High School Award Winners


First Place- Sports

As clock ticks away, hockey player stands behind years of dedication to face future



Published: Tiger Hi-Line Oct. 19, 2014

About: Skylar Starbeck is like any other hockey player: tough, smart and skilled. The only difference is that Starbeck is a girl. I thought that a girl being a hockey player was the story, but after I realized Starbeck was just one of the guys, the focus quickly shifted to hard work and dedication she has put into getting to the point she has put herself in. She was offered different opportunities to play in college, but like many students her age, was faced with a decision that would undoubtedly change her life forever.


The clock slowly ticks down on the Under 16 national semifinal game in Frisco, Texas. After scoring the go ahead goal, the San Jose Jr. Sharks were on the defense of the consistent and ferocious attack from the Potsdam Ice Storm, a team that had already beaten the Jr. Sharks in the tournament.

With the score 4-3 and the Jr. Sharks one minute and 30 seconds away from the immortality that comes with being able to compete for the chance to be called the best U16 team in the country, a Potsdam forward broke through for a one on one breakaway with 14-year-old goaltender Skylar Starbeck. A score would send the game into a toss up in overtime, but a save would send the Sharks to the national championship game. Starbeck’s eyes were entrenched on the puck, as goalies are trained to do.The forward faked left, came back across the ice to the right, and with every eye in Dr. Pepper arena, home of the Dallas Stars, glued to the ice, shot the puck. Starbeck, crouched in stance, dived across the crease, making a split save that sent the Jr. Sharks to the USA Hockey National Championship game.

Starbeck was vital to the semifinal win just like she, yes she, is vital to the increased exposure for women’s hockey. The number of girls playing hockey has seen a nearly 1,000 percent increase in participation in the United States over the last 25 years. But still, only 20 percent of high school hockey players are women. When that number is compared to the 45 percent of high school basketball players who are female and the 48 percent of soccer players, it still pales in comparison.

But Starbeck isn’t concerned about all of the statistics and minority lists she is added to. Hockey has been all she has known since she was a seven year old growing up in San Jose, Calif., and continues to this day in her second year living in Iowa. She doesn’t look at herself as a female hockey player; she’s just a hockey player.

The familiar voice of Fox broadcaster Joe Buck carries from the living room TV throughout the house, not once but twice. First he speaks to Starbeck’s father, who is sprawled out on the couch, as well as Starbeck’s grandmother, great aunt and younger brother, who are all in their own seat as they cheer for their hometown San Francisco Giants in their NLCS matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals.  Next, about three seconds later, the delayed kitchen TV receives Buck’s call again, this time to Starbeck as she watches sitting at the dining room table sitting in a chair tilted onto it’s back two legs, leaning against the wall. Her right wrist has a multi-colored bracelet made of yarn, but the other arm is held up by a black sling, wrapped around her elbow and forearm and supported by a white strap that goes around the right side of her neck. She isn’t quite sure how bad she is hurt, but she screams in pain, then laughs it off as she foolishly tries to demonstrate how a puck found a padless part of her shoulder and introduced her to the sling she will be wearing for the next few days. Even after she sustained the injury playing for the Waterloo Warriors, she stayed on to finish the last seven minutes of the period she was assigned to play. After all, she is a hockey player. “I’m not gonna get off the ice. I’m used to getting hit with pucks. I was like ‘Oh, it stings. It’ll bruise and get numb for a bit,’ end of the story, I’m fine,” Starbeck said nonchalantly.

After getting hit, she went to her own private locker room in Young Arena, which she gets because she is the only girl on the Warriors and one of four girls in the entire Midwest High School Hockey League.

Some people may worry about how a girl would fit in on a team full of guys, who are bigger, faster and stronger. Others wonder if girls should even be allowed to play with boys. The criticism doesn’t affect Starbeck. She just lets the others do the worrying and wondering, “[the boys] have been super accepting of me,” Starbeck said. “They’re like my brothers.”

Hockey is like a relationship. You need love, money and commitment. The more you put into it, the more you will get out. Starbeck has taken this to the extreme. The last 10 years of her life have revolved around the sport that she loves. Her family used to take trips to Mexico every year before the free time turned into hockey tournaments, and the vacation money turned into gas, hotels and equipment. Starbeck said dedication to the sport is essential for success. “It’s a full time commitment; it’s like a job.”

From 6 a.m. practices to traveling three hours a week to Wisconsin to play for her second team, the Madison Capitals, on top of the Waterloo Warriors last year, it’s Starbeck’s top priority. She’s missed school dances, including homecoming last year, football games and free time to hang out with friends, but she believes it’s worth it. “I’ve met nearly all of my friends playing hockey. It’s all I’ve ever known,” she said after admitting she’s running on five hours of sleep.

The hard work, dedication and decision she made to get serious about hockey at age 14 are starting to pay off. She got her first scholarship offer to play college hockey from Lindenwood University, a private Division II school located in St. Charles, Mo. The only catch is that she didn’t get offered to play ice hockey. She got offered to play field hockey, a sport she has only one year of experience playing and hasn’t played since her sophomore year. Her friends convinced her to go out for field hockey, and she picked it up right away. Starting varsity as a sophomore, she led her team to the California equivalent of the state tournament. After talking to her former coaches, watching film and having a former teammate play at Lindenwood, they offered Starbeck a scholarship. She has less than two weeks to accept the Lindenwood offer or to pursue an immediate future somewhere else. “I’m fortunate to have two sports to choose from. I have the option to play two sports that I love. It’s going to be hard to decide,” Starbeck said. “I’m just in a stuck situation. I never thought I’d have the chance to play field hockey in college. I only played one year, so I thought it was just going to be a side sport. I didn’t actually think I’d be offered.”

