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Local Sports

Lynnville-Sully’s Gruver signs to run track at Central

Jocelyn Sheets/Newton News
Lynnville-Sully senior Abby Gruver signs a national letter of intent to participate in track and field for Central College at Pella next year. On hand for the signing in a controlled environment on Wednesday in Sully were her parents Doug and Janise, seated, and standing are, from left, L-S girls' head track coach Kevin Johnson, her brother James Gruver, and L-S boys' head track coach Darin Arkema, who was Gruver's track coach her first three high school seasons.
Jocelyn Sheets/Newton News Lynnville-Sully senior Abby Gruver signs a national letter of intent to participate in track and field for Central College at Pella next year. On hand for the signing in a controlled environment on Wednesday in Sully were her parents Doug and Janise, seated, and standing are, from left, L-S girls' head track coach Kevin Johnson, her brother James Gruver, and L-S boys' head track coach Darin Arkema, who was Gruver's track coach her first three high school seasons.

Wednesday was a bittersweet day for Lynnville-Sully senior Abby Gruver.

Gruver signed a letter of intent to participate in track and field next year for Central College in Pella. But she hasn’t run a race on the track since early April 2019 because of injury and coronavirus health crisis.

“I’m so happy to be signing with Central and joining the wonderful Central community. I’m very excited for the next journey of my life and see where God will lead me and what He will do in my track season. Hopefully, I will continue to stay healthy,” Gruver said.

Gruver said Central College was the only school which offered her a scholarship to run track. She said she did look at UNI because it has a real good teaching program.

“I landed at Central because it’s small and close atmosphere, which is much like we have here at Lynnville-Sully. When I walked on the campus, it felt like this is where I needed to be,” she said.

Central’s Dutch track teams are guided by head coach Brandon Sturman in NCAA Division III and American Rivers Conference action. Jim Fuller is an associate head coach and Gruver said Fuller helps with hurdles.

“I first met Abby at one of our track clinics when she was either an eighth grader or in the ninth grade. I thought she was going to be a talented athlete as she worked hard and paid attention,” Fuller said.

Fuller said Central coaches kept their eyes on Gruver at Lynnville-Sully and she had a really good sophomore season. The leg injury didn’t allow Gruver to run as a junior.

“She was at a clinic in January or February, and she looked good running the 60-meter hurdles inside. She’s bigger and stronger,” Fuller said.

Gruver is the school-record holder in the 400-meter hurdles for Lynnville-Sully’s girls. She is a two-time Class 1A state track meet qualifier in that event along with the shuttle hurdle and 4x400 relays — both with school-record times.

“This would be the year to redeem myself after the injury last year and not competing in track,” Gruver said. “I was able to compete early my junior year but then I found out I had a stress fracture in my left. It was tough knowing I wasn’t going to have an opportunity to get back to state last year.”

Gruver set the school record at 1 minute, 9.36 seconds as a freshman, qualified for the 1A state meet and finished 12th. She came back with a strong work ethic as a sophomore and shaved more than a full second off her school record.

Gruver ran 1:08.27 for the seventh-place medal in the 1A 400 hurdles at state as a sophomore. In her freshman year, the Hawk girls’ shuttle hurdle team was sixth at state at 1:10.13. The foursome ran at the 2018 state meet, taking second and ran a school-record time of 1:08.35 at state.

Also as a sophomore, Gruver was on the state-qualified 4x400 relay team. They ran a school-record 4:13.23 to finish ninth.

“After I found out about the injury last year, it was very heartbreaking. I still wanted to be there for my team so I gave them all my support,” Gruver said. “I had to do some rehab to strengthen it and I prayed a lot. God can do amazing things. It was very frustrating but it made me stronger.”

Gruver said people can’t take anything for granted. She said there’s always a path you have to follow and everything will come in line with it.

“I’m trying to work through this year. It’s a little harder because this was the year everything comes to an end for me at high school. It was going to be a great year,” she said.

Gruver also ran cross country for three years for Lynnville-Sully. She said she liked it but really her first love was track not the long-distance running.

In the fall, Gruver still was not totally healed after a setback over the summer so she was not running as senior for the Hawk cross country team. She was able to run the final three races of the season, including the South Iowa Cedar League meet and the Class 1A state qualifier.

“It was good to be able to run again,” Gruver said following the state qualifier race. She went to work right after that to be prepared for a strong senior track season.

Family has played a big role in Gruver’s track progression. She said her father, Doug, ran the 400 hurdles in school and was really good in them.

“I felt I should try this so I did. I ran hurdles in middle school but I was not very good but I ran them. My form has progressed over the years, thank goodness,” she said.

“My uncle, Mike Gruver, has helped me so much through the years. He has helped coach me in the offseason, helped me with my form and designed special workouts for me. He has been a very important part of my track success. Without his support, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Gruver said it was when she broke the school record as a freshman and went to state she began to love the 400 hurdle race.

“I love it even though it is an awful race,” Gruver said laughing. “I love it and I’ve missed running it. You are completely winded then go to the 4x400 right after it. It’s a great feeling not to feel your legs.”

From October 2019, Gruver said she has been training and would go to the track to use the hurdles as she prepared for the spring season. Then came the COVID-19 health crisis to suspend school and spring sports and finally cancel the 2020 season.

“I find workouts on YouTube and lift weights in my basement on Tuesday and Thursdays. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I run. Tuesday’s and Thursday’s are my hard days. I’ve continued my training to be ready for college,” Gruver said.

Gruver is the daughter of Doug and Janise Gruver of Sully. She plans to major in elementary education.

“I’ve always wanted to teach kids,” Gruver said.

Contact Jocelyn Sheets at
641-792-3121 ext. 6535
or jsheets@newtondailynews.com

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