Danielle Hostetler chases golf carts.
Since late August, when Hostetler won her first high school cross country race in school-record time, the Mid-Prairie freshman has been chasing …
Danielle Hostetler chases golf carts.
Since late August, when Hostetler won her first high school cross country race in school-record time, the Mid-Prairie freshman has been chasing golf carts and pace vehicles all season long.
Saturday in Fort Dodge, she’ll attempt to become the third Hostetler girl to win the Class 2A individual state championship for the fifth consecutive year while the Golden Hawks go after their fourth straight team title.
“I’m ready. I’m excited. We’re going to give our best,” Hostetler said after winning the Williamsburg state qualifier last week with a time of 18:47.
Hostetler was the only girl in Class 2A statewide to complete the state qualifier in under 19 minutes.
And just like every other meet this year, Hostetler spent most of last Thursday running by herself behind the lead vehicle, and in most races a golf cart, that marks the path for a race’s runners. Look behind Hostetler, and you will see nobody. It is a pace that is steady, regardless of hills or turns, and draws incredible looks from spectators who haven’t seen her before and have a look that says something like, “Who is this girl?”
She is 14 years old.
And she is dominating an endurance sport that athletes three years than her struggle with.
She is the only reason that Mid-Prairie twin sisters Sydney and Jaden Yoder haven’t won a race, or nearly all their races, this season.
But this is a family. Before every race, the Golden Hawks gather in a pre-race huddle as members of other teams are doing practice run-outs from their starting positions, some of them glancing over to figure out which one is Danielle Hostetler. In the hour before a race, runners purposely go by the Mid-Prairie tent to get a glance. When a school has won three consecutive state championships and it has a freshman who is the fastest in the state, and another two freshmen who are All-River Valley Conference, then the attention is clear.
All seven Mid-Prairie runners qualified both individually and as a team for the state championships. Sydney and Jaden Yoder finished third and fourth, respectively, at the state qualifier, and were followed by No. 6 Mitzi Evans, No. 7 Abby Fleming, No. 12 Phoebe Shetler and No. 15 Ana Fleming.
That, said Mid-Prairie coach Mark Hostetler, was a Golden Hawks first.
“All seven of the girls qualified individually, which is really unusual,” he said. “I thought they had a good effort. They ran smart. They did what they expected to.”
“My team is amazing,” Danielle Hostetler said. “I love every single one of the girls. They all give their heart out in all of the races and they work hard in our practices.”
Oh, the practices.
Once summer practices began in August, Mid-Prairie’s girls and boys cross country runners met at Wellman’s city park at 7 every morning to run. But even before then. Iowa high school practices begin in August, but this group of Golden Hawks, they’re out there in June and July, in March and April, pretty much all year.
“You get used to it,” Hostetler said. “Almost the whole team ran six days a week year round, which is why we’re so good. We know that if you put in the hard work, then you’ll get good rewards.”
That work ethic has existed in the Hostetler and Mid-Prairie family for years. Marie Hostetler, Danielle’s older sister who is now a freshman at Liberty University, won the state individual championship the last three years. Anna, a junior at Liberty, won the state championship in 2016 ahead of runner-up Marie.
Mark Hostetler has coached them all. Gwen Hostetler, Danielle’s mom, is often among the first to hug Danielle after a race. They praise God’s glory after each race. Danielle is home-schooled in Parnell, just as her sisters were.
“They give me some running advice sometimes about how to push it,” Danielle Hostetler said of her sisters. “They remind me to give God all the glory. I try to do that with every race.”
As Danielle was winning the state middle-school championship last year, she watched Marie closely. They talked then and they talk now.
“Last year I just tried to encourage her and glean wisdom from her and just cheer her on,” Danielle said.
Danielle says she learned from the good things and also learned from the things that Marie said she could have done better.
It all leads to Saturday at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge, where Danielle tries to win both an individual and a team state championship as a freshman.
“My ultimate goal is to win state,” she said. “That’s what I was thinking on every summer day. Just that and being able to help my team by working hard.”