She said she is split right down the middle, but with an offer literally on her kitchen table, Lindenwood will be hard to turn down compared to a path of the unknown.

“Yes,” she responds without even the slightest of hesitation when asked if the future scares her. “I have no idea what I want to do, where I want to go. And the matter of time I have is so short that I have to make up my mind on what I want to do with the next years of my life.”

Her whole life will be impacted by the decision she makes sometime this month.

After tying up the score in the top of the ninth, Cardinal rookie Kolten Wong stepped up to the plate in the biggest moment of his life. On the living room TV that Starbeck and her family were watching, Wong had the opportunity to change his life forever with one swing of the bat. With the pitch out of the right hand of Sergio Romo, Wong faced all the pressure and won the game with a shot over the right field wall. Then three seconds later, he did it again on the TV in the kitchen.

Now with all the pressure on Starbeck, it’s her turn to step up to the plate and knock one out of the park.



 

2nd Place- Personality Profile

Like Ike: 2013 Grad Looks to Relish Opportunity at Iowa



Ike Boettger sinks down into the driver’s side seat of his 2003 black Lexus SUV, his high school ride, for one of the last times as he is waiting on the license plates to come in the mail for his new truck. The wind is sharp and the snow lightly falls as his eyes gaze upon the school where he was quite literally the big man on campus.

It was just three years ago when Boettger was a 6’5”, 215-pound junior quarterback leading his nationally ranked top 100 team along with James Harrington, the fastest high schooler in the history of Iowa, and Barkley Hill, the 2012 Gatorade Iowa High School Football Player of the Year.

Times have changed since Boettger’s famous smile lit up the halls of Cedar Falls High School on a day to day basis, but the stories still float around almost as if he had never left.

Teachers can tell you exactly where he sat in their class and laugh as they speak of the girls in awe or the trouble makers that surrounded him yet never quite caught his attention. Attention, however, is exactly what he captured from others whether he wanted it or not. His presence was impossible to ignore as he towered over his fellow classmates and, along with the class of 2013, consistently uttered the signature saying “Sup, Boys” throughout the halls and streets of Cedar Falls.

Before ordering a full meal of a fillet mignon, noodles, rice, vegetables, a salad and a special Hawaiian sushi roll that isn’t even on the menu, Boettger slowly squeezes into a booth at a local Japanese steakhouse. The remarkable physical transformation he has gone through in just two years after high school is as obvious as the oozing potential he possesses on and off the football field. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at this now 6’6”, 290-pound man sporting a black University of Iowa strength and conditioning sweatshirt and camo baseball hat to realize he might be next in the line of NFL-caliber offensive tackles that the Hawkeyes have produced over the last decade.

He credits his high school coaches for helping him get this far, and the humbleness taught by his parents and upbringing quickly dismiss any heavy praise placed on his shoulders prematurely. “It’s a long way off,” Boettger said. “It’s every kids dream to play in the NFL. We’ll just see what happens. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

In the last 12 NFL drafts, there have been 12 offensive lineman alone taken from the University of Iowa. When next season begins, Boettger will be a redshirt sophomore, meaning he will have three years of remaining eligibility. In the depth chart released by head coach Kirk Ferentz following the season, the name next to the starting right tackle position reads a familiar name: Ike Boettger.

The path that led him to his promising current state wasn’t exactly a familiar one, however, unless you are very well versed in the player development of the Iowa Hawkeyes.

With his junior football season complete as a quarterback and limited interest from collegiate programs, the University of Iowa was in Cedar Falls meeting with offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher, who now plays for the University of Alabama. They decided to meet with Boettger also while they were there and invited him to attend their camp.

He went down to Iowa City as a quarterback and struggled early, “I was flustered that they even talked to me.” Boettger said. “I was just launching the ball way over kids’ heads.”

Not long after, he was asked to switch to tight end. Without pads, he just ran routes along with only one other tight end prospect that had attended camp. With limited competition to steal away his spotlight, he was asked to come back to the next camp and bring his pads, and after impressing then, he and his family met with Coach Ferentz in his office.

With hundreds of kids at the camp, Ferentz offered a scholarship to Boettger on the spot. A week later, he called Ferentz back and committed. “It was honestly mind blowing because two days earlier, I was thinking about trying to play quarterback or play basketball somewhere. There’s hundreds of kids at these camps, and maybe one a year gets a scholarship,” Boettger said. “It never really happens.”

As soon as he arrived on campus as a bright-eyed freshman, it was apparent that college football is treated like a business as players are competing for jobs every day. Boettger took a redshirt year, meaning he would have four years of eligibility remaining following his first year as a Hawkeye as long as he didn’t play in any games. That didn’t mean he was able to take a year off. As a scout team tight end, Boettger went up against one of the best linebacking corps in the entire country right away. “They throw you right in there so you don’t have time to be nervous,” he said.

