Holden Completes Master’s Degree; Three Others Also Graduate

Four Iowa State men’s basketball players – Merrill Holden, Donovan Jackson, Marial Shayok and Nick Weiler-Babb – will add another line to their resumes this spring and summer. Jackson and Shayok officially graduate this weekend, while Weiler-Babb and Holden take part in commencement ceremonies now and earn their degrees this summer. Along with these four student-athletes, former Cyclone Martin Rancik (1998-2001) also earned his degree from ISU in December.

Holden’s path to a master’s degree was a little different.

It was a balancing act.

A fine line between when to shut down the computer and go to sleep and when to push on so that he could someday again be on the big stage at Hilton Coliseum, this time earning his master’s degree rather than playing for the Cyclones.

Holden, who followed his Cyclone career with five months playing in Bahrain, a nation comprising  of more than 30 islands in the Arabian Gulf, would spend his nights working on his online courses and his days playing the game he loves.

He needed to get sleep so he could help his team, but he had a goal and with the encouragement of others back in Ames he was going to reach his goal.

“The deal was when I came here the master’s degree was part of it and I usually finish things that I start,” said Holden. “It was huge having that support system. (Academic coordinator) Natalie (Williams), the coaching staff and some of my friends and family just kept encouraging me to keep going.

“There were times where I just kind of wanted to give it up. Getting a master’s degree is tough; it’s a lot of work. There were nights that I didn’t get any sleep working on projects and then had to go perform on the court for my job the next day. Having Natalie and others by my side motivated me and pushed me.”

The long hours of work and the support of everyone culminated Thursday evening as he crossed the stage during the Spring 2018 Graduate Commencement Ceremony.

Holden will still have to complete his oral dissertation to defend his capstone in July, but the bulk of his work is completed and he celebrated the achievement in advance along with other graduate students because there is no summer commencement.

Holden played for the Cyclones during the 2016-17 season after earning his undergraduate degree from Louisiana Tech. His master’s degree is in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on community development.

For his program, Holden’s final paper examined at the city of Flint, Michigan, and its recent struggles.

“My paper focuses on the ongoing water crisis,” Holden said. “I touch on environmental racism and healthier policies for the Flint community. Much of it comes down to electing better officials with better human capital. Really, it is a deep dive into helping to get Flint going in the right direction.”

So now, Holden is the first person in his family to get a master’s degree. It’s something he never dreamed of growing up, or even a few years ago.

“Never would have thought that I could get a master’s degree,” Holden said while shaking his head. “Where I come from, born in Chicago, Illinois, in a very rough neighborhood. Never. I moved around a lot as a kid. There were times where my family couldn’t support me so I stayed with my grandma. I moved to another city to stay with an uncle.

“Basketball really blessed me with an opportunity to get a master’s degree. It means more than I can even put into words.”

Big 12 Champion. Iowa State University graduate.

Loyal sons forever true!

Marial Shayok, Nick Weiler-Babb, Merrill Holden and Donovan Jackson take part in the graduate luncheon.

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ISU Student-Athletes To Make Soles For Souls Mission Trip To Costa Rica

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AMES, Iowa – Iowa State student-athletes make it a priority to give back to their community in many ways.

Through the efforts of the Office of Student-Athlete Development (OSAD) at Iowa State, it’s not uncommon to see your favorite Cyclone visiting hospitals, reading at elementary schools or assisting at a variety of community service endeavors around central Iowa.

Participating in these outreach programs is a great way for athletes to serve their community and influence others in a positive manner who look up to them as heroes.

For the second year in a row, the OSAD is offering a volunteer mission trip to a foreign country in conjunction with the Soles4Souls program, a nonprofit organization that assists with the distribution of shoes and clothing around the world.

This year’s destination is Costa Rica, and 10 Iowa State student-athletes have volunteered for the trip, May 6-12: Brian Peavy (football), Marcel Spears Jr. (football), Quinn Sonntag (football), Alec McDowell (wrestling), Merin Mundt (soccer), Meaghan Sievers (gymnastics), Jess Schaben (volleyball), Liera Bender (tennis), Emma Ruehle (swimming) and Jessi Storer (swimming).

Student-Athlete Affairs Coordinator at Iowa State Joanna Beaton will chaperone the Cyclone contingent on the trip. She sees first-hand the incredible involvement of Cyclone student-athletes in community outreach programs and this trip is another way for Cyclone Nation to give back.

