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Freshman Wickman far from ordinary on the track
By Jeff Linder
The Gazette
Thursday, May 06, 2004, 9:22:58 PM
Sarah Wickman is Everygirl. A typical, goofy high school freshman.
"She's as normal as you can get," said Mike Parker, girls' track coach at Iowa City West. "She asks the same goofy, silly, immature questions as you'd expect any freshman to ask. "If you lined our freshmen up against a wall and had to pick out a superstar, I don't think you'd point at Sarah." But Everygirl is not ordinary.
Wickman already owns an individual state cross country championship. She has tasted glory at the Drake Relays, winning the 3,000 meters. And she's just getting started.
"I didn't expect this much success. No, not at all," Wickman said. "It has been surprising."
It's not as if Wickman came from nowhere. She finished second (to Independence's Kristin Hood) in the 1,500 at the TFA eighth-grade state meet last year.
Parker watched Wickman at a junior high meet last year, and approached her.
"I said, 'I sure hope you're coming out for cross country in the fall,' " Parker said. Wickman wasn't planning on it. "I wasn't going to do anything in the fall. But the coaches kept talking to me about it," said Wickman, who finally relented. "I had never run cross country before. I didn't have a clue about anything."
Parker knew from the start that Wickman had ability -- "an enormous amount of God-given talent," he called it. Before long, he learned about her guts.
In a collision with another runner at a midseason meet last fall, Wickman was stepped on, scratched and scarred. She had to stop and put her shoe back on, and when she started running again, she was in last place. She finished sixth.
She ran in the shadows of Iowa City High's distance duo of Nelle Trefz and Jennie Funk until the state cross country meet, when she beat them both to win the 4A individual crown. "I hadn't beaten them all year. I thought the best I could do was second or third," she said.
At the Drake 3,000 and again at the Mississippi Valley Conference Super meet 1,500, Wickman outran Trefz -- a Providence College signee -- at the end. "I like the faster paces a lot," Wickman said. "I kind of wanted to be a sprinter when I was in junior high."
The daughter of a pair of track athletes -- her parents Jerry and Lori ran in high school, and Jerry was a distance runner in college -- Wickman began running on a YMCA track team in third grade.
"I liked it. It was interesting," she said. "I remember the coaches bribed us with candy when we ran."
Since Parker came to West, the school has churned out a steady stream of high-caliber distance runners: Laura Schlapkohl, Lesley Smith, Jeni Frudden, Lauren Levy, Robdu Adam and the Dobyns sisters.
Now there's Wickman. At this point, she compares favorably with her predecessors.
"I would say that as a freshman, she ranks right there at the top," Parker said. "And the best thing is, we're a long way from seeing what she's capable of doing."