There was no time to be nervous, but there was also no time to get acclimated with his new position either before Ferentz requested another meeting in his office with Boettger. “I’m like what did I do? What did I mess up?”

With six tight ends on the roster and a need for offensive tackles, the quarterback turned tight end was told by his coach that he could be a really good tackle. So after the homecoming game against Michigan State, another position switch was made, and Boettger became an offensive tackle.

“When they tell you that they see you being better at a certain position, you don’t even think twice about it,” the new Iowa offensive tackle said.

That’s when All-American Brandon Scherff started to take Boettger under his wing. The connection between the two was immediate before they even knew how deep their similarities ran. Scherff was a high school quarterback at a massive 280 pounds as well as tight end, and he played other sports and loved the outdoors which correlated well with Boettger who once lived on a farm with 700 pigs. “Ike is the man,” said Scherff, who is a likely first round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. “He came in with a great attitude, and he just came into everything with a smile. I just wanted to help him as much as possible.”

Scherff played a role in the decision making of the position switch to offensive line. “He basically said, ‘Do you want to be a 310-pound monster or a 240-pound tight end?’ you know, using different words than that,” Boettger said.

The bond between the two became stronger when they decided to live together in a setting that allowed Scherff to teach his pupil how to eat properly, improve his hunting and fishing and live in a place where becoming better football players was the top priority. “He’s become a better player each and every day, and he always wants to get better,” said Scherff, who won the Outland Trophy as college football’s best interior lineman. “[Ike is always] watching practices right after we get done and always asking questions on what he can improve on and how he can get better.”

“He’s a freak,” Boettger said in the most loving way possible of his best friend, Scherff, who he remains in contact with on a daily basis.

Scherff returns the praise in a more conventional way saying, “He’s going to be a heck of a football player and can be as good as he wants to be.”

As winter break concludes, Boettger rides back to Iowa City, leaving Cedar Falls behind in his new Christmas present, a 2011 white Dodge Ram. The Dodge is bigger, shinier and newer than the old Lexus that patrolled the streets of his hometown, but he leaves his old ride behind. His license plate reads “Sup Boys,” and his iconic smile lights up, two things CFHS will never forget even as he goes on to chase his dreams once again.




3rd Place- Personality Profile

Whole New Ball Game: Junior uses football, faith and family to reset his playbook



Published: Tiger Hi-Line Oct. 9, 2014

About: This is definitely one of the most impactful and inspiring stories I have been fortunate enough to write. It was nearly unbelievable to hear all of the struggles of Adrian Diaz’s life. The way he battled back from the lowest points of his life, has changed many lives in his community.


Adrian Diaz burst through the line of scrimmage, past the would be blockers for Iowa City High on the opening Friday night of his junior football season. With his arms extended, he blocked the Little Hawks punt, scooped it up and didn’t stop sprinting until he crossed the goal line. He raised his arms and was swarmed by his teammates after scoring the first touchdown of the season for his Tigers under improbable circumstances. The circumstances weren’t improbable because a blocked punt returned for a touchdown is rare. They were improbable because Adrian Diaz is lucky to be alive.

Born in Honduras, the country with the highest murder rate in the world, Diaz grew up in a house made of mud with his two sisters, four cousins and grandmother. His mother was living in the United States working construction and sending whatever money she could afford back to her family, 900 miles away. His dad left his family before Diaz was born.

Without a father figure, Diaz would do anything people told him to do. He threw rocks at cops and was chased throughout the city, swore at his teachers and broke windows.

He was so bad that he was expelled from school in the first grade.

Terrified to tell his grandmother, he took the note of expulsion, put it under his grandma’s sewing machine and pretended everything was normal. “She found the note and freaked out. She couldn’t believe it,” Diaz said.

His grandma called his uncle, who normally would come to do the disciplining. Diaz immediately sat down and said the Lord’s prayer in hopes of him not coming to beat Diaz, and perhaps someone was listening, for his uncle never showed up.

In Honduras, if you left any belongings outside overnight, they would not be there the next morning. So when Diaz’s grandmother told him of a place where you could leave your doors opened and your valuables outside, he was intrigued. As far as he knew, the United States was a land of big cities, wealth and kindness. So when his mother called him when he was eight years old and told him to pack his stuff up and move to the United States, she assumed he would be excited. He didn’t want to go and leave his friends and grandmother behind, but eventually, he obliged.

When Diaz and his two sisters arrived in Florida, he was shocked. “It was all swampy, woods everywhere, and I was like ‘what is this?’”

Even though it wasn’t what he was expecting, he was still excited to live with his step-dad (whom he called Dad), his mom and his two sisters. After eating beans and rice nearly every day, he got to try chocolate ice cream and Dr. Pepper for the first time. “It was disgusting,” Diaz said. “My mom said try it, you’ll like it. I tried it and hated it, but now I got used to it and like it.”

The excitement quickly faded away as he started first grade in a new country, without knowing any English. He got made fun of constantly, which started building on the anger he had inside of him, and failed the first grade.

At home he started smelling a weird smell coming from his step-dad’s room as well as 10 plants growing in his backyard. Diaz went to the library and happened to flip to a page in a book that showed the picture of the plant that was growing in his backyard. It was marijuana and his step-dad had been growing it and smoking it regularly.

