Walking to school at 5 a.m. in the morning sounds like a tale of hardship your grandparents would tell you. They’d add they trekked uphill both ways.
Colfax-Mingo students, however, happily headed to school before sunrise Friday morning. They piled onto the bleachers in the gym, transforming the wall into a sea of orange and blue. Variegated pom-poms swished as cries more suited to the outdoors pierced the air. ABC Channel 5 cameras panned over the crowd. “Good morning Iowa. From Colfax-Mingo High School, welcome to Blitz Game Day.”
Zach Tomas, C-M’s co-activities director, usually coordinates after school schedules and rounds up game day officials, but Friday, his alarm clock buzzed at 3:30 a.m. and he and superintendent Jim Verlengia met camera crews from Channel 5 and their sister station, KCWI, to arrange microphones and recording equipment.
Just a couple short weeks beforehand, Channel 5 called Tomas with the news their sportscasters had chosen the school for the game of the week. He worked with the booster club to coordinate doughnuts and coffee with Hy-Vee, band and cheerleading instructors to rehearse with their students and local police to lift the early morning curfew. Staff Sergeant James Rumelhart of the Iowa National Guard and Jeff Lietz, the head football coach, had scheduled this game for the school’s military appreciation night a few months ago. The two just happened to coincide.
“There’s a lot of moving parts you don’t think about when you first start. We’re getting our school showcased, so it’s a great opportunity to talk about things that are going on,” Tomas said.
On Friday morning, Tomas beamed through his goatee as he walked through the crowd speaking with those individuals who helped make it happen. Varsity baseball coach and president of the booster club Brian Warrick leaned against the cinderblock gym wall surveying the excitement.
“We’ve done a lot of stuff over the 19 years,” he said, reflecting on the 17 of those he has served as booster club president, “but this is great.”
Justin Teed, vice president of the booster club and the junior high baseball coach, stood next to Warrick. “We’ve been involved in a lot of things over the years, little league and all that stuff … It’s easy to get involved in a small school if you want to, and we want to. We just want to make things better for the kids and the community.”
The sense of community that has called Teed and Warrick to volunteer their time for almost two decades resonated with Channel 5’s morning anchor Elias Johnson and sports anchor Matt McCulloch.
“We love to come to the smaller schools because of the school spirit,” McCulloch said. “They pack the gyms for us, and we have a lot of fun. I like how they brought the elementary kids out here, the middle school kids. I haven’t seen that yet, so that’s pretty cool.”
The football team clustered together on the bleachers, their game day jerseys pulled over T-shirts and paired with denim. The band held their instruments and fiddled with clarinet reeds and flute keys awaiting their cue to play. On the other side of the gym, cheerleaders and dance team members stretched before their performance, pointing and flexing their toes inside their supple leather jazz shoes.
“Cheering at the game tonight is going to be so much fun,” Kelcie Steenhoek, a junior who joined the team her freshman year, said. “Being with all the fellow cheerleaders is just amazing.”
They’ll have to keep those smiles, so bright and genuine that morning, plastered on their faces for more than 12 hours into military appreciation night at the game. With the cannon firing at kickoff, a flag spreading across the field during the national anthem and the National Guard rolling into the parking lot with the vehicles they use for training, maintaining that level of pep shouldn’t be difficult.
Contact Phoebe Marie Brannock at 641-792-3121 ext. 6547 or firstname.lastname@example.org