“Our student-athletes run the Soles4Souls campaign in Ames and this is a wonderful opportunity to see their service work come full circle where they actually fit the children with shoes,” Beaton said. “Some of these kids have never had shoes before and it is an amazing experience to see their faces light up. The children are so appreciative and excited to see our student-athletes, which is really cool.”

Last year’s Soles4Souls mission to Haiti was an incredible success. Cyclone student-athletes visited four different orphanages sizing and washing feet of children.

ISU senior gymnast Hilary Green estimated she washed 150 feet at each orphanage and did that for approximately 600 kids throughout the trip.

“The people were just amazing, loving and caring,” Green said. “They welcomed us with open arms. We were able to build relationships with those children even though there was a language barrier. We came together and created bonds and relationships that nobody can break.”

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Former Iowa State wrestler Colin Strickland gives a hug on last year’s Soles For Souls mission trip to Haiti.

Spears, an All-Big 12 linebacker, didn’t hesitate to sign up for the trip when asked by Beaton.

“I just felt like it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss,” Spears said. “Joanna showed me the video of the mission trip they had last year. They did such a great job and I felt like I needed to be involved. I am very excited about the trip. I have done a lot of community service here in central Iowa, but to be able to go out of the country to help others in need is going to be life changing for me.”

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How Attention To Details Helped Win The Liberty Bowl

 

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AMES, Iowa – Attention to details. Win in the margins.

You hear these phrases from Iowa State head football coach Matt Campbell on a daily basis.

It is not hyperbole. It is a part of Campbell’s core beliefs for building a winning football program.

Iowa State averaged roughly 157 plays a game (offense, defense, special teams) in 2017. Campbell believes close games are won in five to seven plays where one team was superior in the small details.

This was especially true last season, where the Cyclones were in seven games ultimately decided by seven points or less.

The Liberty Bowl vs. Memphis was one of those close games, and there wasn’t a play that epitomized Campbell’s sermons more than what unfolded with 1:47 left in the first quarter with the game knotted at 7-7.

Chances are you didn’t even notice it. In fact, the majority of the Iowa State football staff was unaware of the significance until scouring through the coaches film after the season ended.

When they did stumble upon it, however, it was unanimous that an unassuming play where junior defensive back De’Monte Ruth paid attention to his details was a factor in having the Liberty Bowl trophy reside in Ames.

The Setup

Current Special Teams Coach Joe Houston loves to watch game film, especially when it comes to dissecting his special teams units.

We all know the importance of special teams play, and Houston makes it a priority to single out high-graded plays to show his pupils for positive reinforcement.

After the elation of ISU’s fourth bowl win in school history, Houston was perplexed about a strange scenario he thought he saw on a Memphis field goal attempt late in the first quarter.

He couldn’t wait to dive into the video to see if his mind was playing tricks on him.

“I saw it happen live, but when you don’t have the depth perception on the field, it’s hard to really take it all in on what is going on,” Houston said. “It happened so fast that you don’t really get to appreciate what is happening until you watch it on tape, and as I was watching it on tape, it was exactly what I saw.”

What Houston saw was one of the oldest trick plays in the book. It’s commonly referred to as the “Statue of Liberty” or “Flea-Flicker” of fake field goal attempts, and there was no doubt the fake was on.

It begins with a player moving to his sideline on the opposite side of the field from the opponents sideline hoping to blend in with his teammates. If it’s not picked up, it’s almost a sure six points with the holder throwing a pass to the unguarded receiver.

To the average person, the fake attempt doesn’t sound hard to detect, but as Houston explains, it is.

“It’s hard to pick up, because at field level, the players all kind of blend in,” Houston said. “You would be surprised how often the play works.”

With the ISU coaching personnel at the field level blocked to notice the fake, and little or no time for the coaches in the booth to relay the information, you have to put your trust in the players on the field to make a decision.

They have to know their assignments and understand all of their details.

“Always look outside to in when defending field goal attempts,” Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock tells his players every day.

That’s exactly what Ruth did, and in a split second he switched momentum back to Iowa State’s favor.

The Situation

When you watch the video of Memphis’ first-quarter field goal attempt you will notice a couple of things, but before we analyze the play, let’s put in perspective the game situation.

Iowa State struck first in its opening possession when Kyle Kempt hit Hakeem Butler on a 52-yard TD strike. Despite the early 7-0 deficit for Memphis, the Tigers soon took control of the game, tying the game up at 7-7 on a two-play drive.

