Published April 5, 2023
BY ELLA GAILY
With the spring sports season in full swing, a small group of dedicated student athletes only need to maintain their academic eligibility and complete the season to see their names engraved as Iron Men and Iron Women on both the plaque inside the CHS office and in the school’s history of rewarding those who persevere in sports throughout their high school career.
Every year the Iron Man and Woman Awards are given to seniors who played a sport in every season of high school, usually three to six recipients for each award, and it’s been a long-established tradition since the 1980s. However, when current Athletic Director Golden Anderson arrived at CHS 17 years ago it had become almost obsolete until he brought the award off the sidelines.
“It’s really an impressive feat because when I was in school we weren’t pulled in as many different directions,” says Anderson of why CHS celebrates these students with their name on the plaque, a cord at graduation, their own certificate and distinction in the CHS graduation program. “There wasn’t as much academic stress so what we did in our free time was play sports. Now because there are so many other things students can do with their time it’s pretty rare, especially with the amount of kids who play sports here.”
With around 41% of CHS students playing spring sports and a large percentage of that number also playing fall sports, the winter season with limited choices is often the culprit for many students falling just one season short of the award. And along with limiting factors such as schoolwork, jobs and academic eligibility, the award singles out which athletes show the most dedication.
“Since I enjoyed all three sports I played, I figured I’d give it a shot,” says Ella Fenstermaker, a 2020 Iron Woman Award recipient, of how she pursued the award through field hockey, soccer and diving early on. “Balancing school and sports was often difficult, so there were times where my goal of getting the award kept me going.”
For many past recipients, a combination of earning the award for their family and themselves made up part of their motivation.
“I knew about the award because my brother also received it, but it just happened to work itself out,” says Tristan Staehle who was a committed football player and 2022 Iron Man Award recipient. “But the whole dynamic of what a sport is is what I was truly after.”
Unlike several past recipients committing to two sports for four years each, Oliver Whittaker, another 2022 Iron Man Award recipient, was unique in that his only four-year sport was water polo. As one of many examples of past recipients having desired the dynamic of sports in their life at all times, Whittaker was rare in how this led him to play volleyball, swimming, golf and baseball over the four springs of his high school career.
“Playing sports has always been an outlet for me to meet friends and get exercise,” says Lelia Kraut, a 2022 Iron Woman Award recipient, a sentiment that past recipients share looking back on their valuable time playing a variety of sports.
The pandemic disrupted these athletes’ end goal of the award and their time to enjoy the game by allowing 2020, 2021, 2022 and future 2023 recipients to play 11 sports instead of the required 12. The 2021 school year had only two sports seasons and kept most from participating in more than two sports without switching mid-season.
“I was really sad when I had to choose between swimming and basketball my senior year,” reflects Erin Trotter, who earned an Iron Woman Award in 2021. “I couldn’t do both at once because that would’ve meant going to four hours of practice per day and that was too much.”
Anderson has adapted tradition for 11-sport athletes since 2020 to receive the award because they still played a sport in every available season. The athletic director will discuss these circumstances with seniors who believe themselves to be qualifying after the award is announced in the CHS Bulletin, as well as explaining what this award is all about at its core.
“Since I came here and we reinstituted giving out the award, we’ve honored everyone who fulfills the requirements,” Anderson says. “It would be tough to come up with a criteria to select one person out of the group. It’s more of celebrating those who are able to do that, especially at our school where we’re so big on students playing more than one sport and getting involved.”
The 2023 Iron Man and Woman Award recipients will be announced at the CHS Awards Night in May.