Why they play

Students join sports at West High for a variety of reasons. Whatever the reason, a significant chunk of the student body is involved in some way, and these sports play a large part in school spirit.

Thomas Peters and Xena Makky

Whether it’s for passion, leisure or scholarships, a significant part of the West High community dedicate a great deal of time and sacrifice more just than sleep to perform the best they can in some kind of team sport. Sports in this Iowa City high school are recognized by people from all over and bring a lot of people together within the sport itself. For most people, participating in a sport is more than just for self improvement, but for memories, fun, and friendship. In season and out of season, you can find student athletes working in hours to be ahead, but aside from occasional exhaustion, most will tell you they wouldn’t prefer doing anything else. Track, soccer and tennis are just among few of the sports at West that students either support or are involved with. Here are a few exceptional athletes who play for all kinds of reasons.

Athletics at West High play a large part in school spirit. Students join for many different reasons including passion, improvement, recreation, or competing for scholarships and schools to notice them. Regardless of the reason, a significant part of the community is involved in some kind of sport that is recognized and respected by the whole community and schools from all over Iowa. Their dedication and persistence to performing well does not go unnoticed, let alone their ability to work as a team and push each other. Here are a few athletes involved in West High’s strong athletic department who share their sport, the values and lessons, and more importantly, why they’re so involved.

Delaney Burt ’17

On April 4th, Delaney Burt ’17 poses by the throwing ring after throwing discus in the Track and Field meet hosted by Iowa City West. West won overall.

Burt is a JV/Varsity thrower on the Track and Field team. She has always been involved for the improvement, but more recently it has been for the recreation and remembrance. Besides doing well, Burt enjoys supporting her teammates’ improvements and encouraging them to perform better.

April 6th, Delaney Burt 17 practices throwing the discus during practice at West to prepare to throw well during their next meet.

Like many throwers, Burt throws shot put and discus. She makes it a priority to attend practice everyday to stay on top of workouts and to show commitment.

Delaney Burt ’17 finishes strong after a throw during practice on April 6th. The throwers practice for about two hours every day after school to guarantee great performances. Regardless of the high pressure placed on the throwers to serve high expectations, the throwers remain calm and have fun while practicing everyday.
Delaney Burt ’17 and Leah Dusterhoft ’17 pose in front of the thrower’s ring at the Iowa City West sports field. This was taken after a series of practice discus throws where they worked to prepare for the season ahead. So far, they’re proud of their improvements!!

Diego Rivera ’19

Diego River ’19 poses by the throwing ring at West High. On April 9th, the team practices to prepare for a meet.

Sophomore, Diego Rivera, became involved in Track and Field in seventh grade. Athletic, but unsure of what exactly he wanted to do, he decided to participate anyways because of the several options this sport gave. Rivera says, “I started in seventh grade because I wanted to do something, but other sports were very specific unlike Track (…) I chose shot put and discus because it took form, and running was not my thing.” Although improvements and passion for the sport play a part in his participation, a larger influence are the teammates and their supportive and friendly personalities. “They’re just a lot of fun to be around,” says Rivera. He values the encouragement and positive attitudes that flow around the members rather than jealousy or competition among members for performing well (which isn’t uncommon in some high school athletics).

“It has taught me to be persistent and to learn from my mistakes.””

— Diego Rivera '19

Diego Rivera ’19 walks towards the thrower rings to practice his throws for discus. On a warm day in April, the several throwers practice their hardest for the fun of it, and to qualify and maintain the legacy of strong performances at the largest meets of the season.

Although recreation plays a large role in the participation of many athletes, sometimes it takes genuine dedication and passion to stick with it and perform as well as you want. “It is difficult to start out with and can be frustrating at times to learn the amount of form needed to perfect throwing,” says Rivera. Besides the remembrance and members, Rivera also takes a lot from practicing so much, which keeps him from losing motivation. “It has taught me to be persistent and to learn from my mistakes and take constructive criticism instead of getting frustrated. Helpful information from your peers helps you become so much better (…) Just when you think you’re getting good, you’re reminded on how much you can improve with a little advice,” says Rivera.