ISU went 3-and-out on its third possession and had to punt into the wind, giving the Tigers the ball at midfield.

The Tigers were now on the verge of taking their first lead, as Memphis brought out its field goal unit for what at first appeared to be a routine 38-yard attempt. The Tigers, however, were hoping to make it 14-7 with a designed fake.

Dissecting The Fake

Houston knew something was different right away.

“When I first saw it in the game, it just didn’t look right,” Houston remembered. “Everything looked really fast. Normally when your kicker goes out on the field, he takes his time and he’s slow. They all just kind of sprinted out on the field, and I’m like, ‘Man, they’re not even setting this up right.’ It just didn’t feel right.”

The first thing you will see is Ruth leaving the frame when he noticed Memphis had just 10 players lined up. He saw a straggling Tiger near the sideline and immediately reacted.

Houston’s eyes lit up upon viewing the play after the game for the first time. He was right. His mind wasn’t playing tricks on him.

“I was captivated by it when I first saw it,” Houston said. “De’Monte’s ability to revert to his process and cover up the eligible could have been the margin of the victory.”

Houston went on.

“Memphis tried to hide an eligible near their sideline, and because the ball was on their hash, it can be really deceiving to the players, and especially to the coaches,” Houston said. “De’Monte was able to sniff it out.”

Ruth still doesn’t think he did anything special on that play. He was just completing his assignments the coaching staff preached every day in practice.

“We practice field goal block every day, so I know my assignment which is just to set the edge on the end,” Ruth said. “I’m coming from the line and realized they didn’t have an end, so I look out, and there’s a player basically standing on the sideline, so I immediately ran out to guard him because they called the fake on us.”

Once Ruth spoiled the fake, you will see the holder tap his helmet to indicate the ruse was off. You then see Ruth enter the frame along with the Tiger. Memphis will now have to settle for a field goal.

Seconds were wasted and the play clock is now winding down. The Memphis kicker is clearly under a little duress and appears to run through his step-off progression quicker than normal.

“When the kicker ran onto the field, he didn’t take his steps,” Houston noted. “So, you see De’Monte go and cover the eligible, because he knew there was a man short on that side. The holder ends up having to tap his helmet, which was their signal for ‘it’s off,’ and then their kicker was forced to run uncomfortably and retake his steps. I’m not sure what the play clock was, but the seconds were dwindling.”

Memphis gets the kick off in time, but it sails wide right. The game remains tied and momentum shifts back to the Cyclones.

“Coach Heacock always talks about being really fake sound, and it’s really a testament to him that his defense was sharp on that play,” Houston said. “If Memphis would’ve scored a touchdown, it could’ve easily been the difference. There are certain plays in a game that could have a direct correlation with the final result. When you talk about winning in the margins, this is a prime example of winning in the margins, because it ended up being the difference. De’Monte’s attention to detail is probably the most underrated play of the football game.”

Houston found Ruth right away after the kick missed its target. Except for the Memphis team, they might have been the only other people in the stadium who knew what just happened.

“Coach Houston came up and told me, ‘great job,’” Ruth said. “I mean, he’s really the only person that recognized it. It was an exciting game and that play was pretty big.”

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De’Monte Ruth had three tackles and perhaps the biggest play in the Liberty Bowl win over Memphis. 

First Spring Team Meeting

Houston was excited for the initial team meeting to kickoff spring practice. He had uncovered a key play that helped the Cyclones win a bowl a game and he wanted to show evidence in front of the team that attention to details wins football games.

When the video started rolling, it was the first time the majority of the team and staff knew about the heads-up play by Ruth.

Coach Campbell didn’t even know the play happened until weeks after the game when he had time to go over the film.

“It happened so fast in the game we didn’t catch it until we watched in the film and realized what had unfolded,” Campbell said. “I think that’s a credit to where you want to be in a player-led program.  Players recognizing formations and taking great ownership of what is happening on the field. The coaches can’t be out there. I think it’s just a huge representation of the strides we’ve made in this program.”

Campbell is proud of how Ruth has developed in his program.

“Here’s a kid who kind of started slow when we first got here but has become an absolute critical piece to our success over the last year,” Campbell noted. “Things are happening so fast in a football game and you have to have the ability to recognize, react, and recover. De’Monte certainly did all three of those things in that instant and was the difference in the outcome of a game.”

Houston noticed the players’ reaction when he showed the clip for the first time. It was a prime example of what the coaching staff is trying to ingrain.

