2018 DFJ Male Athlete of the Year: Logan Peters

Maturity, strength make Hawks’ distance guy a star

Logan Peters (center) is presented with the 2018 Daily Freeman-Journal Male Athlete of the Year trophy by DFJ Sports Editor Troy Banning (left) and Fareway General Manager Matt Shannon. Peters will be a senior at South Hamilton in the fall. DFJ photo/Anne Blankenship

JEWELL — Two years ago he just didn’t get it. The genetics that made him long and lean, plus his natural ability, those would be good enough to take him where he wanted to go.

Or so he thought.

Fast forward to a hot, sticky day in July. He’s on vacation, but there he goes through the hills of the Ozarks with his dad, Jeff, following closely behind in the car. Five miles. Six miles. Seven miles. Eight miles. Pushing his mind and his body to places most people will never go.

He gets it now. You better believe he gets it now.

“Two years ago, I was barely running,” South Hamilton senior-to-be Logan Peters said as he thinks back to a time when he was good, but not great. “I thought my talent, I could get by with it. Now I realize I have to put the work in and train harder than my competitors. So now I’m doing 30 to 40 miles in a week.”

Look out, Iowa. He already has one state title and now he wants more.

Following a junior year where expectations caught up to reality, today we laud Peters with one more honor. He’s the 2018 Daily Freeman-Journal Male Athlete of the Year.

In the deepest field since the award was first handed out, Peters’ resume rose above the rest. He beat out his basketball and track and field teammate Logan Klemp, a University of Iowa recruit who was the Class 1A football Player of the Year last fall, not to mention five Webster City athletes — James Cherry, Cooper Lawson, Dylan Steen, Jordan Tanner and Zane Williams — who combined for a slew of all-state honors and a couple state medals.

“To win this with all of those amazing athletes, it’s pretty humbling,” Peters said. “Every single one of them, they’re good guys and really good athletes.

“I want to thank my coaches, teachers, people in the community, my parents and my teammates in every sport. Without them, I couldn’t do what I do every day.”

-Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Logan Peters of South Hamilton celebrates after winning boys 2A 1600 run on Saturday at Drake Stadium

All Peters did as a junior was finish in the top 10 in Class 2A at the state cross country meet, help guide the South Hamilton basketball team to 24 consecutive wins and a spot in the 2A state tournament and win four 2A state track and field medals, including the state title in the 1,600-meter run.

What pushed him to that next level where, now, everyone will know who he is when he toes the line in future races or steps onto the hardwood? Maturity. It’s really that simple.

There was a time, not so long ago, when Peters treated the weight room like the enemy. Any excuse he could make to get out of lifting, he made it. He paid the price, too, when distance runners who had made the sacrifice too often passed him down the stretch of races because they had the strength for that final push.

“I’d see these other really good runners lift weights and that’s what really motivated me,” Peters said. “Seeing the other kids on my team getting in there and knowing I wanted to be a leader on the team, that really motivated me as well to get in there and get stronger.”

The cross country regular season last fall was when the results began to show. Peters failed to finish in the top 10 just one time in 11 meets and that came at Waverly where South Hamilton was in a one-class battle with some of the state’s largest schools. Seven times he placed inside the top five.

But the state meet in Fort Dodge, or more specifically the final mile of the race, is where he took that next step.

Peters has always been a front runner, someone who challenges the best until he simply can’t anymore. But something was different on that crisp October afternoon. Instead of fading, he got stronger as the finish line came into the picture. And just like that he was an all-state runner, on the podium, after a seventh-place finish in a season’s best time of 16:42.

“To get seventh at state cross country, it was kind of surprising to me and most people, but it really was the springboard for everything,” Peters said.

South Hamilton head cross county and boys’ track and field coach Darrell Paulsen noticed the change in that race. He had been one of the loudest voices, constantly telling Peters he had to get stronger to achieve his goals, and in those 16 minutes and 42 seconds the transformation occurred.

“Unbelievable, remarkable,” was how Paulsen described Peters’ junior year. “One of my goals was to get somebody up there in the top 15 (at state cross country) because that’s a big deal for everybody and from there it just kept steamrolling. He had a good basketball season and then getting into track, it was remarkable what he did.”

Peters served as that glue guy on the basketball court, as the Hawks vaulted into the top five of the state rankings and reached state for the second time in five years. He averaged 12 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting 55 percent from the field, including 38 percent from behind the 3-point arc.

Opposing defenses always looked to limit teammates Marco Balderas and Conner Hill, but that left the 6-foot-2 Peters to do damage. He scored in double figures 17 times, put up double-digit rebound totals three times and collected nine caroms in three other games.

And with the state tournament on the line, he was at his best. Facing another undefeated team in East Marshall in front of a sold-out gymnasium in Nevada, Peters buried all three of his 3-point attempts and 6 of 8 shots from the floor en route to 16 points in a 52-32 South Hamilton rout.

“You had to pick your poison with us,” Peters said. “I’m sure that was pretty tough for opposing coaches to put a game plan together to try and stop us.”

Once again, success translated into more success. And Peters was saving the best for last.

Track and field, his specialty really, was the crowning jewel.

The first sign came in Norwalk in early April when he broke his own school record in the 1,600. The second sign came later that month when he buried the competition in the 3,200 in Gilbert and became the first South Hamilton runner to break 10 minutes in the event.

How many times had he run the 3,200 prior to that race where he clocked a 9:59.98? Twice. Not that season, but ever.

“I just kept getting stronger with every workout and Paulsen harped on me all year that I could do it,” Peters said. “I was pretty excited about the possibilities.”

With two of the three school records he wanted — we’ll get to the 800 in a minute — already checked off, Peters attained another goal in early May when he swept the half-mile and two-mile gold at the rain-shortened HOIC meet.

And then came state.

Four medals and a state title, those were the goals. Whether anyone else believed it was possible, he did and that’s all that mattered.

Up first was a sixth-place finish in the 3,200 in 10:07.74 where he utilized his newfound strength to sprint by several competitors down the homestretch. Later in the day he led off South Hamilton’s 4×800 relay that also grabbed a sixth-place medal.

Two down, two to go.

Saturday, May 18, 2018 — Peters remembers it well. It was an early morning wake-up call with the 800 scheduled for 11:10 a.m. He’d never broken two minutes before in the open 800, but the pace and adrenaline carried him to a bronze medal in another school-record time of 1:56.89.

And, finally, came the 1,600, the event that brought him his first state medal in 2016. This was his, he told himself.

Peters again pushed himself with the leaders through two laps and then three. When the bell went off, Mid-Prairie 3,200 champion Floyd Evans took off, but so did Peters. Stride for stride, they separated from the field as they reached the backstretch.

With 150 meters to go, it appeared that Evans’ foot speed would be the difference, but as they rounded the corner and headed for home Peters’ added strength carried him forward and past his rival for the final time.

Arms raised, Peters crossed in 4:23.15, which smashed his own school record. And, forever, he can call himself a state champion.

“I knew I would be in contention for that first-place medal, but I just had to run my race and attack when I could attack,” Peters said. “That finish, that was huge for me.”

The question now is what will Peters do for an encore during the 2018-19 school year? With colleges already knocking on his door, he sees his future in front of him.

The best could be yet to come.