAA Championships.

“Part of me was a little frustrated because what could have been had I figured it out in the beginning, but the other end of the rope is that it happened for a reason,” Davis says. “I knew graduating from Mizzu that being a sports dietician would be my future.”

Welcome to Gilbert

Davis’s backstory is paramount to the present, as she gets set to embark on a new journey working with Gilbert High School’s student-athletes, their families, and our coaches over the next eight months. With the support of the Gilbert Athletic Boosters, Davis, who is a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, was contracted through the end of the calendar year.

“The Gilbert activities department is so excited to have Ellen Davis on board with us,” Gilbert Activities Director Ian Smith said. “Her experience and knowledge as a sports nutritionist will give our student-athletes another tool to be able to be at their best on the field and in the  classroom.”

Davis has spent the better part of the past 14 years working in the performance nutrition field. In July of 2022, she launched The Performance Collective with the focus on supporting student-athletes in the complexities of nutrition, recovery, and injury prevention. It’s a collaborative effort, as she partners with sports physicians, sports psychologists, mental performance specialists, and other healthcare professionals to treat the athlete as a whole.

“My goals are to enhance performance, recovery and injury prevention using nutrition,” Davis says. “But my primary goal at the end of the day is to support student-athletes as human beings, not just student-athletes. I want to support their physical, mental, and social well being with nutrition.”

This isn’t just a job to Davis. This is a passion. A calling. And she treats all of the individuals she works with as such.

“It’s impossible not to see myself in the eyes of the people I’m talking to,” she says. “What I love most about what I do are the people I meet and the long relationships I develop with the students, their families, and the communities.

“I like to see my athletes win, but it means more to me when they call me or send me a picture of their prom dress, or whatever is meaningful to them at that moment. That’s what I’ll remember forever.”

Davis brings her knowledge to Gilbert where she hopes to cultivate a positive culture that utilizes food as the secret weapon. She will have her initial meeting with student-athletes on May 4, and over the summer months she will meet with respective teams. Student-athletes will also have the opportunity to meet with her on an individual basis.

“I will personally be onsite for the large group meetings on a monthly basis,” Davis says. “We will focus on topics like fueling fundamentals: Why is nutrition important for performance recovery and injury prevention? We’ll talk about how to have a positive relationship with food, and we’ll talk about hydration.”

Davis says student-athletes will learn how the proper nutrition boosts the immunity system, and how it enhances the quality of sleep as well.

Parents will also have the opportunity to interact with Davis through Zoom meetings on a monthly basis. Those will occur the third Wednesday at noon each month, and Davis says all of those meetings will be recorded for those parents that are unable to attend. Davis will have a presentation for parents each month, and there will also be time for parents to ask questions.

Gilbert’s coaches will meet with Davis bi-monthly. She says a big focus with the coaches will center around Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-s), which is a syndrome of poor health and declining athletic performance that happens when athletes do not get enough fuel through food to support the energy demands of their daily lives and training.

“At least 60 percent of high school athletes are affected by RED-s,” Davis says. “It causes a lot of complications … that was what affected me (in college).”

She’ll work with the coaches on cultivating a positive fueling culture and how to promote a positive attitude with food and workouts, among other things.

In her initial meeting with parents on Wednesday, Davis stressed that she’s not the food police. Not now and not ever. But if she can help to give our student-athletes nutrition knowledge, she’s confident it will be one more piece in place to help them succeed.

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Gilbert Community School District

Gilbert Community School District

103 Mathews Drive, Gilbert, Iowa 50105  |  (515) 232-3740