When Diaz was nine, he refused to do the dishes. His step-dad, filled with rage, started beating him with a computer cord until his eye started to bleed. His mom tried stepping in, but his step-dad grabbed her and started to choke her against the wall. Diaz needed to do something to help his mom, so he went and grabbed a knife and held it at his step-father. His step-dad let his mom go, then grabbed the knife out of Diaz’s hands and told him if he ever did that again he was going to use it on him. “I was heartbroken. I couldn’t believe this was my life,” Diaz said.

Diaz’s step-father would often go out hunting and return late at night or in the early morning, but one time he didn’t come home. He had been arrested, and in order to avoid jail time, he and Diaz’s mother fled back to Honduras, leaving Diaz and his sister alone with their older sister, who was barely 19. “She said she was done with us,” he said with a quiver in his voice.

While in Honduras, his step-dad beat up Diaz’s mom, cheated on her and cut up her passport so she couldn’t return home to her kids in the United States. Meanwhile, Diaz had moved from Florida to Virginia to Indianapolis back to Virginia and then back to Florida where he reunited with his mother after she ended it with her husband.

In Florida is where Diaz hit the lowest point of his life. He started hanging out around kids who did drugs and drank alcohol, and he slipped right into that lifestyle. He skipped weeks of school at a time, but when he did go, he would stare at a wall and do nothing or intentionally get into fights with the other kids. “My heart was filled with so much darkness that I would come to school and want to fight.”

Diaz got in the face of a member of the Bloods and started a fight. Afterwards he was in the principal’s office crying and apologizing. “To tell you the truth, I don’t think I was sorry. I just wanted to get out of the situation,” he said.

The next day that kid came up to Diaz in the streets and lifted up his shirt. revealing a gun attached to his hip. “I didn’t know what to do,” Diaz said. “I was paralyzed when I saw the gun.”

His role model Joe, who got Diaz into weight lifting and refrained from drugs and alcohol, talked the kid out of using the gun on Diaz. He wasn’t shot, a fate that two of Diaz’s uncles couldn’t avoid in Honduras as they were involved with drug cartels and killed.

Diaz would spend months away from home, staying nights at Joe’s house, but not before long, even his role model started using drugs, drinking alcohol and using weapons.

After a year of living in Florida, his uncle gave his mother’s phone number to a man he worked with. After a few months of talking on the phone and never meeting in person, his mother packed up and moved to Iowa to live with his uncle and be closer to her mom’s new boyfriend. Diaz wasn’t happy about his mom choosing a guy over her kids again and threatened to “beat him up if he ever tried to talk to me.”

In Iowa, Adrian was able to release some of the anger he had built up through sports. The first sport he tried his hand at was wrestling. While wrestling coach Will Carter, Adrian shot a double leg takedown that Carter described as the best double he’d ever had shot against him in all his years of coaching. Carter, who doubled as the freshman football coach at the time, then easily convinced Diaz to go out for football even though he had never played before. “I didn’t see more challenges with Adrian than you do with any other freshman except for the fact that we were not just adding on to the knowledge, we were starting the foundation,” Carter said.

Diaz immediately started at both fullback and linebacker on the freshman team due to his talent and work ethic displayed by the many early morning weight room sessions he attended.  “Anyone coming in at 5:45 a.m. on a consistent basis shows great work ethic. When Adrian sets goals, he usually gets them,” Carter said.

Even after replacing the bad in his life with sports, Diaz still didn’t feel like himself. At home, Diaz’s uncle held that he was giving them a place to live over their heads. He would call his mom a bad mother and one day Diaz just lost it. “I took off my shirt. Something came over me. I have never been that pissed.”

After his uncle refused to fight, Diaz sprinted outside through the snow and cold without a shirt on and fell to his knees in the barn as tears streamed down his face and asked God, “Why is it always about money?”

After that, Diaz’s PE teacher, Corey Peters, invited him to attend a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) meeting that Peters was in charge of. “I was impressed with his work ethic and his humility. Adrian has a huge heart. That is a gift from God. It needed a little dusting off. He was living in a very stressful environment. He was carrying some significant hurts and scars,” Peters said.

Diaz didn’t really want to go and skipped the first meeting Peters told him to go to. However, Diaz ended up going to the next meeting, a meeting that would change his life forever. Diaz gave himself to Christ that night and has never looked back to his old life since. “I felt like I was on clouds. I couldn’t breath. It was crazy. I’ve never felt that way. Every detail in the room was so bright. I was so happy.”

He continued to go to FCA and discovered that he and Peters have had a similar childhood. Peters’ biological father left his family, choosing not to be in their lives, and moved to Oregon. He often acted out and got into trouble in school. When he went to live with his father in Oregon for a period of time, he discovered his father was into drugs, and he was living in a drug house. But after digging into the Bible, he discovered a forgiving God that would change him forever.

After many FCA meetings, Peters’ family dinners and work in the community, Peters’ became the father Diaz always wanted. “I still go hang out with his family. They love me very much. His son and daughter think I am their brother. They check up on me every day, ‘Adrian, do you need this. Do you need that?’”

Together they have gone into rough communities and given a wheelchair to someone who didn’t have one, given diapers to a single mom who had her last diaper on her baby and didn’t know where the next one was coming from. The only package of diapers they had left was the exact size she needed. They saw a former prison inmate who was screaming at people and getting ready to fight start to cry and hug them because they offered prayer to him. They even accompanied each other to Chicago to go to tough neighborhoods and hand out over 450 basketballs.

