2019 DFJ Female Athlete of the Year: Zoey Woodle
WCHS senior follows in the footsteps of a big sister she was never able to meet
WEBSTER CITY — Zoey Woodle never got the chance to meet her older sister, Kacie. She was left with stories and memories that weren’t hers to fill the immeasurable void in her life.
But on this day, Zoey knows one thing: Her big sis would be proud.
All of those early morning drives from Stratford to Webster City: worth it. The too many practices to remember: worth it too. The many late nights finishing homework and cramming for tests: well, you get the idea.
Zoey Woodle sacrificed a lot to play four sports for WCHS, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. And the payoff comes today with one final award before she leaves the nest and begins a new chapter at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids this fall.
Woodle is the 2019 Daily Freeman-Journal Female Athlete of the Year.
“I’m really happy that I won this award,” the usually serious Woodle said with a smile on her face. “It was definitely a tough four years playing four sports, going to school, keeping up with my friends, but it also kind of feels like just yesterday that I was a freshman getting the opportunity to run at state track and now it’s all over.”
She’s probably the best athlete in her family, but she knows she’s not the first.
“My mom says I’m just like Kacie. Every little thing I do — like when I roll my eyes, stuff like that — is so much like her. I’m the spitting image of her,” Zoey said. “We were the athletes of the family. Kacie loved softball too, that was her favorite.”
Kacie tragically died following a car accident in 1998 when she was 12 years old. Zoey was born two years later, never knowing the joy of her sister or the grief that came from her loss. But she knows her athletic achievements have helped to fill in the gaps.
“It helps to keep her memory alive I’m sure,” Zoey said. “I’m definitely a little disconnected. It’s my family and she’s my sister, but I wasn’t around, so I didn’t feel the grief that everyone else felt.”
A member of the volleyball, basketball, track and field, and softball teams at WCHS, Woodle was a heavy contributor in all four during her senior season. Maybe she wasn’t the star, and maybe her name wasn’t the first fans thought of when discussing the previous night’s game, but she was always there doing her part to help out.
“She’s one of those kids that does everything you ask,” Jess Howard, who coached Woodle in volleyball and softball, said. “As a coach, it’s kind of like free advertising. For her to win the Athlete of the Year award, it shows when you put in the time and dedicate yourself to something, in the end there are things that come from it.” Woodle finished things off on a high, there’s no doubt about that. A first-team all-North Central Conference accolade awaited her following a softball campaign in which she hit .444 with 29 runs scored and 22 stolen bases. Sitting in the No. 2 slot in the lineup, she could hit the gaps and turn on the jets, or she could lay down a bunt and utilize her speed to jump aboard that way.
And defensively, there weren’t many outfielders better. She played 28 games — a season in which WCHS went 21-7 — without committing a single error.
“I think that I ended very strong for sure,” she said. “Softball went really well.”
The summer helped Woodle forget about the spring.
Choosing a favorite between track and field and softball has always been a chore for Woodle and she still doesn’t have a definitive answer. And throughout April and May, she was the most dynamic athlete on the Lynx track and field team. As a long jumper and sprinter, she was usually good for two, three or four medals at meets and she expected to cap the season with a trip to state.
Unfortunately, we don’t always get what we want. Woodle saw it all end following the State Qualifying Meet when she was on the wrong end of what essentially amounted to a coin-flip tiebreaker.
“It’s still hard for me to think about track, the fact that I didn’t make it to state and I was so close,” she said. “Physically I had never been better in track.”
Volleyball and basketball were never able to rival her other two sports, but that doesn’t mean Woodle backed down from the challenges.
She was a prototypical jack of all trades on the volleyball court where she could play any position and contribute. She ranked in the top five on the Lynx team in kills, digs, assists and service aces.
On the hardwood, she was a fierce defender who could score as well when called upon.
Perhaps the best part of her story: Woodle did it all while maintaining a spot in the top 15 of her graduating class, something that was more important to her parents than her athletic exploits. Her academic prowess also earned her a spot in the National Honor Society.
“My parents sometimes got the bad end of that because I would come home and do homework and I wouldn’t talk to them all night. They’d barely see me,” Woodle said. “But they’re definitely my biggest supporters. They have hardly missed any sporting events since I was six years old.”
The other finalists for the DFJ Female Athlete of the Year included WCHS junior Taylor McKinney and freshman Alayna Finucan, as well as a South Hamilton trio — seniors Breanne Diersen and Lily Skartvedt, and junior Hailey Cavan.
DFJ Female Athlete of the Year Winners
2014: Kaylee Schnathorst, Webster City
2015: Hannah Myers, Webster City
2016: Allie Flaws, Webster City
2017: Ady Wintermote, South Hamilton
2018: Cassidy Nerland, Webster City
2019: Zoey Woodle, Webster City