“As a special teams coordinator, you are constantly trying to find ways to capture the kids’ attention and explain the ‘why’, the power of ‘why.’” Houston said.  “Not just ‘how’ and ‘what’ to do, but ‘why’ it’s important. What De’Monte did in that situation was powerful. It had everyone’s attention. It was kind of eye-opening.”

 

 

 

 

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Barquin Arozamena Has Raised The Bar

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Story written by Iowa State Athletics Communications Student Assistant Jack Bluhm

At the age of 14, Celia Barquin Arozamena is competing in the biggest golf tournament of her life, the national championship for golfers 14 and under in her home country of Spain. The tournament is playing host to all of the best young female golfers in Spain and is THE tournament to win. This tournament means everything to Barquin Arozamena. Not only does this tournament prove that by winning she is the best teenage amateur golfer in the entire country, but this tournament provides the winner access to a scholarship to one of Spain’s premier boarding schools, IES Ortega y Gassest.

On the final day of competition, Barquin Arozamena has dominated the field and holds a five-stroke lead. All of her training, carried out relentlessly day in and day out for seven years, is finally going to pay off. The trophy is within reach and Barquin Arozamena knows it, but there is still more golf to play.

During the final round, another golfer comes out of nowhere and shoots a blistering round of five-under par, catching up to Barquin Arozamena. Barquin Arozamena is stunned as now she is in a sudden death playoff for the national championship. Walking back to the playoff hole, Barquin Arozamena knows this is her moment. This is her time to prove what she has and that she is Spain’s best teenage golfer.

The two competitors match each other on their drives as they are placed perfectly in the fairway on the par-four, playoff hole. Now comes the approach shot. Barquin Arozamena watches as her competitor lines up and takes her swing. The ball and the club make perfect contact and her competitor’s shot ends up rolling three feet away from the hole.

Pressure is on.

Barquin Arozamena grabs her club, settles in, takes a deep breath and lets it rip. Her ball lands on the green, only her ball is 40 feet away from the hole. Nerves are now starting to kick in for Barquin Arozamena as the national championship she so desperately sought seems miles away instead of 40 feet. With her opponent just having a tap-in and Barquin Arozamena staring down a 40 footer, the odds are not looking good. But these are moments champions live for. The crowd goes silent as Barquin Arozamena, with her trusty putter in hand, walks up to her ball. She takes her time and measures up her putt. As she stands over her ball Barquin Arozamena takes a last look at the hole and in one smooth motion, mimicking a pendulum, she sends her ball rolling. Not one sound is made as the ball rolls across the green — until it hits the bottom of the cup.

Spectators’ jaws drop, as they can’t believe what they just saw. Barquin Arozamena, doing her best Tiger Woods impression, celebrates with a huge fist pump and a celebratory yell. The national championship is hers; all she needed was her opponent to miss. The only thing Barquin Arozamena can do now is watch as her opponent settles in for her three-foot putt to force another playoff.

She misses the putt.

In matter of minutes, Barquin Arozamena went from losing her lead in the national championship to being crowned the best golfer in Spain at the age of 14. This win was only the beginning of what was yet to come for Barquin Arozamena.

Now 21, Barquin Arozamena is a senior at Iowa State University looking forward to her final spring season. During her collegiate career, Barquin Arozamena has become one of the best golfers in the programs history. “Celia is probably the best player, ranking wise, we’ve ever recruited, so the expectations were already set pretty high for her,” head coach Christine Martens said. Barquin Arozamena has more than lived up to those expectations as her name is marked all over the school record books:

— Second in career stroke average with an impressive 73.41

— Seventh in top-10 finishes with 13

— Owns three of the top eight single season stroke average marks

— Only one of four players in school history to be named All-Big 12 First-Team multiple times.

“I want to be the player who played good, did good in school and was a good leader for the team,” she said. “That’s my biggest focus for this year. Everyone has always been like, ‘Celia, you have to do this. Celia, you have to do that,’ and now I want to be the one that is in charge of the other players and take more of a leadership role.”

Being that senior leader has been vital to her team as Barquin Arozamena is one of only three seniors. This has been something that both her coaches and teammates have taken note of.

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Barquin Arozamena poses with her Big 12 All-Tournament Medal after tying for ninth at the 2017 Big 12 Championship.

“When she started here it was kind of like, this is about me and this is what I’m focusing on,” Martens said. “She’s much more about trying to bring others along with her now, which is the cool thing. Now it’s not just about her being good, it’s about her trying to bring everyone with her.”

