Seniors lead Mid-Prairie to 2A title, again

Senior leadership key for Golden Hawks in running faster races, becoming better teammates

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 11/10/21

The moment was emotional.

Few among the thousands of spectators actually noticed it.

After all the racing was over on state championship day at Fort Dodge’s Kennedy Park on October 30, …

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Seniors lead Mid-Prairie to 2A title, again

Senior leadership key for Golden Hawks in running faster races, becoming better teammates


The moment was emotional.

Few among the thousands of spectators actually noticed it.

After all the racing was over on state championship day at Fort Dodge’s Kennedy Park on October 30, and the TV interviews were finished, and the attention that was focused on Mid-Prairie’s cross country girls team shifted elsewhere, the three Golden Hawk varsity seniors joined with sophomore sensation Danielle Hostetler and others for a group hug near the finish line.

Finally, the historic day of a fifth consecutive state team championship was celebrated with shouts, giggles and, yes, tears.

For these Golden Hawks, this really was their final moment together.

“We mean so much to each other,” said Sydney Yoder, a senior who joined Mid-Prairie cross country in 2019 with twin sister Jaden and won three straight state team titles. “We’re all great friends. We couldn’t have done any of this without each other.”

“It’s really special,” said Mitzi Evans, a senior who became the second Mid-Prairie girl to be part of four consecutive state team championships (Ana Fleming, a 2021 graduate, was the first last year). “I feel like we’ve been through a lot together. We really love this sport as a team. It’s bittersweet kind of leaving.”

Evans, and Sydney and Jaden Yoder, won state championships every year that they ran cross country. Their finishes among the top 16 in this year’s state meet, punctuated by a second individual state title by Hostetler and a 21st-place finish by sophomore Abby Fleming, put the Golden Hawks in the record books. They tied an all-class state record of five straight team championships.

Sydney Yoder finished seventh overall, Jaden was 13th and Evans was 16th.

“It is amazing,” said Mid-Prairie head coach Mark Hostetler. “It started with a group of kids that wanted to stay together and work hard.”

Their running ability is obvious. Go to a girls cross country race, and you’ll see a group of Golden Hawk runners, all dressed in gold uniforms, at the front, each of them focused on a timed pace and running one after another.

In the Clear Creek Amana Clipper Classic held this season at Iowa City Kickers Complex, the Golden Hawks swept the first six places for a perfect score. The Golden Hawks swept the top three spots in the 2021 and 2020 River Valley Conference championships.

Mark Hostetler tracks every step, every minute, every second. He tracks his own runners and the runners of other teams on race day. He can tell you the team scores when a race is halfway over. He is over a course, encouraging Mid-Prairie runners and checking times constantly.

But when he looks at the Golden Hawks, particularly a senior group that extends beyond Evans and the Yoder twins, he sees something else. He sees people. He sees a group of high school girls who are about to grow into young women and take on life in different ways.

JV runners Lilou Beachy and Anna Nafziger were also a key part of the girls senior group. Thaddeus Shetler, Chandler Hershberger and Sam Yoder led the boys team as seniors.

“Most of these kids don’t get on social media much, they don’t watch TV, they just go out and hang out together, run hard together and that’s their life,” he said. “And some people don’t want to do that. It’s a special kind of a life when you know that you worked hard and you’ve done it together. Last night they were crying, knowing they weren’t going to be together after today and they have made friendships that a lot of people don’t get a chance to make.

“That, to me, is probably more important than being here and winning, the friendships that they make for life. They’ve been together all year, day after day. They go to each other’s houses. That’s the key. Young people will do anything if they know they’re making a close friendship.”

And that’s what made that post-race hug so special, and their Friday night team meeting so heartwarming. Here they were, the night before race day, getting ready for another state title race in Fort Dodge again. And for Evans, and the Yoder sisters, it was the last time.

“It was pretty emotional because most all of the seniors spoke and gave advice to the younger generations,” Evans said. “It was really bittersweet because it was our last meeting. Some people said a lot of stuff that meant a lot. Some people, they told us how much they appreciated us as a team and it really meant a lot.”

“We all love each other so much,” Sydney Yoder said. “It was no nice to have the whole team gathered around and we’re just all in together. It was just great to learn from everybody and get encouraged.”

“It is a great senior group this year and I’m proud to have been with all of them,” Jaden Yoder said.

“They’re awesome. They’re so friendly. You can go to them for anything,” said Phoebe Shetler, a sophomore who has run varsity on the last two state championship teams. “I love them all so much. It’s going to be so sad when they leave. It means a lot to all of us. I’m so glad I could run with them today.”

Danielle Hostetler, a two-time individual and team state champion, has gotten to know the upperclassmen well after two years of 7 a.m. workout runs. She’ll remember Sydney as the chatty and laughing teammate, Jaden as the encouraging one and Mitzi as the “spunky” one who delivers the hair ribbons before each race.

“Jaden is very, very encouraging,” Danielle said. “Before the race, she’s always calm, she always collected and she’s always helping somebody else.”

Mark Hostetler and assistant coach Aaron Fleming know how different it will be in 2022.

“To have them not there, there’s going to be a void of leadership,” Mark Hostetler said.

“The seniors, it’s hard to imagine. …. There’s no way that this team could have won the last three championships without those three girls,” Fleming said. “From just the practical standpoint of them being good athletes to the leadership and the upbeat energy they brought, they’ve been fantastic teammates.”

Among those moving up into leadership roles will be Danielle Hostetler, Abby Fleming, Phoebe Shetler and Annika Poll, all sophomores this year, and junior Amara Jones.

And that’s why just a few hours after the Golden Hawks won a fifth straight title, tying a state record held by Iowa City High and Dowling Catholic, Mark Hostetler was already thinking about a sixth. No team has ever done it.

“It’s pretty special. And you know what? I want the next one next year just as bad, knowing that Denver [2021 runner-up] has way more girls coming back than we do,” Hostetler said. “We’re going to work at it and we’re not going to make it easy for them.”


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