Emma Grote spent her high school softball career in left field for the Blair Bears.
Competition in the Eastern Midlands Conference gave her confidence going into college at Southwest Minnesota State University.
“Blair prepared me for the next level because we play in one of the most competitive conferences with a very tough regular season schedule,” Grote told the Enterprise on her 2015 signing day.
Since then, the Mustang has thrived in the classroom with multiple academic honors, but also on the field and, in particular, in the batter's box. The junior started 38 times this past season, notching a .341 batting average with 45 hits, 10 RBIs, 30 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. She had a 11-game hitting streak at one point.
Grote isn't the only Washington County native who excelled in her college sport this past spring, however. Several more athletes from every corner of the county — whether they be former Blair Bears, Fort Calhoun Pioneers or Arlington Eagles — have pushed their teams to success in baseball, softball, track and field, golf, shooting sports, rugby and equestrian.
Both Grote and Blair teammate Raquell Penke were all-state honorable mention recipients in 2015.
Now, with Grote at Southwest Minnesota State, Penke is making a name for herself at Wayne State College. The catcher, who started behind the plate 24 times, had a 96-percent fielding percentage this past season. She batted at a .277 average and had 10 RBIs for the Wildcats.
Northwest Missouri State's Kailey Siemonsma played softball for both Blair and Fort Calhoun in high school. The Northwest roster member didn't record any stats in 2019, but has 10 hits in 28 career at-bats.
Arlington product Sabrina “Beanie” Luttig, meanwhile, had an all-conference season in Kansas at Hutchinson Community College. The slugger had a team-best 10 homers, hitting at a .447 average. She had 31 RBIs and recorded the sixth-best season fielding percentage in school history — 98.6.
Herman natives — and Tekamah-Herman graduates — Jessica Fleischman and Carson Cameron also played college softball this spring. Fleischman helped her College of Saint Mary team to a 17-29 record, while Cameron notched a .355 batting average at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa.
Eight more former Washington County high school athletes also play on college diamonds — baseball diamonds.
After a successful junior college run at Coffeyville, Kan., Damon Jorgensen started his NCAA Division I career at Valparaiso University this year. The junior from Blair made 43 starts, securing a .192 batting average with two homers and nine RBIs. He also had a 92-percent fielding percentage in the infield.
Former Fort Calhoun standout Peyton Griesert closed out his college career in Sioux City, Iowa, at Briar Cliff this spring. He recorded a .373 batting average in 20 total games, notching 22 hits and seven RBIs. He was joined at the school by another Pioneer, Jamie Warner, who appeared once as a freshman.
Another senior, Dane Appel of Blair, spent his spring with the 23-27 Northwest Missouri State baseball team.
Garris Karr, Jake MacDonald, Mills Macek, Layne Stafford and Andy Theiler, meanwhile, have plenty seasons of college eligibility remaining.
Karr, an Arlington graduate who previously was a Nebraska Wesleyan football player, pitched five times during his first season on the Hastings College baseball team. He recorded two strikeouts in those five appearances.
His former Eagles teammates, Stafford and Theiler, also played Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) baseball this spring. Stafford struck out 13 batters pitching for Dakota Wesleyan, earning a 1-3 record with one save. Theiler batted at a .244 average with 10 RBIs and, defensively, turned 11 double plays, which was third on his Doane University team.
Former Blair Bear Mills Macek had a homer and 10 RBIs for Norfolk's Northeast Community College, helping the team to a JUCO World Seires appearance, while Jake MacDonald pitched three times for William Jewell College (Mo.), earning three strikeouts against Southern Indiana.
Four college golfers from Washington County recoded scores this spring.
Creighton-bound Brandt Radloff of Blair finished off his Iowa Western run with a 36th-place finish at the NJCAA Division III Championships in Gothenburg. He finished his 36 holes with 158 strokes after finishing 21st in his previous tournament in Maccomb, Ill.
Another former Bear, Ahnna Schouten, is studying criminal justice at Midland University, while also golfing. She earned 37th at the CSM/MU Spring Invitational at Fremont Golf Club this past spring.
Schouten is a Warrior teammate of former Arlington Eagle Rachel Brown, who finished the same Spring Invitational with 260 strokes over 36 holes.
Eagle Landon Walkenhorst wrapped up his freshman season at Concordia University with a 36-hole 199 during the GPAC Preview Tournament at Dakota Dunes Country Club.