For as much as Peters has helped Diaz, Diaz has helped Peters just the same. “I have learned so much from Adrian and his family. I have learned about their culture, and I am reminded how powerful love is. Powerful enough to turn an entire family around.”

As he finishes retelling this, Diaz wipes the tears away from his watery eyes. His black framed glasses lay on the wooden table instead of covering up the slight indent he has on his forehead, not from any near death experiences, but from an accident that occurred jumping on the bed. After constantly asking God “why” all his life, he finally understands the true meaning of “everything happens for a reason.” With his dreams of creating a world filled with love, being a role model for kids, positively impacting the world and possibly being a preacher someday, the story of triumph and tragedy authored by Adrian Diaz isn’t coming to an end. It is just beginning.



Fourth Place- Personality Profile 



Confronting Curiosity: Junior’s questions lead to life without God



Published: Tiger Hi-Line Nov.5, 2014

About: Growing up in a predominantly Christian hometown, it certainly is going against the grain to publicly state that you are an atheist. For Ben Louviere, who is widely considered one of the smartest and most creative students at Cedar Falls, he is often judged and misunderstood. This article was able to open the eyes of many and help others understand that Ben doesn’t want to be changed; he wants to be accepted.


Ben Louviere steps up to the counter after hearing the previous order of a “hot monkey love, tiramisu and caramel, single shot espresso latte” and proceeds to order a small cup of black coffee.

With dozens of coffee options to choose from, Louviere is apart of the minority of Americans who prefer their coffee black. With hundreds and potentially thousands of religions to choose from, he is also apart of the 6 percent of Americans who classify themselves as atheists.

Louviere grew up in a Catholic home, going to church on most Sundays. He attended small groups on Wednesday nights, prayed at night and truly believed in God and had a relationship with him. There was no questioning what he was told because just as his math teachers taught him to do addition, his preachers and church leaders taught him about God.

As he continued to grow older and as the saying goes, wiser, Louviere started being more attentive to things around him. He began wondering why there were so many churches and why people thought different things about the same God. After late nights of lying in bed and pondering life, he began researching, reading essays, listening to lectures and began to have doubts in his faith. Then in his English class in ninth grade, his teacher assigned an argument paper. He wasn’t interested in writing about any of the topics his teacher suggested, “As a ninth grader, what is you writing a paper on abortion going to do?” Louviere thought.

He decided to go with a topic that would be pertinent and beneficial to him and allow his own thoughts to be brought to life and solidify his beliefs that he was atheist.

Louviere is a straight A student and says curiosity, not spite towards Christians or their God, provoked his search for answers. “[Curiosity] is one of the most definitive, valuable and beneficial characteristics we have as human beings,” Louviere said. “The ability to wonder, doubt, question and want to learn more is, in essence, what makes us human.”

Many people fear the unknown, whether it’s the relative simplicity that is the future or the darkness of a newly entered room or on a greater scale questions like ‘what happens when you die’ and ‘what is the meaning of life.’ Louviere said he believes humans want a reason for everything, which led to the human creation of religion in order to get answers. As for the junior, possible answers to these questions stream through his head, but he knows he will never be able to come to a conclusion. “I’m living in a state of what the hell does this mean. It’s crazy, but it’s exciting,” Louviere said. “It makes me happy to find meaning in my own personal ways.”

Louviere doesn’t want to be changed. He wants to be accepted and hopes that who he is as a person and how he treats others is more valuable than a difference in beliefs. “People who I don’t know that just know that I’m an atheist, I’m assuming I get judged by them,” he said.

Being judged doesn’t bother Louviere at all and he welcomes people that want to have a conversation about his beliefs to just come talk to him. “It’s never affected what I’ve done or what I’ve said or who I’ve been,” he said. “If those people that are judging me want to come talk to me about it and ask me why, tell me what they think and hear what I think, then by all means come do it.”

Even with his differences in Christian beliefs, he still sees good in religion such as their lifestyle ethics. “It inspires them to be a good person because it’s what is morally right,” said Louviere, who said that’s a characteristic he shares with the people of the Christian religion.

Louviere is looking forward to his upcoming track season and does after school lifting every day. He is proud of his strong vocabulary and wants to try as many different things as possible in his lifetime. He said that he has a great understanding of who he is and is one with himself. “That’s one of the most crucial things that I value in myself as a person. I feel very comfortable and complete as the person that I am and I am proud of it,” said Louviere, who admits he believes in the possibility of a God.

As he receives his coffee, the barista asks Louviere if he would like room left for cream at the top of his cup, and he accepts. He used to put cream in his coffee but now just drinks without it. Now sitting down he takes the first sip of his hot, black coffee.

“You’re not gonna use cream?”

“I figured I would just see what it tasted like black, and I really like it.”



First Place- Feature

Soul Mates- Cancer, Faith Bring Duo Together


The room is half empty before Josie Leeper begins to sing. Seconds after her voice fills the Orchard Hill Church gym, the people literally come running in. Individuals in the crowd of BigHouse, a high school church gathering, look at each other in amazement as they soak in her voice. The spotlight is solely on her as she sings, but she soon gives it up to her role model, Bradley Rees, who has been the BigHouse worship director for the last four years and is currently a senior at UNI.

