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Basketball Seniors reflect

Senior basketball players have learned life lessons

SOLON–Ben Krutzfeldt, Luke Ira and Jack Stahle spent part of their Solon childhood in the back of the end zone at the old high school football field.
There was one athlete they looked up to with awe.
“James Morris,” the three seniors said in unison.
Morris led the Solon Spartans to three consecutive Class 2A football championships and continued as a linebacker with the Iowa Hawkeyes.
“Whatever sport he was playing, he was dominating,” Stahle said.
Krutzfeldt, Ira, Stahle and the rest of the varsity boys’ basketball team concluded their season just shy of the state tournament, falling to Mount Pleasant Feb. 26 in a Class 3A Substate 5 final.
They finished with a 16-8 record overall, 9-5 in the WaMaC East Division, good for third in the division and third overall in the conference.
There were 11 seniors on the varsity roster: Krutzfeldt, Ira, Stahle, Luke Schaeckenbach, Ethan Yahr, Greg Brandt, Carson Yakish, Alex Allen, Colin Horning, Alan Milliman and Michael Baumgartner.
Despite falling short of the tournament, the three seniors are hoping their class has served as role models for future Spartans, possibly inspiring another group of kids to succeed.
“I think a cool part is being one of the little kids, looking up to all the varsity players and then actually being a varsity player seeing all those kids look up to you,” Ira said. “It all comes back around.”
“Back when we were that age, at the old field, I felt it was kind of a different environment,” Krutzfeldt said. “I felt more of like a high school feel, kind of a small town thing, where people are almost on the field instead of back in the stands. I enjoyed that.”
Morris wasn’t the only Spartan they followed as kids.
Nick Day, Derek Loveless, Marshall Koehn, Matt Lesan. Ira ticks them off. All had successful careers at Solon High School and beyond.
“Then having him (Lesan) as a coach when he was here, it was really cool, because we knew how good of a player he was,” Krutzfeldt said.
“He’d beat us up at practice,” Stahle noted.
Solon head basketball coach Jason Pershing has a special affinity for the seniors.
Pershing took the coaching position four years ago, and as a new coach he was prepared for a variety of reactions to his arrival.
He held an impromptu meeting with all the players over lunch just to introduce himself, and then started to meet individual student athletes through open gym.
He grew to respect the leadership he saw in Krutzfeldt, Ira and Stahle, who have each played at least two years of varsity ball, including a surprise trip to the 2016 state tournament for the then-sophomores.
“The most special thing was their overall dedication to the program, to their peers,” he said of his seniors. “Every year there was a growth in leadership and the program became theirs, more than anything to do with me. The success led from them.”
He and his players attribute some of that to the size of the school and the camaraderie among its students.
Pershing attended Cedar Rapids Washington, where numerous elementary schools fed into two middle schools.
“We didn’t know half of our high school until we were ninth graders,” he said. “But these guys have known each other and built those relationships.”
Solon is a tight-knit community, the three students agreed.
In a 4A school, there might be a new student every day.
“I probably know everyone by name in my grade,” Ira said, adding a smaller district also makes it easier for students to participate in more than one activity.
“We all kind of move from sport to sport together, too. I think that’s really cool,” Krutzfeldt added. “We come off from football and we’re into basketball and it’s the same familiar faces.”
“And we support each other, too,” Stahle noted. “We always have a good student section.”
For Ira and Krutzfeldt, their senior season was their first for football, and both made it on the field, which they both thought was cool, especially since they’d played with the same kids as fifth- and sixth-graders.
“To be able to do the same thing going out our senior year, I think it’s pretty special,” Krutzfeldt said.
The high school also has a lot going for it because of the school staff and trainers, the trio said.
“I think what’s so special about Solon athletics is that the coaches care more about your future than anything,” Ira said, “and they’re always trying to look out for you. They’re trying to make you a good athlete, but they’re also trying to make you a better person in the end.”
“They look at you as a person and not just a player,” Krutzfeldt added.
“And they make you more ready for what’s going to be later in life,” Stahle said, things like taking responsibility for your actions and owning up to mistakes.
“Yeah, a bunch of life lessons,” Krutzfeldt commiserated.
They all feel like the district has done a good job preparing them for their futures. All three have taken college credit classes through the high school.
“I feel like we have everything we need, we just need to pursue what we want to pursue,” Stahle said.