Lynx softball to hold Ashlyn Clark Benefit on June 26

Humboldt’s Ashlyn Clark (center) celebrates the Wildcats’ 3-0 victory over Atlantic in a Class 3A state quarterfinal last July in Fort Dodge. On May 7, Clark was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Messenger file photo/Britt Kudla

WEBSTER CITY — Webster City and Humboldt have long been rivals on the softball diamond and many times the North Central Conference title has been decided after what happens when they meet between the lines.

But the next confrontation between the programs will be different. It will be special. And what the scoreboard says after seven innings will be a footnote, not the headline.

WCHS will hold the Ashlyn Clark Benefit when Humboldt comes to Lynx Field on Wednesday, June 26 for the first of two showdowns this season between the current conference co-leaders.

Clark, a Humboldt senior who has started 41 games in right field for the Wildcats, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma on May 7 and she’s currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

WCHS head coach Jess Howard is spearheading the benefit for the Clark family later this month. T-shirts that read “Two Teams Playing For 1 Cause” are available for purchase online at www.walloffame247.com/webster-city (click on the apparel link) through June 19 and will be available for pick-up prior to the game on June 26. Howard also said that any T-shirts ordered by members of the Humboldt community will be delivered to Humboldt prior to the 26th.

Instructions on how to purchase a T-shirt for the Ashlyn Clark Benefit at Lynx Field in Webster City on Wednesday, June 26. All proceeds from the T-shirt sales will go to the Clark family.

A walking taco meal will also be available at the WCHS concession stands.

All proceeds from the T-shirt sales and meal will go to the Clark family.

“Giving them this benefit doesn’t make anything easier, but it might help them with the costs,” Howard said. “Something like this puts things into perspective for everybody. It hits home for you and makes you realize how lucky you are. So you want to give as much support as you can to those going through the struggle.”

Those attending the game on the 26th are encouraged to wear their T-shirts in support of Clark.

Doug Van Pelt, Humboldt’s longtime head softball coach, said the entire team has been overwhelmed with the support shown to the Clark family over the past month. A similar benefit was held in Fort Dodge recently and Humboldt will hold its own benefit for Clark on June 27.

Ashlyn Clark (26) of Humboldt slides in safely under the tag of Algona’s Emma Hjelle during a Class 3A regional final softball game in Humboldt a season ago. Clark, a senior, is currently battling Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Webster City will hold a benefit for Clark and her family on Wednesday, June 26. Messenger file photo/Brit Kudla

“The outpouring of help that the communities want to give and especially from the teams that we play, it’s pretty special,” Van Pelt said. “We’re blessed we get to play the game and meet so many neat people throughout the communities in north central Iowa. They’ve touched the lives of the Clark family.”

“Ashlyn’s Night at the Ballpark” at the Humboldt softball diamond on June 27 will feature a number of events and Van Pelt says everyone is invited to the benefit where again all proceeds and donations will go to help the Clark family fight the medical expenses.

The feature event will be a slowpitch softball game between former Iowa and Iowa State football players. Joel Lanning, Ben Bruns, Lane Danielson and Greg Schoon are just some of the former Cyclones expected to play. Chad Greenway, Brad Banks, Kyle McCann, Bruce Nelson and Humboldt native Tyler Nielsen are scheduled to play for the Hawkeyes.

Gary Dolphin, the voice of the Hawkeyes, will be the master of ceremonies.

There will also be a meal and concessions, a dunk tank, an autograph session and a home run derby.

Van Pelt is hopeful the event will attract people from all over central Iowa.

“A free-will donation will get you in,” he said. “It should be a really fun night.”

Whether Clark will be able to be in Webster City on the 26th is unknown. She’s currently splitting her time between Rochester and Humboldt. Van Pelt says she’s undergoing the second of five chemotherapy sessions that last eight days each. Following her first session, Clark returned to the team and started several games.

“She got a hit her first time up and it was incredible,” Van Pelt said. “We took advantage of the time she was able to play and it was a pretty cool scene. (After the second session) we don’t know if she’ll be able to feel well enough to play.”

A four-sport athlete at Humboldt, Clark was a first-team all-NCC volleyball and softball player as a junior in 2017-18.

On the softball diamond, she’s a career .316 hitter. She hit at a .341 clip a season ago to help the Wildcats reach the state tournament and place third in Class 3A.

An Iowa Central Community College volleyball recruit, Clark concluded her prep career with 328 kills and 540 digs. The Wildcats went 56-13 with her in the starting lineup during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

The diagnosis in early May came as a shock to everyone, Van Pelt said. But through it all, he says Clark has maintained a bubbly personality and a desire to be just one of the players.

“Anybody that goes through this, it’s obviously life-changing,” he said. “I mean, she wasn’t even able to walk across the stage (at graduation) to receive her diploma. But to see her come back two days after the chemotherapy and watch her trot out to right field, it brought a tear to everybody’s eye. She was bouncing around in the dugout … she just wants to be known as Ashlyn the softball player, not Ashlyn Clark the girl that has cancer.”

WCHS is currently 9-4, 5-0 in the NCC. Humboldt, ranked second (Class 3A), entered last night’s game against Iowa Falls-Alden at 13-1, 4-0 in the conference with its lone loss coming at the hands of fourth-ranked (5A) Fort Dodge Senior.