Rees grew up in Davenport before coming to UNI where he is now studying to become a music teacher. His story revolves around a bump on his shoulder that he had noticed in high school, but he didn’t think anything of it. His then girlfriend (now wife) Alex, whom he had been dating since his freshman year in high school, made him finally see a doctor about it. There at the doctor he was told by everyone he had seen that he had a sebaceous cyst, and once he had it removed, it would not longer be a problem.

The doctors removed the cyst, but trouble ensued on Rees’s followup. He had Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare and aggressive bone cancer that attaches to a bone and spreads. It often leads to amputation and has a 10 percent survival rate. “Hearing a doctor tell you that you have cancer is the most surreal experience,” Rees said. “The world just stopped, and it felt like I got punched in the stomach.”

Rees soon found out his cancer was different from the norm. His cancer never attached to the bone and stayed beneath the surface of his skin for three years without moving or spreading. He went up to Mayo Clinic where the doctors told him that there was no cancer. The scanners were unable to see on a microbial level, meaning that the doctors couldn’t guarantee he was entirely cancer free because they couldn’t see everywhere, so they recommended he do chemotherapy just to be safe.

It was a tough decision, but Rees decided to undergo chemotherapy. This caused him to be consistently be sick, lack any energy and become dependent on narcotic drugs. People would come ask him how he was doing and say he was fortunate for getting to spend so much time with the lord with all of his newly acquired free time. He would lie and say he was doing well, and of his now available God time, he thought “Yeah it’s great. In our last conversation, I was begging him to kill me.”

Rees finally had enough and decided to take his chances and stop chemotherapy. He has since been three years cancer free and is a year past the free and clear stage given to him by his doctors.

After Rees finishes telling his story, he urges the audience to think of a burden they’re carrying and let it go as Leeper stands in the same place and sings. As Rees walks off stage and to the side, without looking at each other, the two extend their arms in worship at nearly the exact same time. But their similarities run deeper than just sharing the same stage as Leeper is also a cancer survivor.

The journey that wound up changing Leeper’s life began five years ago in seventh grade in a doctor’s office where her mother was worried she might have mono. “I had just heard how awful mono was. That’s the worst thing ever. I hope she doesn’t have mono,” Leeper’s mother Jenny remembered thinking before they went to the doctor.

The doctor felt Leeper’s stomach to be firm. A couple days later, her family drove down to Des Moines where it was determined she had a tumor on her ovary. “It was the longest car ride to Des Moines I’ve ever had. It was the longest 12 hours her dad and I have ever had,” her mom said. “You always think it’s those other people.”

The process all happened in about a week, and Leeper was forced to miss around three months of school as she recovered from her own bout of chemotherapy. “There was never really a time that I thought I’m not gonna recover from this or this is not something I can come back from,” Leeper said. “I think I just set it aside almost and just went through everything and didn’t think about it too much.”

She decided to tell her friends at a school dance and ended up having to console them more than they consoled her. “I hadn’t really comprehended it yet, so just telling people was a much bigger deal than getting told [myself],” Leeper said.

While she was still growing her hair back after the chemotherapy, she wore a wig that was very similar to her own hair but soon thought her hair was “super long” and no longer needed the wig. “I had a completely different perception of what it actually looked like. I was just thinking my hair was long enough to look normal and nobody would even notice,” Leeper said. “Looking back now, I had less hair than my dad.”

There were positives that came out of this situation, such as raising around $10,000 for the UNI Relay for Life. In seventh grade, Leeper and her team were able to raise the most money of any team that participated.

As time progressed and Leeper’s hair continued to grow back, life seemed to return to normal. “It was good to have her act like a teenager again and to have times when you are mad at her because she was driving you crazy. As much as things can drive you crazy, you’re actually kind of thankful for them,” Jenny Leeper said.

After beating cancer, Leeper was on a high note in her life, but, unfortunately, that didn’t last. In the spring of her sophomore year, she really got down on herself and struggled with body image and self harming issues. “I got to a point where really nothing mattered at all,” she said.

She started getting into drinking and smoking and would look forward to those things often in attempt to get away from things. “I really just hated my life,” Leeper said.

Things got to the point where she conceived a plan to run away from home. She bought a bus ticket to New York and was planning on just disappearing. She didn’t have a job and therefore didn’t have money. “I didn’t really have a plan other than getting away from everything,” she said. “Looking back now, it’s scary that I was in such a low place that I was going to do that.”

Two of her friends knew of her plans to go to New York and tried to stop her, but she was at such a low point that she wouldn’t listen to anyone. “That year was one of the bigger struggles that I think of, even bigger than cancer.”

School got out for the summer, but the struggles continued until she went on Caravan, a trip through her church. “I just felt a joy that I had never felt before,” Leeper said. “I was just kind of blown away with how happy I was. I got home from Caravan and just never looked back.”

Caravan inspired her to try out for the BigHouse worship band, which is how she and Rees became connected. “She walked in, and her personality was chill and it was real and it was authentic,” Rees said. “Then she opened her mouth and she sang, and it was just a pure tone, and it was exactly the kind of thing we would look for in a worship leader. Josie was the whole package, and she already had her voice. She knew who she was as a musician.”

