It reads as a who’s who list of girls track and field icons in Iowa: Hannah Willms, Shelby Houlihan, Rebekah Topham, Jalynn Roberts-Lewis, Stephanie Jenks and Kiana Phelps.
They all won at least four state championships. They all went on to compete at the Division I level. They are the recipients of Iowa’s Gatorade track and field athlete of the year award since 2010.
Joy Ripslinger has joined that select group.
The Davenport Assumption senior was announced as this year’s winner Thursday morning, joining her sister, Rose, who was a four-time selection in soccer.
“I’ve been saying for a few months, it is still crazy to me I can be compared to those amazing athletes,” said Ripslinger, Assumption’s first Gatorade honoree for girls track and field. “It is a great honor.
“Being that track is such a big talent pool with sprinters, throwers, hurdlers, distance runners and all the field events, it is humbling I was chosen from all those other talented people.”
Pardon the pun but it has been a ‘joy ride’ for the Arkansas recruit this spring.
She was named the top female performer at the Drake Relays after capturing white championship flags in the 800 and 1,500 in late April.
She was the Quad-City Times female athlete of the year in early May.
She guided Assumption to an unprecedented fifth consecutive Iowa Class 3A state title after sweeping the 400, 800, 1,500 and 3,000 races. Included were state meet records in the 1,500 and 3,000.
“I have been coaching for 37 years and I have never seen a girl with the depth of ability that Joy Ripslinger has,” Benton Community coach Marty Thomae said. “She is the first athlete ever to win the 400, 800, 1,500 and the 3,000 at the same state meet. We may never have an individual in the state of Iowa who can do that again.”
The Gatorade honor encompasses athletics, academics and character.
In addition to 13 state track and field championships (nine event titles, four team titles), she graduated with a 3.81 grade-point average.
She was a member of the National Honor Society, vice president of the school’s student council and volunteered with Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Key Club and River Bend Foodbank.
“I’m almost at a loss for words,” Ripslinger said. “I have been having so much fun with everything, and the community support through it all has been amazing.”
But as she succinctly put it: “It is not over yet.”
Ripslinger competed in the Adidas Dream Mile earlier this month in Boston.
She ran two events last weekend at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina, anchoring Assumption to fourth place in the medley relay and taking seventh in the 800.
She left for Sacramento this morning to participate in the United States Track and Field junior nationals Friday afternoon.
“I’ll be ready for a little break, just some more casual summer activity,” she said, “before I get myself ready for the Bix (July 29).”
First, she wants to establish a new personal mark in the 800. She ran a 2:07.32 split in the 800 on the medley relay last week and 2:09.02 in the open. Her personal best is 2:07.51 in an open 800.
“I’ve been scratching the surface of the times I want to run this whole season,” she said. “Hopefully, this weekend I can finish the season where I want to. A 2:05 or 2:06 would be great.
“I think the field there could help me along with that.”
Ripslinger admits last week was valuable competing against the country’s top half-milers.
“I don’t have all that much experience yet in competitive fields and the strategy on how to race in those situations,” she said. “I’ve learned a couple good lessons in the past few weeks, what I’ve done wrong and what I can improve on.
“Hopefully, I can put together one of my best races.”