However, Barquin Arozamena wasn’t always settled in on playing golf at Iowa State. In fact, when Martens first reached out to Barquin Arozamena she said no because the weather in Iowa was too cold for her. It wasn’t until a tournament in France when her mind, along with the influence of her mom, started to change.

Barquin Arozamena’s mom instantly made a connection with Martens, though she only speaks Spanish. “After talking with her for four or five minutes my mom was like, ‘You’re going to Iowa State. I don’t care where you want to go, I absolutely love this woman. I want you to go there,’” she said. “So you could say that [my parents] forced me, but at the same time I was super excited because I love coach Martens. When I first met her I was 100 percent sure I want to go [to Iowa State].”

Although she was ready for her next adventure to become a Cyclone, the journey to get to Ames was a whirlwind for Barquin Arozamena. Not only was she going to have to deal with the culture shock of moving to a different country, she first had to get there. Classes were already in session for two weeks before Barquin Arozamena was scheduled to arrive on campus; she was in China competing at the Junior Olympics and had lost her passport. Scrambling and not knowing what to do, Barquin Arozamena contacted coach Martens.

“Coach, I lost my passport, so it might be another two weeks,” Barquin Arozamena said.

“What? You’re already two weeks late!” Martens replied.

Luckily though, she did end up finding her passport and made it to Ames a month after classes had officially started. Now the next challenge was getting accustomed to her new way of life as a college student in the United States. Not knowing any English was hard for Barquin Arozamena. On her first day at Iowa State she attempted to go to class but didn’t make it to any because she couldn’t understand her schedule, her phone’s wifi didn’t work and she didn’t posses a campus map. This is where Martens and teammate and current roommate M.J. Kamin came to the rescue.

“When she first got here, she was really funny because she would always just nod because she wouldn’t understand you,” Martens said. “I would tell her something and I would just be like ‘OK you have no idea what I’m talking about’ and sometimes she still gets a glazed look over her face.”

With the help of Kamin, Barquin Arozamena was soon able to learn the ropes of Iowa State and learned to juggle the responsibilities as a student athlete.

“I always thought in the beginning it was funny to have a freshman lead another freshman around,” Barquin Arozamena said. “But she was the only reason I would make it on time to places. She would be like, ‘Remember we have to do this tomorrow, remember we have to go this place, where are you? We’re late for practice,’ so M.J. did absolutely everything for me at the beginning. We were like each others only friends for the first couple of months and we could barely talk to each other.”

Now that she has become fully immersed as a student majoring in civil engineering, the athlete in Barquin Arozamena is looking forward to her last season as a Cyclone. Even though she has enjoyed a decorated career, Barquin Arozamena has never made it to the NCAA national championship, the one tournament she wants the most because she has fallen just short of qualifying twice.

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Barquin Arozamena has earned All-Big 12 recognition in each of her first three seasons as a Cyclone.

“That would be the cherry on top of my golf career here,” she said. “I don’t want to just make it to the NCAAs, I want to win the NCAAs. I just need to have a good week. That’s golf. It doesn’t matter how good someone is, it’s just who has the best week of their life.”

But Barquin Arozamena doesn’t want to make it to nationals alone. She said that she would much rather have the entire team go.

“At the beginning of the year us seniors were telling [the underclassmen] we need to make it this year,” Barquin Arozamena said. “We’ve beaten some of our biggest rivals in tournaments this year so we’re all up on winning Big 12’s or at least be top two or three and making it to nationals.”

With all this focus on making it to nationals and being one of the best players in school history, it may look like golf is the only thing in Barquin Arozamena’s life. That would be wrong.

“I’m always the one making plans for everybody,” Barquin Arozamena said. “Going to games is the most fun thing to do. I go to football and basketball. I go to volleyball. I literally watch everything.”

When she’s not out and about, Barquin Arozamena also loves to sit down with a good book, such as her favorite series “The Hunger Games,” or watch a movie. She described herself as a nerd because her favorite genre of movies are science fiction, and she currently is obsessing over the popular Netflix show, “Stranger Things.”

She also fancies herself as a pretty good cook, with fish dishes and cakes as her specialties. “When I’m with my Spanish friends, I’m always up for making dinner at home,” she said.