The South Dakota State equestrian team's Hayley Kastrup is from Blair.
The 2018 Miss Washington County Fair Queen earned two academic awards in 2019. She was on the United Equestrian Conference All-Academic and American Paint Horse Association NCEA Academic honor rolls.
As he did while a Blair Youth Shooting Sports marksman, Weston Zolck stood out during his first season as an Iowa Western shooter. He helped his Reivers squad finish third in Division IV at the ACUI Clay Target National Championships, hitting 519 of his 600 targets.
“Weston was the squad's leader all season, not only working on his own abilities, but helping to improve his teammates as well,” head coach Derek Pollock said in a school release.
Midland University's Hunter Edwards also excelled at the Clay Target Championships. The Arlington shooter's American Trap Team finished first in Texas with 497 targets.
Blair graduate Derek Dishman was another member of the Midland roster, while Courtney Nielsen competed for Southwestern Community College (Iowa). Nielsen helped her team finish sixth out of 11 teams at the Iowa Collegiate State Championships with an 11th-place finish. She also earned a sixth-place medal for her season performance in the women's singles division of her school's conference.
Brook and May Hoesing of Arlington and Fort Calhoun's Lauren Nelson once again helped their Wayne State College rugby squad win a national championship this fall.
The multiple-time national champs helped the Wildcats to a 7s title in May. Brook Hoesing, meanwhile, continued on from there, captaining her National Small College Rugby Organization 7s Select Team during the Penn Mutual Collegiate National Championships.
Track and field
The spring college sport with the most Washington County representation is track and field. Fourteen county natives were on rosters this spring.
University of Nebraska at Omaha freshman Sophia Kirwan kicked off her college career with lifetime bests in the outdoor 200- and 400-meter dashes. The former Blair Bear finished the 200 in 26.18 seconds at the Kip Janvrin Open in April before running the 400 in 58.99 at the Nebraska Invitational on May 4.
Kirwan was eighth in the 400 dash at the Summit League meet.
Former Bears Lily Johnson, Grant Lammers, Jarod Reed, Alec Wick, Evan Wick and Chris Zanotto also made their mark in track and field. Johnson and Alec Wick, in particular, impressed on their college squads.
Johnson led the Washburn (Kan.) Ichabods in the 800 and 1,500, securing times of 2:20.34 and 4:50.83, respectively. She finished seventh in the 1,500 at the Kansas Relays.
Wick, meanwhile, had Doane University's best times in the 1,500, 5,000 and 10,00 meters. His 32:13.22 in the 10,000 run earned him a GPAC event title.
Evan Wick is also a member of the Doane Tigers' roster. His career bests in the 1,500 and 5,000 meter came in 2018.
Reed and Lammers, meanwhile, are teammates at Concordia in Seward. Lammers finished eighth in the 200 at Nebraska Wesleyan, while finishing the same race in 24.18 seconds at the Blizzard Buster Invite. Reed earned 14th at Nebraska Wesleyan in the 400, stopping the clock in 54.41.
Another Concordia Bulldog, Arlington grad Bailey Clapper, ran the 100-meter dash at the Concordia Invitational in April.
Colton Folkers of Fort Calhoun finished the GPAC meet's 5,000-meter run in 16:53, claiming 13th for Northwestern College (Iowa).
Another former Pioneer standout, Hannah Warner, earned All-GPAC honors in the 400 dash. She finished fourth with a time of 58.62 seconds. At a Concordia meet, she earned a gold medal in the event — her speciality going back to her Fort Calhoun days.
Two throwers from Washignton County — Arlington's Brynden Kinnaman and Blair's Chris Zanotto — competed in the GPAC shot put. Kinnaman — a Briar Cliff Charger — was 22nd, while Zanotto — a Dakota Wesleyan Tiger — was 11th with a 45-foot, 10.75-foot attempt.
Sarah Stang of Herman is one of three Washington County field event athletes at Wayne State. The Tekamah-Herman graduate finished sixth in the shot put during the Mount Marty Invite in April.
Another thrower, Richard Sweeney of Blair, who graduated high school from Omaha Christian Academy, was a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) All-Academic Team member.
Fort Calhoun product Hanna Lazure, meanwhile, earned her 5-2 1/2 best in the high jump on April 20. She cleared 4-9 3/4 at the NSIC Outdoor Championships and was seventh in the event at the UNK Loper Invite.