Steinberger hopes to salvage track & field, softball seasons

CONGRATS — North Union’s Hope Steinberger (left) receives congratulations from Warriors’ assistant softball coach Megan Mixer after legging out an infield hit during Iowa prep diamond action last summer in Swea City. Steinberger hopes to salvage what’s left of her senior track & field campaign and the Iowa softball season, which normally begins after Memorial Day. Steinberger and her Warrior teammates are patiently waiting through the current 4-week moratorium due to COVID-19. (Photo by Greg Abel/Sentinel Archives)

ARMSTRONG — Hope Steinberger literally and figuratively sets the bar high when it relates to achieving individual and team goals in prep athletics.

The North Union senior three-sport standout cleared 5 feet even to capture a seventh-place medal in the high jump during the 2019 Iowa Class 1A state track & field meet at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.

Steinberger, who also cleared 4-11 before just missing with the high jump bar set at 5-1 to finish in 11th place at the 2018 state competition, combined with teammate Sam Nielsen to co-establish the Warrior track & field program’s record in their shared field specialty by arching their long athletic frames over a height of 5-2 during the regular campaign last spring.

Now, the two-time state track & field qualifier faces a formidable hurdle in the form of Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ statewide school shutdown that is guaranteed to last through April 30 due to the COVID-10 pandemic.

“I’ve been keeping in shape by doing both in-home and outside workouts on my own, in addition to eating healthy,” said Steinberger. “Everyday I do pushups, situps and body-weight drills to maintain my core, and then I try to run and/or sprint a mile or two a day for some endurance.”

After running the 800-meter leg on North Union’s state-qualifying distance medley relay team consisting of Vanessa VonBank, Lily Henderson and Cassie Beadle at last spring’s regional competition, Warrior head track & field coach Loren Looft and staff opted to move Steinberger to the 200-meter portion of the baton squad at Drake Stadium due to a time conflict at state.

“We (coaching staff) didn’t want her to run an 800 in 90-degree temperatures and then come back in 30 minutes and jeopardize her chances at a state medal in the high jump,” Looft said in reference to the Drake dilemma.

The Warriors’ quartet did not advance out of the preliminaries, hence, motivating Steinberger to offer to make an individual sacrifice for the greater good of the team this spring.

“My goals in track this season are to set the school (high jump) record by clearing 5-4 or better, qualify for state again, and be a part of a couple of relays if that allows us to get more of my teammates to state,” said Steinberger. “It’s been such an incredible experience the last two years that I think we should focus more on the relays, if that’s what it takes.”

“Hope’s very unselfish and that became apparent when she offered to sacrifice some individual success in the high jump to put more of her energy into our relays,” said Looft. “That speaks volumes about her character when she’s thinking about her teammates first.”

While Steinberger’s been able to work out in the sanctity of her own home, she realizes time is literally of the essence in regards to track & field.

“Our practice schedule has been pushed back a couple of times already, and that could create a couple of difficult dilemmas,” said Steinberger.

Indeed. The first part of troublesome timetable equation centers around the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union moving the first day of track & field practice to May 1, with the postseason lead-up meets on May 28, and the state meet June 4-6.

As of April 6, the IGHSAU had softball’s first practice slated for May 18, the regional tournament July 6-14 and the state event July 20-24.

“There’s a bit of an overlap with the two seasons (track & field and softball), so hopefully, the girls union and schools won’t make us pick between the two sports and allow us to compete in both, which will still be a lot of work,” said Steinberger. “The other tough part of the equation will be trying to squeeze in the district track meet within four weeks after having no organized practice or official coaching to get our timing (relays) and form (jumping technique) down.”

Due to the IGHSAU’s unique four-seasons sports format, Steinberger unfortunately has the potential to lose her entire spring athletic campaign and maybe a portion of her summer softball season if the pandemic does not flatten the proverbial curve.

The fleet-footed Steinberger earned her second Sentinel All-Area softball selection and all-Top of Iowa Conference diamond accolades last summer after topping North Union in eight statistical categories: batting average (.545), hits (61), doubles (9), triples (2), runs scored (35), stolen bases (22), on-base percentage (.582) and slugging (.661).

Despite her incredible athletic success at the high school level during the past five years, the North Union phenom has opted to concentrate on academics and not compete in any sports when she starts classes at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa, in the fall.

“Our high school teachers started posting assignments via email and Google classroom on April 6, so the whole out-of-school experience has been a blessing in disguise,” said Steinberger. “It’s making me more self-reliant on working out without a coach telling me to, and getting me ready for college by taking online classes.”

So, where has Steinberger set the bar for coping with all the social-distancing limitations that COVID-19 has created during these historic days?

“You just go day-by-day, do the best you can, and hopefully we make it through this experience (pandemic) sometime soon.”


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