As for what comes next for Barquin Arozamena, she is currently figuring that out. Barquin Arozamena will graduate this spring with a degree in civil engineering, but has hopes that golf will be in her future after college. “I would like to turn pro at the same time I finish my last semester [at Iowa State],” she said. “If that doesn’t work out, which it might not, I’ll just graduate and turn pro afterwards. Try golf out for one or two years, see if it works. If it works I guess I’ll just play golf and if it doesn’t, I’m going to need to find a job.”

 

 

 

 

 

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After 30 Years, Fellingham Hangs Up The Headset

After 30 years as the ‘Voice of Cyclone Women’s Basketball,’ the time has come for Rich Fellingham to hang up the headset. Over the last 30 years he has cemented a long legacy of commitment and a love of Cyclone women’s basketball that won’t soon be forgotten.

It was at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa where Rich Fellingham first discovered broadcasting. It was a natural fit for Fellingham as he was offered the news director job for KICD in Spencer, Iowa out of college. There were two people on staff doing play-by-play and Fellingham was assigned the Girls State tournament, which ignited a love for women’s basketball.

It was 15 years later that he made the move to KASI in Ames, Iowa. Fellingham soon became a part-time broadcaster of the women’s basketball games, doing mostly home and drivable away contests.

The early days of ISU broadcasting were not easy. The Cyclones were a struggling program, averaging under 10 wins a season. However, the hiring of a young Bill Fennelly changed all that. Upon his hiring, Fennelly made sure to request that all Iowa State women’s basketball games were on the radio.

“From our standpoint we were looking for it to give us some credibility and to say that we were important, and we were also trying to get people invested,” Bill Fennelly said. “It was one of the early things we pushed hard for and we got it.”

“It was extremely important to have all of the games on radio as we were broadcast across the state of Iowa,” former Cyclone assistant coach Brenda Frese said. “We were able to get into so many more households.”

With the commitment to radio solidified, Fellingham stepped in as the primary play-by-play announcer for Iowa State women’s basketball. In a day when radio was the primary medium to tune in to listen to the Cyclones, it was Fellingham’s verbose descriptions of the action that brought Hilton Magic to the homes and vehicles of the Cyclone faithful.  As the fans in the stands grew, so did the reach of Fellingham’s call.

His call was not only admired by the fans in the area, but around the country.

“That’s what they grew up with,” Fennelly said. “That person was the person their families listened to. He was the grandpa, uncle or brother telling the story of what was going on in their lives and that’s how they heard it. That’s how they followed it, was through Rich’s voice and his descriptions of the games.”

That was the case for former Cyclone women’s basketball player Mary Fox, whose family lived in Cleveland and used the radio to follow along.

“I had a special bond with Rich not only because he was always with us, but also because my family were huge Rich Fellingham fans as well,” Fox said. “Being from Cleveland and the youngest of seven kids, my family couldn’t make it to every game, so they would all gather together and have ‘listen parties’ during the games. The voice of Rich Fellingham filled my house on game nights.”

The same can be told for the Medders family, who tuned in from California to keep up with the Cyclones, and daughter Lyndsey Medders.

“My Dad jokes he could hear Rich in his sleep back when I played because they listened to him so much,” said former ISU point guard Lyndsey (Medders) Fennelly. “I believe many families of players tune in. He’s known for talking with Coach after games at length in a way that fans have really appreciated.”

There were 310 fans in attendance at the first women’s basketball game in the Fennelly era, a statistic that still resides prominently framed on the head coach’s desk, a constant memory of where the program began.

“One of Bill’s philosophies was not to tell fans why they need to come out, but to thank them for being there,” Fellingham said. “I remember he said that to (then-athletics director) Gene Smith when Gene was talking about how for a football game the team deserves it and you need to fill the stadium. Bill said you don’t tell them that they need to come. You just keep thanking the ones that come and they’ll come back and they’re going to draw more. That’s been one of his philosophies all along.”

A philosophy that worked. Every game Fennelly would come out of the locker room like clockwork and join Fellingham on the air and as the fans would head home from the game, they tuned in to get the head coach’s thoughts. Fennelly would always thank the fans as they drove home.

Just a few years into the Fennelly era, there were thousands of season ticket holders. A true testament to the hard work and a desire to be a part of what the Cyclones were building.

Few people understood what being on the radio could do for a growing program like Fennelly.

“The radio gave me a vehicle to get to a lot of people and say thanks for coming, before Twitter and everything,” Fennelly said. “I think people should be thanked. We’re not like football or men’s basketball. We have to do things differently. I’ve always felt that.”

