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Thomas Named Iowa Coach Of The Year By National Organization

U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association honor Gilbert XC leader for second time

Gilbert head boys’ cross country coach Aaron Thomas earned another prestigious award on Thursday when he was named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association 2023 boys’ high school cross country coach of the year for the state of Iowa.

It is the second time Thomas has received the award from the national association. He was also named the Iowa coach of the year in 2018.

“This one is definitely a reflection of the program,” Thomas said. “It’s a reflection of what the guys did this fall … when you think of all the great coaches and programs year in and year out, being recognized is definitely an honor.”

Thomas guided the Tigers to their fourth Class 3A state championship over the past 10 seasons back in late October. Gilbert placed four runners in the top 15 individually en route to the team crown.

Thomas also led the Tigers to state titles in 2014, 2017 and 2018.

All-Time Hoops Great Ava Hawthorne To Be Honored Monday Night

Program’s leading scorer to be presented with Tigers’ jersey

For four seasons, Ava Hawthorne was a walking, talking highlight reel on the court for the Gilbert girls’ basketball team. On Monday, everyone who watched her shine will get the chance to applaud her career one more time inside the Gilbert High School gymnasium.

Hawthorne, a 2022 GHS graduate and current sophomore at Drake University in Des Moines, will be honored at halftime of the boys’ game against Nevada Monday evening. She’ll be presented with the white No. 10 jersey she wore while setting so many records over her four-year varsity career.

“I am so proud of her accomplishments and proud of her ability to play Division I basketball at Drake,” Gilbert head girls’ basketball coach Mike Frisk said of Hawthorne. “I am lucky to have had the opportunity to coach her … Ava will be successful in anything she chooses in life because of her competitive nature and her ability to work as a team.”

The 5-foot-9 guard holds 13 career, single-season, and single-game 5-player school records, including the most prestigious of them all — career points. She poured in 1,409 points in 86 career games, an average of 16.4 per outing. She surpassed the previous record of 1,379 points, set by Tina Zitterich in 1997, with a 30-point effort in a 78-27 rout of Storm Lake on Feb. 6, 2022.

Hawthorne’s other program records include:

•Career steals (278).
•Career assists (333).
•Career 3-point field goals (168).
•Single-season steals (93 in 2021-22).
•Single-season free throw percentage (84.5 in 2020-21).
•Single-season 3-point field goals (60 in 2018-19).
•Single-season free throw attempts (158 in 2021-22).
•Single-season free throws made (131 in 2021-22).
•Single-game steals (9 in 2021-22).
•Single-game assists (10 in 2021-22).
•Single-game field goal percentage (94.7 — 16 of 17 from the field — 2021-22).
•Single-game free throws made (16 in 2021-22).

And, oh by the way, she also ranks fifth on the program’s all-time rebounds leaderboard (485). Not bad for a guard.

As a sophomore during the 2019-20 season, Hawthorne led the Tigers to the Class 4A state tournament and put on a show-stopping performance in an 89-75 Class 4A quarterfinal-round loss to Glenwood. She erupted for a game-high and still 4A single-game state tournament record 31 points to go along with six rebounds, six steals, and five assists. Hawthorne’s one-game performance landed her a spot on the all-tournament team.

Gilbert won better than 71 percent of its games and averaged 16 wins per season with Hawthorne in uniform.

Now a guard with the Drake women’s basketball team, Hawthorne has seen action in all 16 of the Bulldogs’ games so far this season.


Drake University photo by Luke Lu
Gilbert photos by Debbie Gray and Troy Banning

One Stop Shop Available To All Gilbert Students, Families, And Staff

Gilbert families, let’s play a game of Did You Know …

Did you know the Gilbert Community School District has its very own One Stop Shop? Located inside Gilbert Intermediate and run by our Student and Family Advocate Mel Woodin, One Stop Shop is available to all Gilbert students, families, and staff members who are looking for clothing and various other items. There is no cost for these items.

What are some of the items in the shop? It’s stuffed full of things like coats, shorts, pants, T-shirts, sweatshirts, shoes, boots, and socks. There are stocking caps and gloves too.

A new addition this year is sports apparel, such as jerseys, uniforms, shoes, and cleats, and there’s even some equipment, such as baseball and softball bats.

In addition to students and families, Mrs. Woodin says coaches are encouraged to contact her if they have athletes who are in need of items. If she has it, she’ll pass the items on to the appropriate school.

“This is open to everybody in every one of our buildings,” Mrs. Woodin said. “If someone is looking for a size and we don’t have it, we have generous donors and we can usually find what students and families need. If there’s a player who doesn’t want to buy new shoes, they can reach out to me, and even if there are families who are having trouble finding the means to register their kids for sports, I can help out with that as well.”

