The student news site of Kingwood Park High School

KP TIMES

The student news site of Kingwood Park High School

KP TIMES

The student news site of Kingwood Park High School

KP TIMES

Clark, Hawkeyes unite generations through basketball

Sydney+Ortiz+is+an+Iowa+womens+basketball+fan%2C+and+has+been+decked+out+in+Iowa+gear+since+she+was+born.+Photos+submitted+by+Sydney+Ortiz.
Sydney Ortiz is an Iowa women’s basketball fan, and has been decked out in Iowa gear since she was born. Photos submitted by Sydney Ortiz.

Two years ago, my schedule was set by Iowa women’s basketball games. If the Hawkeyes were playing and I had no sports practices, I would sit in the living room of my grandparents’ Kingwood home. We would talk about our days, we would have some cookies my grandma made and, mostly, we would cheer. 

I knew exactly what I was doing if I went to my grandparents’ home on a game day: I was watching Iowa basketball. My grandparents, who spend their winters in Kingwood, didn’t visit for two years because of COVID. When they finally returned in 2021 a new family tradition began.

Maya Ortiz and Sydney Ortiz take a picture with Herky the Hawk at an Iowa men’s basketball game in 2013. Submitted by Sydney Ortiz.

They taught me all about Iowa’s coach Lisa Bluder, center Monika Cziano and young point guard Caitlin Clark.

I have grown up in a University of Iowa-loving family. My mom grew up in a small city called Washington, Iowa, which is only a 30-minute drive to the university’s campus. My grandma graduated from Iowa and so did my mom. 

My mom moved away from Iowa after college, but Iowa never left her. We had University of Iowa flags in front of our home in Texas, Iowa sweatshirts and Iowa cheerleading outfits. My sisters and I grew up with Iowa pride. 

When I was 4 years old my grandparents took my whole family to Carver Hawkeye Arena to watch an Iowa men’s basketball game. I got to meet Herky the Hawk and enjoy the best ice cream in Iowa. When I was 6 years old, my grandparents took us to Los Angeles to cheer on the Hawkeyes in the Rose Bowl. 

The women’s team has always been my favorite Hawkeye team to follow. Before COVID, I watched Megan Gustafson lead the Hawkeyes each time I visited with my grandparents. Gustafson quickly became one of my favorite players, and I fell in love with the team. As I got older, little changed. 

Last season, I knew all the names of the Iowa players. I watched the women cruise through the Big Ten Tournament. I had high hopes they would win the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, and I FaceTimed my grandma before each game. My mom and I sat and held our breath during the championship game as they lost to LSU. It was hard to watch.

Donna and Sid Manfull take a picture with freshman Sydney Ortiz after her last home game at Kingwood Park this season. Photo submitted by Sydney Ortiz.

After a heartbreaking end of the season, I counted down the days until the Hawkeyes would be back on the court. Every chance I got, I would ask my friends if they knew about the G.O.A.T. of women’s college basketball: Caitlin Clark. If they didn’t, I would teach them.

This year, Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes have been lights out. I have barely missed any games. My grandparents brought us Hy-Vee’s “Caitlin’s Crunch Time” cereal. My grandma bought us matching Clark shirts from Nike that say “You break it, you own it” with “CLARK” and 22 on the back. 

The women’s basketball team has been the focal point of dinner conversations and text chains. I watched Clark smash her way through the record books her whole career and am eager to see Clark, Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin, Sydney Affolter, and Hannah Stuelke win the Hawkeyes their first basketball national title.

Even with Clark in the WNBA, I will still be addicted to Iowa women’s basketball. I’ll still be curled up on the couch of my grandparents’ home listening to my grandpa shout at the TV as my grandma sits nervously wishing positive thoughts to the team. 

My grandparents have already headed back to Iowa after spending the winter here. So as I watch the championship game today, I will be constantly texting with them. At my house, I will be going back and forth between yelling at the TV, while also telling myself and everyone around me it is going to be ok. I know I’m a little bit of my grandma and a little bit of my grandpa. And I couldn’t be luckier.

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    Karen BillmanApr 7, 2024 at 1:21 pm

    Wonderful article, Sydney! You are so lucky to have this special relationship with your grandparents. We treasure our friendship with them. We’ll all be cheering, let’s go Hawkeyes together today!

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