“I get the opportunity to say whatever I want to say and the people who are interested get to hear it, so I go to great lengths to make sure that those people know that we appreciate it because I am speaking for our players and our staff,” he continued. “The radio has become a very big piece of it.”

With over 30 years on the call for the women’s basketball program, Fellingham has worked with about a dozen color commentators over the years. He has been the one constant presence over the years. His continual voice has even helped inspire the next generation of Cyclone broadcasters.

“Growing up my idols were Pete Taylor and Rich Fellingham,” said Brent Blum, one of Fellingham’s many on-air sidekicks. “I listened to Rich as a middle schooler during Coach Fennelly’s first tournament teams run and can recall his patented three-pointer calls to this day… ‘Stacy Frese for three, ‘It’s Good!’ His knowledge and experience and stories are incredible. In my mind, Rich Fellingham is just as big of a part of Cyclone women’s basketball as any player or coach. He has been the soundtrack of so many great memories.”

Blum’s first experience working with one of his idols came in 2006 when he was a senior in college.

“I was really intimidated because I grew up listening to him,” Blum said. “He couldn’t have been more friendly and professional, he treated me as an equal even if I was brand new and inexperienced. That first year doing games with Rich is something I will always cherish, he showed me how to be a professional.”

Professionalism is another big piece of what Fellingham embodies. He takes his responsibilities seriously, no matter how many people are listening.

“Even though it is a hobby he doesn’t treat it like one,” Fennelly said. “You’d think he is doing the NBA Finals or the Final Four. I think he views it as it might only be important at the moment to a handful of people, but if it is to them, it is to him. That’s a trait that we don’t really have enough of. I think people think ‘Oh this is good enough,’ but it’s never really good enough for him.”

That professionalism starts from the moment he enters the arena, from the way he sets up his equipment to the way he signs off after the game.

“Rich takes his pre-game equipment set-up very seriously and it’s best not to interrupt his routine,” said Molly Parrott, who has worked alongside Rich for over 10 years as a color commentator for women’s basketball broadcasts. “He’s been known to arrive for Big 12 Tournament games several hours before the team, even leaving me at the hotel once in Oklahoma City. Fortunately, the arena was within walking distance.”

In addition to being the consummate professional, Fellingham’s calm and friendly demeanor has always made those donning the Iowa State uniform comfortable as they came out of the locker room to talk to the Cyclone faithful listening in.

“He made you feel welcome on air whether you lost by 20 or won by 25,” Lyndsey Fennelly said. “His presence on air is so calming and confident you didn’t have to think twice about what you were going to say or talk about.”

While his professionalism and friendliness comes across over the airwaves, it is his love of the game and witnessing some of the Cyclones’ great moments that endeared him to the audience.

“Rich cares tremendously about this program and his passion is evident during broadcasts,” Parrott said. “In recent years, I’ve caught him choking up on the air after big wins, overwhelmed with emotion and happiness. Maybe aside from Coach Fennelly, no one loves Iowa State women’s basketball as much as Rich does.”

Much of what kept Fellingham dedicated to the program, were the people and the memories surrounding them.

“It is a family. They talk about Iowa State Athletics being a family, and it is, but the Iowa State women’s basketball program is truly a family,” Fellingham said. “It always wants to make you keep coming back. They play some pretty exciting basketball, and it’s the friendships you make.”

Those friendships only deepened as time went on and more memories were made. It was weddings of former players, visits to Ames for games and reunions that continued to keep everyone close.

For Fox, it was the Fellingham’s continual trips to Cleveland, where Fox lives that has helped them keep in contact.

“Similar to Coach Fenn, he’s someone who you wanted to keep in touch with, after you left the program,” Fox said. “That is what makes Iowa State so special–the people. There’s a reason why the people that are a part of the women’s basketball team have been there for so long. They are wonderful human beings, who love their job, and work hard at doing it the right way, the Iowa State Way.”

For Fennelly, Fellingham has been a constant friend on road trips, and someone he can always talk to.

“Deb isn’t always on the trips and sometimes you can’t always talk to your staff about everything,” Fennelly said. “He’s been kind of my counselor or my therapist at times where we would sit and talk about stuff. He understands the way I go about things and the way we do things. It’s been fun to see him grow and celebrate with us.”

Road trips during basketball season can be a bit of a bonding time for the team, staff and travel party. With over 20 years traveling with the team, Fellingham has been able to get to know many of the staff members over the years. He is known for his endless stories, friendly demeanor and predictable food orders.

