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Summer sports whirlwind I’m in

Each high school sports season comes to an end with a whirlwind.

I’m caught up in a big whirlwind as the summer — softball and baseball — postseason winds down and we’ve have back-to-back race weekends at Iowa Speedway. Plus three area graduated senior football players are slated to suit up and play in Saturday’s 2019 Iowa Shrine Bowl All-Star Football Game.


Then I’m working on feature articles for the newest high school head coaches at Newton High and their staffs. Kim Florke, who retired from coaching in 2013 but has continued to teach at NHS, is back at the helm of the Cardinal volleyball program. Eric Vander Velden has been a presence at the Newton Berg Middle School in girls’ sports in the six years I’ve been on the job in Newton and recently has been an assistant coach at the high school. Now, he is the new Cardinal girls’ basketball head coach.

With a state softball tournament to cover, races at Iowa Speedway this weekend and next weekend, the coaches’ features will probably be next week or in two weeks.


My focus right now is three-fold — preparing a Class 1A state softball tournament preview for the No. 7 Lynnville-Sully Hawks, a preview of Saturday’s NTT IndyCar Series Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway and covering Newton High’s Cardinal baseball team in a Class 3A district opening game on Friday.

With Tuesday’s district semifinal losses by Prairie City-Monroe’s Mustangs to Pella Christian and by Baxter’s Bolts to Hudson, only Newton’s baseball team remains in the postseason.

The Cardinals finished their regular season Tuesday ready to play but Mother Nature said differently. A storm rolled through the Tama area and flooded the South Tama baseball field so the game was canceled.

The Cardinals open the Class 3A District 11 tournament on Friday. Marion, which is ranked No. 4 in the final regular season 3A poll, hosts a district doubleheader. South Tama plays Bondurant-Farrar at 5 p.m. followed by Newton taking on host Marion at 7 p.m. The winners play for the District 11 title on Monday to advance to the 3A Substate 6 championship game.

Lynnville-Sully has reached the Class 1A state softball tournament for the first time since 2015. The Hawk teams of 2013, 2014 and 2015 all finished fifth at the state tournament all under the direction of head coach Stacey Alberts, who is in her 14th season at the Hawk helm.

Lynnville-Sully will make its sixth state tournament appearance under Alberts. Hawk teams reached in 2010 (8th) and 2011 (6th). The state tournament does not play games out to eighth-place any more. Losing teams in the opening round play a consolation game and are done.

In 2015, the Hawks defeated Newell-Fonda 12-3 in the fifth-place game at the state tournament. Lynnville-Sully squares off with Newell-Fonda — all new squads for the two schools — in Monday’s opening round of the 2019 state tournament in Fort Dodge.

IndyCar comes to town this weekend along with ARCA stock car racing at Iowa Speedway. I’ve talked to James Hinchcliffe, the NTT IndyCar Series Iowa Corn defending champion. Hinchcliffe’s drive to Iowa Speedway’s Victory Lane in 2018 was his second win at the Newton racetrack (2013).

The weather forecast is HOT AND HUMID for this weekend. Both Friday’s ARCA race and the IndyCar race on Saturday are evening starts but it’s July in Iowa so dress and hydrate accordingly.

Saturday’s IndyCar Iowa 300 will be the first under the lights in four years at “The Fastest Short Track on the Planet.” I also visited with IndyCar Series rookie Colton Herta, who has raced at Iowa Speedway in the Indy Lights Series.

But before Hinchcliffe climbs into his car at Newton, the Canadian native will host the Race to Help Save Lives at the Hinchcliffe Challenge with the Red Cross. The blood drive is from noon to 5 p.m. on Thursday at the Newton Club at Iowa Speedway.

Also on Saturday, the 47th annual Iowa Shrine Bowl football game is at 4 p.m. at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. Ike Bebout of Newton High, Will Clapper of Baxter and Wes Cummings of PCM are playing on the South Squad.

Contact Jocelyn Sheets at

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