On April 6, Diego Rivera ’19 prepares to throw at the West High thrower’s ring for improvement and leisure.
On a warm day in April, Diego Rivera ’19 practices in the thrower’s ring to improve. He has fun during practice everyday because the his peers and the sport itself. He hopes everyone performs their best at the next meet.

“You have to be persistent, and even when the drills seem pointless, it’s crucial we do them and take them seriously because every bit of it reflects how we will perform,” says Rivera. Although they are individual events, each member is encouraging so they can perform well together. West High has a long history of strong performances in meets (especially the larger ones at the end), and it is in most of their interests to qualify and set personal records or make West history. Even if a member does not qualify for the final meets, they work to be present and support the members that do.

Leah Elliot ’18 prepares to do warm-ups for her JV relay at the Mississippi Valley Conference meet held at West High on April 9th. Besides the relay, she hopes to PR (get a personal record) in her 100 meters hurdles race. She’s excited to run and support the other members of the team, and hopes the team will take home the trophy for the MVC meet for the 20th consecutive year.

Like many athletes, Leah Elliot ’18 runs because she is passionate and wants to make the most of her time in high school. “There’s the aspect of it where really want to win medals, but I just want to do something that I really enjoy in high school and have the chance to (…) It’s just something I’ve always enjoyed. Mainly hurdles because it’s just something that comes naturally to me. It’s just something that makes me feel good on the inside when I’m doing them. Elliot dedicates a lot of time and work to do as well as she can.

“There’s the aspect of it where really want to win medals, but I just want to do something that I really enjoy in high school and have the chance to.””

— Leah Elliot '18

It can be challenging for any athlete to balance a sport with school work, especially a sport where meets can take the entire evening. Besides meets, practice itself can run longer. “I have to plan everything I do around practice because the shortest runs are around an hour and a half, and they can run to more than two hours, so I have to really block my schedule to make it work in between practice and make sure I’m not too stressed about school work.” 

Leah Elliot ’18

Leah Elliot ’18 stretching in preparation for her 400 meter relay during the MVC meet at Iowa City West on April 4.

Although Track and Field is something she enjoys, Elliot can find herself hard warms ups and work outs from time to time. “For warm-ups, we have to do this thing that’s called a big ten, where you do ten push-ups and ten crunches, and then nine push ups and nine crunches, and then it keeps counting down. For workouts, sprinters have their own, and hurdlers have our own,”says Elliot. “But you get strong, and at the end of the year, you can see how much you’ve improved with your times.” Aside from improvement, like almost every athlete, Elliot sees the importance of team work.  “I get to see all my other team works work as hard as me, and it’s really heartwarming to see what they’ve accomplished over the year, and just being able to support my teammates, and know that all of this hard work is really paying off.” Track and Field is a sport where athletes often compete independently, but personal records and recognition never hinders West High athletes from being there for their teammates. They can still be successful, but it is difficult and not as fun or meaningful without their peers.

“You get to be around a lot of great people, and make really good friendships.”

Leah Elliot ’18 along with another West High runner competes in the Junior Varsity 100 meter hurdles race at the MVC meet on April 4.

As a junior and having been a runner for several years, Elliot tries to be as helpful for new teammates. She feels it’s important for them to be there for each other during Track and whenever else they may need a friend/peer. “As for teammate, I always want to be nice to every single one of my teammates. I don’t know what they have to do during school, and I know that for some, it’s not exactly the best for them within their lives (…) I don’t want to be the kind of person that  brings a burden to them if they’re coming to a sport that they have to do and they should be enjoying doing. I don’t want to be that person that discourages them from coming. I always make sure that during meets, people are going and finding the people they need or finding their clothes.”