Mrs. Woodin says she’s always willing to take donations of new or gently-used items. She’s more than happy to accept Gilbert gear that isn’t specific to a year. Currently, she’s most in need of pants for younger children, such as sweatpants and leggings. And there’s always a need for adult-sized clothes that would be suitable and fashionable for high school students.

“We’re always looking for nice stuff of high school kids, things they would wear,” she said.

This past August, Mrs. Woodin ran a PE shoes exchange during Back To School Night, and many families took part. Because PE shoes aren’t worn every day, and because many of the kids quickly grow out of the shoes, she simply set up a large section of PE shoes and families could exchange what they had for a different pair.

“It’s less waste,” she said.

Mrs. Woodin says that if you would like to receive items from the One Stop Shop, you can reach out to her directly by email at, or you can reach out to one of our building counselors. All inquiries are strictly confidential.

If you would like to donate items to the One Stop Shop, please email Mrs. Woodin.

Intermediate Winter Service Learning Project To Benefit One Stop Shop

The Gilbert Intermediate Lighthouse Leadership Team is currently overseeing its building’s Winter Service Learning Project, which is focused on winter warmth.

Students are collecting donations of new or gently-used winter clothing — coats, hats, gloves, scarves, snow boots, and snow pants — to donate to One Stop Shop. Once the Gilbert shop has the items it needs, the remainder of the items will be donated to the Clothing Closet at Bethesda Lutheran Church in Ames.

The Gilbert Intermediate drive is currently up and running and it will end on Friday, Dec. 15. If you would like to donate items, please bring them to the Gilbert Intermediate office.

Grant Walker Named State Coach Of The Year By NFHS

Girls’ golf coach now eligible for national award

A girls’ golf season unlike any other in school history has now produced an award a prestigious few individuals ever attain for head coach Grant Walker.

On Wednesday, Gilbert Schools was informed Walker has been named the Iowa Girls Golf Coach of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations. Nominated by the Iowa High School Athletic Association, Walker is now eligible to be named the National Coach of the Year by the NFHS.

“It’s another compliment really to the players that I have,” Walker, who has been the Tigers’ head coach for seven seasons, said upon learning about the award. “I couldn’t win all of these awards without the players because they make up for my mistakes a lot of the time.

“To get it on the national level is a lot different because you’re competing against a lot more coaches, so it’s exciting to even be considered for that (national) award.”

Following the 2023 spring season in which the Tigers went unbeaten and claimed their first-ever Class 3A state championship, Walker was named the 3A State Coach of the Year by the Iowa Girls Coaches Association, an award he’s now won twice. He’s also been named the 3A IGCA District Coach of the Year four times.

In addition to the 2023 state crown, Walker has also guided the Gilbert girls’ golf program to 3A runner-up finishes in 2021 and 2022. The Tigers have also finished third and fourth at the state meet under his leadership.

But this past spring was unique. Gilbert wasn’t just the best team in 3A, it was the best team in Iowa regardless of class, as the statistics prove. The Tigers owned the top 9-hole average (156.40), the best 9-hole adjusted average (161.36), the No. 1 18-hole average (328.86), and the best 18-hole adjusted average (337.71).

No team beat the Tigers. Not in a dual meet, not in a triangular or quadrangular, and not in a tournament. It all culminated with Walker’s club leading the 3A state tournament wire-to-wire in Cedar Falls, as the Tigers claimed a 19-stroke victory over runner-up Dubuque Wahlert.

Eden Lohrbach, now a senior who will play collegiately at the University of Nebraska, won her second 3A individual title as well.

The 2023 season was truly a dream that became reality, and Walker says the girls were focused on achieving those goals from day one. A narrow loss at the 2022 state tournament was a driving motivator.

“They were out to prove a point last year, and I think everyone around the state got that message by the time the season was over,” Walker said. “They were going out and beating 4A teams by 50 shots.”

And here’s the scary part, for the rest of the state anyway — the Tigers could be, and probably should be, even better during the 2024 season. Five of their state-tournament players and six varsity regulars in all return — Eden Lohrbach and twin sisters Ava and Ella Lohrbach, as well as Macy Underwood, Josie Dukes, and Haley Loonan.

So, yeah, you better believe expectations will be just as lofty later this spring.

“I watched them all summer out at the golf course and I’m assuming they’re not getting worse,” Walker said with a chuckle. “They broke every single record we have last year and I have no reason to think they won’t turn around and do the same thing this spring, so it’s exciting.”

Gilbert Activities Director Ian Smith says NFHS got it right with its recognition of Walker, who has put in an immense amount of time behind the scenes to build the Gilbert girls’ golf program into what it is today.

“I’m so proud and happy for Grant, and he’s so deserving of this award,” Smith said. “Every single girl on the roster knows he cares for them and will coach them the same way, and that speaks to his character. He’s done a lot of work to build this program into what it is, and hopefully that will set us up for good things for years to come.”

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Gilbert Community School District

Gilbert Community School District

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