Female athletes from Iowa are special in many ways; here at the IGHSAU we work to recognize the “Iowa Girl” and share our enthusiasm for the good that she represents. There is something unique in every Iowa Girl, whether that be leadership, dedication or compassion. Each one has a story worth sharing.
Welcome to the Iowa Girl Project. Join fellow Iowa Girl Lauren Dufoe as she shares the stories of Iowa Girls who are taking the skills they learned through their education and athletic career above and beyond. These women are making a positive impact on their communities, big and small. They inspire the next generation to compete in sports and conquer the challenges ahead.
Proud to be an Iowa Girl!
Iowa Girls ACTIVELY CARE ABOUT OTHERS.
Randi Henderson, current head women’s basketball coach at Washington University in St. Louis, lives her life overflowing with compassion and intentionality. Even in the middle of facing one of life's hardest battles.
It doesn’t take long when talking with Randi Henderson to realize you’re not talking to just anyone. You’re talking with someone who very clearly cares about the people with whom she shares a room. Including you.
This is one trait of Henderson’s that has always stayed the same, even since her breast cancer diagnosis in July 2020.
Randi Henderson, née Peterson, grew up at Cedar Falls High School, where she participated in basketball and swimming.
Amidst sold out crowds, and a basketball conference that brought the Tigers competitive success, Henderson’s time at Cedar Falls solidified that above all else, it’s the relationships that set the Iowa Girl’s experience apart.
“Lots of people poured into my life and wanted me to be successful,” she said.
Family-like closeness had always been a core value for Henderson, whether it was biologically or basketball oriented. When choosing between colleges, she wanted her grandparents to be able to see her play as much as possible, and was always attracted to basketball programs that had a family “feel”. Putting a high value on the people around her has faithfully guided Henderson to this very day.
The personal investment of Henderson’s teammates and coaches at Cedar Falls, along with the incredible support of her hometown community, made the desire to continue playing in her home state irrefutable.
There are just some things you can’t get anywhere but home.
When she visited the University of Iowa, and saw the way they cared about each other, her college decision became crystal clear.
Lisa Bluder’s first year as Iowa’s head women’s basketball coach was Henderson’s senior year. The team went from winning just nine games the previous season, to winning the Big Ten championship.
Without the leadership of Henderson and the rest of her senior class, Bluder believes it “would not have happened.”
“On the court, Randi was a great rebounder. She knew her own strength, and she worked really hard at it,” Bluder said. “Off the court, she always looked at a challenge and took it head on. That part of her personality — how hard she works — has paid off in so many ways. Especially now, in her cancer fight.”
Henderson’s heart has always shined through just as much as her physical abilities. In such a prominent way, Coach Bluder said, “One year coaching, and now forever friends.”
As Henderson said, “playing in your home state is special.” For you, the state, and the people who support you.
Growing up as an Iowa Girl, she learned how to pour into her coaches, teammates, and friends, just the way they had poured into her.
Today, as a wife, mother of two (Harper and Zeke), and the head women’s basketball coach at Washington University in St. Louis, the effect of the time she focused on how she treated others has made its way full circle.
Last July, Henderson was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the time between her originally scheduled mammogram (cancelled due to COVID-19) and her rescheduled appointment, the cancer had grown enough that they started immediate chemo treatment.
Numerous former teammates, players and coaches, and even families from the AAU basketball club coached by her husband, Duez Henderson, have reached out with their love, support, and prayers.
One example of support came from some of Henderson’s former Coe College players. Before coaching at Washington University, one of Henderson’s positions was the head coach for the Kohawk’s women’s basketball team from 2006 through 2015. These players decided that “since they weren’t able to be there to hug her in person, they hoped she would be wrapped in their love” through a sweater they made, with notes of love and encouragement sown into the interior.
It has been acts like this that have brought tears to Henderson’s eyes, and reminded her just how much her time as a young Iowa Girl taught her.
On December 14th, 2020, Henderson rang the bell to commemorate finishing her chemo treatments.
But, she was commemorating much more than just her first medical achievement on this road. Her personal, spiritual and emotional journeys earned their respective recognition as well.
The future has not been erased of its challenges for Henderson, but the ones that have yet to come will undoubtedly be met with the fiercest kind of love and support. The kind that’s created through the heart of an Iowa Girl.
Written by Lauren Dufoe. Lauren is a freelance writer for the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union. She is a graduate of Center Point-Urbana High School and currently attends Coe College where she studies public relations and communications. As a former Iowa high school student-athlete, Lauren is excited to share a story of an "Iowa Girl" through the Iowa Girl Project.