Eastern Iowa is full of wonderful sports success stories.
Just look at this past weekend.
Several area high school athletes took center stage at Drake Stadium during the state track and field championships and girls’ teams from Wellman (Mid-Prairie), Alburnett and Lansing (Kee) won titles.
Former Alburnett wrestler Tanner Sloan, wrapping up his freshman year at South Dakota State, earned a spot on a United States junior world team after winning the challenge tournament at the UWW Junior Freestyle World Team Trials in Raleigh, N.C., then sweeping Buffalo’s Sam Schuyler in the best-of-three finals at 220 pounds.
And Coe College, after a somewhat disappointing runner-up finish at the American Rivers Conference tournament, knocked off third-ranked Washington University twice in two days to earn an NCAA Division III Super Regional berth.
And that was just the last few days.
This next weekend brings the state high school championships in boys’ golf and tennis — the Class 2A tournament is at Veterans Memorial Tennis Center in Cedar Rapids on Friday and Saturday — as well as the Iowa baseball team playing in the Big Ten tournament in Omaha and the Kirkwood softball team in the NJCAA national tournament.
But maybe the best kept secret in Cedar Rapids — maybe all of Eastern Iowa — is the Kirkwood men’s golf team.
The Eagles recently won their fifth straight NJCAA Region XI title — and 14th in the past 16 years — to earn yet another berth in the national championships. This year’s tournament begins Tuesday at Swan Lake Golf and Resort in Plymouth, Ind.
The architect of the program for the past 23 years is Darin Pint, a four-sport all-stater at Wapsie Valley High School who went on to play basketball and golf at Coe.
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In his more than two decades at Kirkwood, Pint’s teams have won north of 1,200 matches. The Eagles finished second in the 2016 national tournament and Pint was named the Dave Williams National Coach of the Year. One of his golfers, T.J. Redding, won a national title in 2006 and another, Carson Whittington, was an individual runner-up in that 2016 tournament.
“He stays hungry,” Kirkwood athletics director Doug Wagemester said last year.
Pint, in a television interview several years ago, said it’s all about staying positive.
“You’re going to have a lot of ups and downs on the golf course,” he told KGAN in 2015. “No matter how bad it is, it’s still a game.”
This year’s roster, like many in the past, has a mix of local and international talent.
The five scoring golfers at the regional hailed from Longniddry, Scotland (medalist James Morgan), West Des Moines (Ben Epperly), Panora (Will Babcock), Ascot, Berkshire (Ryan Morrison) and Urbandale (Dawson Peters). Morrison was the regional player of the year and Pint, of course, the coach of the year.
But it’s more than wins and losses to Pint.
“To see where they come in to your program and to see where they leave your program and the success that they have, that’s the biggest satisfaction I can get,” he told KGAN.
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