A reflection by Ellie Twedt of Ballard High School, 2020 Dr. E. Wayne Cooley Scholarship Award Recipient.

Iowa Girl. What those two words mean is different for every Iowa Girl, but one thing remains the same: the title is unlike anything else. For me, being an Iowa Girl is about having humility, integrity, and drive, while never forgetting your roots and cherishing where you’ve come from. These ideals have become more and more important as I’ve grown up. Making choices that will benefit the future, treating others how I’d like to be treated, and working well with others are keys to success that I have learned, sometimes the hard way, throughout my time in high school and athletics.

Humility: the quality of being humble

As a smaller state of agriculturalists and farmers, we sometimes get overlooked, but I think this just further displays our importance. We aren’t overlooked because we are small or because we may be covered in corn. We are overlooked because of our humility and our desire to work hard for others without expecting anything in return. Iowa Girls are just the same. When we are passionate, dreams come true. Not because we put our own successes over that of others, but because we work hard to better those around us, rather than just ourselves. A farmer’s pride isn’t in his or her own success but in the health and nourishment of others — Iowa Girls are no different. All my life, I have been surrounded by agriculture, athletics, and above all, humility. There were times after a good race that it would have been very easy to take all the credit for the day, but in reality, it’s those who make you better who deserve all the credit. If athletics have taught me anything, it’s that victories are best won alongside others. Humility doesn’t mean we aren’t proud of the things we have accomplished, but that we’ve achieved them for the advancement of others and not as individuals.

Integrity: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles

Honesty can come in many forms. Literally telling the truth, showing your true colors, or even making a difficult choice for your well-being. When it comes to athletics, honesty encompasses all of them. Being honest when you’ve wronged a teammate, making the choice to challenge yourself to be even better than before, or being honest with yourself if you need to take a step back. When you’re honest with yourself and with others, your strong moral principles will follow. An honest person in my mind personifies someone with strong morale and virtue: willing to stand up for their neighbor. Teams are best led by one whom members of the group trust to have integrity. Over the past four years, I have seen this take shape. My high school’s cross country program has a strong history of being a well-rounded group of hardworking and dedicated individuals, but what makes even more of a difference are the legacies that each person left. Legacies, such as strong faith, kindness and unselfish desires of team success, were left in my care after those strong women moved forward in their lives. Those legacies with the greatest integrity are the ones that still live in us today. They’ve left our program better than they found it and I can only hope that I have done the same for the girls that I am leaving my team to. Iowa Girls lead and pursue their goals with never-ending integrity. Guided by honesty and principles, Iowa Girls are unrelenting leaders who lead others with great virtue and respect with selflessness.

Drive: possessing the desire to complete a certain task or goal

Drive is “driven” by goals. When you have that one relentless idea, it moves you to seek what may seem impossible. For Iowa Girls, no goal is too far out of reach. It’s amazing how over the course of a couple years, one big goal can be achieved by meeting many small goals along the way. Flashback to the end of my eighth grade year in English class. My classmates and I were asked to write a letter to ourselves that we would then open when we graduated. Now flash forward to the present, with all of the disappointments that Covid-19 brought, my high school graduation was reconfigured into a "drive-in movie theater" style event. As I arrived, I received a large envelope containing various cords, certificates and another smaller envelope. I had almost forgotten its contents until the letter addressed, “Dear Future Self”, shined back at me. The letter outlined several things in my life as an eighth grader as well as some goals that I had set for myself, one of which read, “Win the 3A state cross country championship as a team.” Instantly my lips curled upward and I couldn’t resist the goosebumps that covered my arms and legs. From the last day of eighth grade to my last day as a student at Ballard High School, that goal, among others, has driven me to put the success of my team, above my own. My girls and coaches over the past four years have challenged and built me and it is because of them that this dream was made a reality on November 2, 2019. When you have a goal, pursue it, and never lose sight of the dream until you make it a reality. But, remember to always take it one step at a time, sometimes literally, with people you love.

Cherishing your roots is one of the most meaningful and unique things that an Iowa Girl possesses. It means all sorts of things to each and every girl in our state. Loving the people that shaped her, the elements of her upbringing and the land that surrounds her. As a kid, Iowa was always the plan. I loved being outside, getting dirty, riding with my dad in the tractor or riding my four wheeler around the yard. Today though, a couple of things have changed. I have traded four wheeler tires for running shoes and will be moving to the city in the fall. However, my love for family, the farm, and all things Iowa has not. I believe that in each Iowa Girl there lies a love for our small towns, neighbors, friends from near and far, and for our state. Things won’t always be perfect and we should never expect them to be; but we can find the joy in any situation. Believe in yourself and your values and be the person that serves willingly without end. Cherishing your roots doesn’t have to mean staying in one place where you’ve always been. Instead, it’s a challenge to take the lessons learned at home and apply them to our passions now; to care for one another and to teach, whether that be in Iowa or elsewhere.

Athletics and being an Iowa Girl have had an enormous impact on my life and have shaped me in many ways. From taking care of show hogs to finishing a cross country race, having a foundation of supportive and unrelenting mentors, teammates, and family shaped me into who I am today. Success means so much more when you have a group of people to share it with. To all the Iowa Girls out there, believe in your team, believe in yourself, believe in trying new things, and never forget you are, through and through, not “just” a girl from Iowa, but an Iowa Girl.