WEBSTER CITY - Sitting on the Webster City High School track as the sun finally fades into darkness on a warm and mosquito-riddled July night, Kaylee Schnathorst feels free.
For four-plus years she dedicated her extracurricular life to bringing victories to the Lynx sports programs and she did it with a ferocity that few girls could match. Her talent was unquestioned, but it didn't hold a candle to her desire to succeed.
And now that it's over? Bittersweet is an understatement.
DFJ photo by Anne Blankenship
Webster City senior Kaylee Schnathorst (center) receives her Daily Freeman-Journal Female Athlete of the Year award from Fareway general manager Matt Shannon (right) and Daily Freeman-Journal sports editor Troy Banning earlier this week.
"It's almost like post traumatic sports disorder," Schnathorst said. "Sometimes I think about losing in that (volleyball) regional final (in five sets to Union) my freshman year and my gut still hurts. I remember every single point of that game, and then I remember things like winning the conference (softball) title in nine innings ... it's hard to believe it's over.
"Nobody likes waking up at six in the morning and going to practice, but now I wish I hadn't wished it away because you don't realize how much fun it is until its gone."
Schnathorst's prep career was littered with one milestone after another and heaped with accolades. Today she adds one more - the title of Daily Freeman-Journal Female Athlete of the Year, sponsored by Fareway.
"It's pretty cool," Schnathorst said of winning the award. "I'm proud of what I've accomplished and I've accomplished quite a bit."
Schnathorst's senior year included a North Central Conference volleyball championship - the Lynx second in three years after going more than 20 years without holding the title. She snagged a fourth all-NCC volleyball award and her third unanimous first-team honor. She was also all-district and all-state on the court.
The spring brought her a conference gold medal in the shot put and another trip to Des Moines for the state meet where she placed 13th in the Class 3A throwing event.
Schnathorst's summer season started even before the spring was complete, but juggling activities is nothing new to her. She jumped off the track bus, threw on her softball cleats and picked up a bat and helmet. She never missed a beat and helped WCHS finish second in the league hierarchy while garnering a fourth consecutive first team all-league honor.
OK, let's get it out of the way. Schnathorst has heard it all of her life and, truthfully, it doesn't irritate her. Well, not much anyway.
Yes, she is fully aware of the fact that she gives off a Ronda Rousey vibe when she steps between the lines. The face is stone. The body language is confrontational. She's intimidating without even trying to be and, in some ways, that is an added bonus.
"I'm infamous for it. Famous or infamous, it's kind of a hard decision," she joked. "I look a lot more intense than I mean to. I'm just focusing and not letting people get inside my head. I could be nervous, but I'm not going to let you see that."
Jess Howard has coached Schnathorst since she was 12 years old and has piled up plenty of volleyball and softball wins with her pupil in the lineup. In some ways the player mimics the coach; Howard doesn't have the Schnathorst scowl, but good luck figuring out her emotions when she's on the sideline.
"Kaylee has definitely been one of the most intense athletes I've had the privilege of coaching and one of the best all-around players I've seen," Howard said. "She's not going to give anything away from her face. A lot of people will take it the wrong way, but for her it's just being in the game and ready to go."
Facial expressions and stare downs aside, there's no question it's helped Schnathorst become the athlete she is today.
The thoughtful comedian
To know the player is to only know one of Schnathorst's layers. Sit down and talk with her and you'll see another side.
Smart. Thoughtful. Witty. Funny.
Asked if she's headed to the University of Iowa this fall because that's where boyfriend and Iowa Hawkeye football player Boone Myers is stationed, she's quick with a response.
"Uh, no," she said. "I'm actually blaming him for kind of stealing my thunder. I went to a (football) game there my sophomore year and I fell in love with the atmosphere. I got this weird obsession with Iowa City."
Schnathorst will study human physiology at Iowa with the hopes of one day becoming an anesthesiologist. And then comes the witty sidebar ...
"Being an anesthesiologist is the goal, but if a certain football player decides he needs to go to the NFL, cardiac rehabilitation is my backup."
A full course load isn't the only thing she'll tackle in college though. For months she thought her athletic career would end in a Lynx uniform, but all of that changed in April. After some soul searching and prodding from family, friends and coaches, Schnathorst decided to tackle a new goal.
"Coaches have told me since I was a freshman that I should do the heptathlon because I can run, I can do hurdles and I can throw," she said. "My mom has told me forever that I can do anything I put my mind to and I finally believe her. So what the heck, you know?"
Schnathorst was contacted by Iowa multi-events track coach Molly Jones and even that first encounter gives her a chance to work on her comedy chops.
"I compare it to talking to a boy for the first time or going on a first date. You're trying to say the right thing and trying to get a feel for what they're saying when you don't know for sure what's going on," she said. "Some of these girls don't know what they're getting themselves into, but I do and that's why I'm a little crazy. You make yourself a little crazy, you really do. But I like the line, 'Dedication is what the weak call obsession.' That fits me."
The heptathlon consists of seven track and field events - the 100 meters, high jump, shot put, 200 meters, long jump, javelin throw and 800 meters.
It's those seven events that have brought Schnathorst back to her old stomping grounds - the Bob Buckley Track - on this July evening. After a 30-minute weight lifting workout and a 20-minute break for an interview, Schnathorst and friend Morgan Moline get to work as night envelops the track.
There's no doubt that high school was good to her. But she's just getting started.