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Clippers and Lions gettin’ along

Amboy’s Kaitlin Ortgiesen (left) completes a handoff to LaMoille’s Erin Hosto (18) during the 3,200 relay in Thursday’s 1A state prelims at O’Brien Stadium.
Amboy’s Kaitlin Ortgiesen (left) completes a handoff to LaMoille’s Erin Hosto (18) during the 3,200 relay in Thursday’s 1A state prelims at O’Brien Stadium.

CHARLESTON – There was a time when Amboy senior Megan Grady and LaMoille senior Erin Hosto didn’t quite get along so good.

It was back in their junior high track and field days, when they each competed for their respective schools.

“She hated me because I would always lie about my mile times,” Grady said. “She’d say, ‘Oh, what’s your best mile time?’ trying to feel everybody out. I’d be like, ‘7 minutes,’ and then I’d go out and run a 5:30. She’d be so mad.”

“I knew about her, and she was very good,” Hosto said with a smirk. “I was a little bit jealous.”

While Grady and Hosto were once enemies – or as much enemies as pre-teens could be – they are now best buds as members of the Amboy-LaMoille girls track co-op. The schools have joined forces for the past 14 seasons, beginning in 2005, and also co-op for football.

LaMoille’s small enrollment and spotty participation dictated at the time they do something, and that led the Lions to Amboy for boys and girls track and cross country, as well as football.

Bob Halberg has been in the middle of the situation since the beginning. He taught and coached track at the junior high in LaMoille from 2002-2004, then moved on to teach in Amboy, and he’s about to complete his 13th year teaching fifth grade.

He’s also coached cross country and girls track at Amboy, starting in 2006. This year, there are just two LaMoille girls – Hosto and Nya Ranel – on his roster, but in most years, he’s had a better balance.

“There are years when we’re heavy on one side,” Halberg said. “This year, we’re a little light on the LaMoille side, but it hasn’t taken away from the enthusiasm of the kids, their willingness to come to practice and to work hard.”

Most days at about 3:10 p.m., a bus leaves LaMoille with girls and boys who run track, on their way to Amboy. The bus arrives at about 3:40. About an hour, maybe an hour and a half later, it takes them home.

In the fall, when football players are also aboard the bus, LaMoille cross country runners often bring homework. They do it in the AHS cafeteria, waiting for football practice to get done.

Halberg noted it basically serves as an extra study hall. Four LaMoille students (Erin Hosto, Ben Hosto, Lorraine Stamberger and Meredith Stamberger) have been class valedictorians, and have helped AHS students with their homework as well.

“It comes in handy for us, because we don’t have too many eligibility issues,” Halberg said.

Competition-wise in girls track, the Clippers have greatly benefited from having LaMoille on board. Hosto is a key
contributor this season, while one of the best small-school sprinters at the 2016 state meet was Erika Zimmerlein, a LaMoille grad.

Zimmerlein holds program records in 100 and 200, and anchored record-setting 400 and 800 relays during her time with the Amboy-LaMoille co-op. Another LaMoille athlete, Kaitlin Boers, ran on three record-setting relays.

Two more LaMoille grads, Jolette Rod and Laura Rieker, share the high jump record at 5-2, while Avery Barrett owns the 300 hurdles mark at 48.9.

Outside of running fast and jumping high, however, there are friendships that are forged. Grady counts Hosto, Zimmerlein and Boers among her closest friends, and it was the athletic co-op between Amboy and LaMoille that brought them together.

“There’s the competitive side of it, where we push each other to do our our best,” Grady said, “but I think the friends side of it is the most important part.”

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