Elliot puts forth a lot effort, but it isn’t always the easiest reaching new personal record after every race. Regardless of the case, she will feel more determined and continue to set goals. “Usually if it’s just that I didn’t do the best that I wanted to, I just make a conscious effort to try even harder during practice to fulfill what I wanted to during the meet,” says Elliot. When it comes to performance, because she knows she’ll always be doing her best, she can pick herself easily, but she still pushes herself hard. “Whatever race I’m doing, I make sure that through it, I’m giving it my all because otherwise, I’d let myself down, and potentially my teammates.”

Leah Elliot ’18 jumps over a hurdle at the MVC meet at West High on April 4. This is one of the events she is most often placed on the line up for. She hopes to continue to improve/PR

Athletes can enjoy their time in athletics but not at the expense of actual effort. “It is not like junior high. You aren’t just coming here to talk to people and do nothing. You get to talk to people and have a good time, but you have to stay focused.” People play for all kinds of reasons, but sports are usually highly competitive, even in  highschool, so it’s expected that you care about how you perform and that you’re always working to get better. “You have to make sure you’re working on what you need to that day. Be prepared for meets. You never know what you’re going to need.”

Chandler Haight ’18

Chandler Haight ’18 throws shot put during the track meet on April 4 at Iowa City West High. She PR’ed with a throw of about 44′

Haight became involved in throwing because of her older siblings who were all highly successful. Both her siblings being Drake Relay champions and setting school records has inspired her to try it out herself. “I first tried track because my siblings had thrown, but then I ended up really liking it,” says Haight. “It has taught me how to use my muscles and what I can actually do.” Haight plays to improve and succeed, and she recognizes that it always starts at practice.

Chandler Haight ’18 and Diego Rivera ’19 wait for their turn in the thrower’s ring at West High. They both have plans to perform well during the season ahead of them.
Ella Abdel-Malek runs after a ball during a soccer game against City High School. Photo provided by Mary Abdel-Malek.

Ella Abdel-Malek ’18

West High soccer player, Ella Abdel-Malek also plays for the fun and competition. “I started in fifth grade. I was playing basketball as well, and I wanted to try more sports, so I signed up for soccer with Kickers,” says Abdel-Malek. “It gets really competitive, and I just really like the game and how there are many different aspects and it keeps me in shape… it’s really fun overall.”

Throughout her playing career, Abdel-Malek feels she’s improved immensely while enjoying herself, which has made it possible. She has made a lot of memories while playing which makes it difficult to not want to play when it gets challenging or stressful. “My favorite memory is in junior high. I didn’t think I was very good (…) My coach said I was the most improved and that I was doing really well. This is when I realized I really wanted to continue playing soccer.” 

During a soccer game against Iowa City High at West High School, Ella Abdel-Malek runs after a ball to make a goal. Photo provided by Mary Abdel-Malek.

Abdel-Malek enjoys performing well, but she’s involved for the leisure more than any other aspect. “Sometimes organized sports aren’t the best, so you just have to go out with friends and play.” Besides entertainment, Abdel-Malek values the relationships you can make with your teammates and the lessons you can take from it. “It’s easy to start feeling down and bad about yourself, but you can’t let it get to you. You just have to try and make it better, and if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong, you can ask your coach.”

Soccer is a sport where teamwork matters most. If a player cannot work well with others, it will be difficult to perform well. “You can’t just do it for yourself, you have to help your teammates succeed too. You have to be a team player (…) It’s not always about you. It’s not single player sport.” Not only that, but being a quick thinker and problem solver (for any sport) is important. “It’s not always about you,” says Abdel-Malek. “You have to be patient and smart about where you and others are. You can’t just be physically motivated. You have to want to know how to play the game and where to be on the field.”

Abdel-Malek has played soccer for about seven years, so she’s an especially good source for advice when other members need it. “If you’ve never played soccer before, just be patient with yourself and it will come to you (…) You’l get the feel for the ball.”

Why play? “It’s not just an American sport. It’s really popular. The rules are the same and everything, so you can play with like a Chinese guy. It’s a world wide sport.

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