After Rees battled back, he felt that he was extremely blessed. A final surgery that was supposed to take a few months, took a few weeks and didn’t require the use of the pain meds he had been previously addicted to. Soon after, he was accepted into a government program that wiped clean every medical bill because of his age and rarity of his condition. He was allowed to keep all of the scholarships he had previously earned despite not having enough credit hours, and he was actually was accepted into a grant program that gave him $10,000 to put towards school. Most importantly, he got married to his former girlfriend of six years.

Leeper and Rees combined to bring the audience to tears with her singing and his story one after the other. “You could just feel [the emotion] more so than see it,” said Leeper, who cried the first time she heard Rees’ story.

Now as Leeper begins a new song up on stage, her final of the night, she messes up the first line of the song, a small hiccup in the big picture. With the help of the other band members, she puts it behind her and gets back on track as her smile lights up and she laughs it off and mesmerizes her audience once again.







Second Place- Feature

Behind living legend, Tigers dive in for Marcussen Invite



Published: Tiger Hi-Line  Oct. 2, 2014

About: Going into this story, I was assigned to write about the upcoming swim meet. When I went into the swim practice, what I saw went far beyond the realms of girls high school swimming. I found a man who had started the swim program at Cedar Falls 45 years ago, still show the love for the sport and his athletes like he was in his first year.


Dick Marcussen stares across the clear water of the pool at Holmes Jr. High with his sky blue eyes. Right above the water, red banners hang, screaming of the legendary coach’s success in high school swimming. But Marcussen isn’t looking up at the banners, rather down into the chlorine infused water as his face lights up while gloating of his swimmers’ improvements. He isn’t focused on his 347 dual meet wins or his better than 90 percent career winning percentage. He is focused on how to relieve the day-to-day stress of his student athletes as they swim back and forth across their battlefield.

Before he goes on uninterrupted for over 11 minutes, a 12 second pause ensues as he ponders the question, “What do your swimmers mean to you?”

The aroma of coffee escapes from his breath as he begins to answer with the passion, love and dedication he has had for his swimmers at Cedar Falls for the last 45 years. His humility shows through as he calls his very own Marcussen Invitational, the “Tiger Invite” and when he stops briefly to ask a freshman swimmer how her head was feeling after she got hit by a soccer ball during PE.

“He’s been a real good role model. He’s good at pushing you to your limits and picking you up when you’re down, but when you get too high, knocking you back into your place,” senior Martee Grainger said. “He’s just a good guy. He’s funny, has a good sense of humor and a good head on his shoulders, which is obvious through his accomplishments.”

Grainger said Marcussen is known for his little pep talks he gives right before a race.  “It’s usually something that’s obvious, like remember to kick your feet,” Grainger said in her best Marcussen impersonation. Coaches aren’t supposed to be behind the blocks, but seemingly every time Marcussen finds his way around that rule. “Marcussen does what he wants, Marcussen owns Iowa high school swimming,” Grainger said smiling.

The Marcussen Invitational takes place this Saturday. The Waukesha South Blackshirts from Wisconsin, the only team to beat the Tigers in the regular season since 2007, will be making their ninth straight appearance at the event.

Now Marcussen reveals his biggest smile of the day. Not because the Blackshirts have beaten Marcussen at his own invitational eight straight years, but because Blaine Carlson, the coach of Waukesha South, was Marcussen’s former swimmer. “His longevity in the sport of high school swimming is astounding. To continue to be the driving force and the face of high school swimming in Iowa is a testament to his commitment to the kids in Cedar Falls,” Carlson said of his former coach. “You don’t coach as long as he has if you aren’t passionate about developing good athletes and more importantly teaching life values to young people to help in their development into great adults.”

Carlson was a team captain and holds four school records at the University of Wisconsin where he was a four-year varsity member. In 1990 he was ranked a top 25 swimmer in the United States. As a coach, he has had similar success. His swimmers have ranked in the top 16 in the United States, had top 100 times of all time, qualify for Olympic trials and hold seven national records, including one they set just last year.

“I don’t think we’ve ever lost a [Marcussen] Invite until we invited them to come. They’ve got quite the swim club and high school program up there. Being number one in the nation is pretty good,” Marcussen said.

Being that Waukesha South is the only team to beat Cedar Falls in an invite (a meet with more than two teams) the Tigers remain undefeated in dual meets (one on one) in Grainger’s and the rest of the class of 2015’s entire career.

“There’s a lot of pressure to be good, but we have such a deep team of awesome athletes, so having such a good team behind you takes a lot of pressure off,” Grainger said.

That pressure almost became too much for the Tigers as they were down 66 points at the Linn-Mar Invite after Linn-Mar’s divers finished first, second and third, and Cedar Falls finished sixth and eighth.

“Everybody was cheering for each other. Everybody did their jobs out there, and nobody let up,” Marcussen said. “When it’s coming down to the last 25 or the last 50 and that person is swimming next to you, you’ve got to learn how to change speeds, pick it up and reach down inside you and beat that person.”

The Tigers started off their comeback with a big win in the medley relay, but things still weren’t going their way when the B medley team was disqualified and did not receive points. The depth of the Tigers fueled the comeback over Linn-Mar, preserving the Tigers undefeated careers.

Now 45 years after Marcussen, 78, started the CFHS swim program, he will go into the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s hall of fame at the state meet on Nov. 8.

On the right wall of the Holmes Junior High pool, nine state championships, seven state runner ups and 24 MVC championships are all recognized with banners. The wall perpendicular to the banners is where the white board resides, the home of many drawings from Marcussen, who was a former CFHS art teacher. But right above the wall is the clock that is used to measure the time. It ticks off the seconds of swim times, but it also might be ticking away the career of a coaching legend.



 3rd Place- Column

To Tweet or not to Tweet


It all started on July 25, 2011, at 1:16 p.m. “lockout is over #thankthelord” I tweeted for the very first time. I was new to the Twitter world, and I felt alone and confused. Was I supposed to use a hashtag every tweet? What even is a hashtag? Can you #hashtag?

I was just rolling with the punches as I was still primarily dedicated to facebook and the wonderful days of “like for a truth is …” and “why what’s up?” where my facebook friends would “like” my post, and I would post some completely made up heartfelt message for them. Usually I would say, “I don’t really know you that well, but that should change,” or sometimes I would dig deep into my creative, loving soul, and pull out a “you’re pretty cool, hit me up.”

At a junior high student council meeting, we were reviewing how to be safe online. The instructor asked how many facebook friends we had, and when he asked if anyone had over 600 friends, and I was the only one to raise their hand, I was without a doubt cemented into the realm of awesomeness.

After that, everything changed. My mother punished me by taking my phone away from me for deleting her as a friend on facebook too many times. I knew something had to give in a world of social media, infested with adults. That’s when the brand new world of Twitter had started to arise. It was scary, new and bold, but we had to take a chance; we had to escape the parental controlled realm of social media.

I started thinking of a name for myself on Twitter, and so I used the nickname I had been given from my third grade baseball team, The Glove, and combined it with my favorite time in the day 4:44, creating the genius that was @TheGlove444.

Nineteen of my first 21 tweets were about football, and I’m sure the eight loyal followers I had were very intrigued by what I had to say. Then one day my friend told me she wasn’t going to follow me on twitter because I “only tweet dumb stuff about sports,” I was appalled, shocked and hurt. Looking back on it I probably should have turned around and told my “friend” to pull the knife out of my back that she so graciously yet fictitiously inserted.

But I knew she was right. How could Facebook’s most popular person in the Holmes Junior High student council only have eight followers? I stopped tweeting about sports at a 90.5 percent rate and tried being more creative. A 2 a.m. Twitter name change to something more creative might give me a leg up. After multiple rejections saying “name taken,” I was #blest to finally conclude my search with the creative and descriptive @TheNamesAustin. I worked my way up to 135 followers heading into high school and tried to get more into Twitter.

Going into my senior year, I thought I had reached the pinnacle of the twitter world, 500 followers. What was my prize? I got to throw it in the faces of my friends who had not reached this legendary number. I was back into the realm of awesomeness that had evaded me since my junior high Facebook days.
Then my friend decided to give up social media for his English class and dared me to give up twitter for a week. That’s easy, I thought. I don’t care about most of these people anyways. I uninstalled the app from my iPhone 5s home screen in under a minute of him daring me.

I caved three hours later.

I reinstalled the app and figured I just wouldn’t get on it during the class we had together. He doesn’t have Twitter anyway, so I thought, he won’t even be able to see me.

That very next day it hit me. I didn’t control Twitter, Twitter controlled me.

I was addicted to Twitter.

The very first night I lay in bed at a time I normally would check Twitter and looked at the same Instagram pictures I had seen at least 10 times by then. I even found myself scrolling facebook multiple times a day now, where before I wouldn’t think about clicking on that blue app with the white F on it for days or even weeks at a time.

I was looking for anything I could to fill the gapping hole I had in my days and heart that was previously completely devoted to Twitter. I missed it so much, which makes no sense considering most of the time I am on twitter I just get annoyed with the idiocy of people’s tweets. Yes, I see that you are having a great time with your best friend at the lake, but it seems like if you were really having a great time then you wouldn’t have to prove it to others.

Just the other day I saw a couple on a date eating a meal while on their phones the entire time. I can’t claim to be a relationship expert, but that certainly doesn’t seem like the night of your life out on the town.

Then there was some breaking news that I didn’t get to read about the moment it happened, and I didn’t get to see all of the Twitter fights first hand, but I still heard about them even if it wasn’t milliseconds after it happened.

Yes Twitter is one of the most impressive technological forms of communication, and when used properly, it can be very beneficial, but it also has many downsides. All things considered, when my time was up, I was still pretty excited to see my mentions blowing up with people tweeting and following me. After all, I had been gone an entire week.

I had one notification. It was a spam account that followed me. And then already unfollowed me.

I missed over 5,000 tweets from my timeline that I will never get the opportunity to see.

The Twitter world didn’t shut down in my absence; in fact, it seemed to thrive better than ever. It was a struggle to make it through the week, and I missed it very much. But it couldn’t care any less than it did. I only told three people I was giving up Twitter for a week. Nobody else mentioned a single word about it to me. Nobody noticed and nobody cared. I discovered that Twitter opened me up and used me. Twitter controlled me. After a week free from the demon, I feel ready to take on a new life without (as much) Twitter. I might read a book with all my new free time, do some research on an appealing topic, or even, heaven forbid, have actual human interaction with my friends, peers and acquaintances. Take that, Twitter.


1st Place- Video

The Long Road: The Adrian Diaz Story



One thought on “High School Award Winners

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