“More than anything, I will fondly remember the nights before games on the road enjoying Rich’s countless stories as Rich sipped on his patented glass of wine with a smile on his face,” Blum said. “Rich can tell stories for hours and each one was better than the first.”

In addition to serving as the ‘Voice of Cyclone Women’s Basketball’, Rich has also served as the CEO of Special Olympics Iowa off and on since 1996.

“Their President and CEO left and some of the board members came to me and said, ‘We think you ought to take that job.’ I told them they were crazy, and three months later I started that job,” Fellingham said. “Since then, I have been the President and CEO of Special Olympics Iowa. Then I retired, and then came back for a year. Then I retired again. Now, I’m back again.”

Fellingham’s commitment to his passions is something to be admired. And it has not gone unnoticed by those close to him.

“My memories of Rich is that he is someone who speaks from the heart,” Frese said. “You get this right away from his broadcast as well as off air, where he is heavily involved with Special Olympics. He always had so much care and empathy for others.”

The decision to retire from calling ISU women’s basketball games was not an easy one, but one he knew it was time to make. His decision was expedited by a recent bout with cancer. Though he is in remission, he still knew it was time to hang up the headset.

For Fellingham, retiring from radio is bittersweet. While it’s difficult to leave behind his post as the ‘Voice of Cyclone Women’s Basketball,’ he and his wife Alice look forward to more time with their family. The two share a combined seven children and 14 grandchildren. In addition to family time, Fellingham is looking forward to an extended February trip to St. Martin — a trip he takes every year and the only thing he will miss a women’s basketball game for– plenty of golf and an extra glass or two of cabernet.

Fellingham won’t be far from Hilton Coliseum on game days as he plans to be in the stands cheering for the Cyclones. Instead of being the voice bringing Iowa State women’s basketball into the lives of many, he will now be among the loyal and forever true inside Hilton Coliseum every chance he gets.

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Catching Up With Chelsea Poppens

We caught up with Chelsea Poppens, who was recently playing professional basketball in Puerto Rico. Poppens rode out hurricanes Irma and Maria and recently made it back to Florida, where she is finishing up her online MBA program with the University of Florida. We talked about Puerto Rico and the hurricanes and got a rundown of what she has been up to since she signed her first overseas contract in 2013 with the Melbourne Boomers. 

How did you end up in Puerto Rico?

My agent last year got me set up with a Puerto Rican team, but I was only there for 48 hours before I tore my ACL.  They liked me enough as a person and as a player that they said, ‘When you get healthy, we would love to have you back.’  So I ended up going back there this year because of the short season since I’m currently doing my MBA program. I have finals in December and I have to be around for that.  So I went back and I was just as unlucky. The season hadn’t even started, because Irma came five days after being there and then after a week or so we were able to have two games and then Maria hit and the season was obviously cancelled.

How did you make the decision to stay in Puerto Rico for both Irma and Maria?

For Irma, people wanted me to leave, but everyone on the island was very casual about it because we weren’t supposed to get hit directly.  They were like, “Yeah, you can just stay in your homes.  You don’t need to go to a shelter.  The houses in our area are built for hurricanes and made out of cement.”  We were kind of nervous and didn’t really understand why everyone was super casual about it.  But for Maria, I definitely considering leaving, but my teammates wasn’t, so I didn’t want to leave her there alone to go through it all.  I could have gotten out the day before it hit, but it was better for a lot of aspects to stay there with her.

How was it riding out hurricane Maria?

We stocked up on water, batteries, candles, and made sure we had food.  During the hurricane, we lit candles, read a lot of books, played some music and just rode it out.  Irma was only four hours of the winds and everything, but Maria was 20 hours.  It was a very long day.  It went from 4 a.m. Wednesday morning to late in the evening.  It was rain and wind forever.

What was the aftermath like? We all saw the news reports, but what was it like being there?

I’ve been down there this entire past month.  Five days into it, Irma hit and that took out the power for a little less than a week.  There was a little bit of destruction, but nothing compared to what Maria did.  So two weeks after Irma, Maria hit and pretty much wiped out everything.  Power and cell service were out.  We still had water, thankfully, but a lot of people around us didn’t have water.  There was some flooding that went down after a few days.  We stayed in our house for a few days after because we couldn’t leave and then we went out and ventured and it was chaos everywhere.  People trying to stock up on water after seeing how bad it is, just trying to get situated because they know the power is going to be out for the next few months and they don’t know when they are going to get water back.  They don’t know when or where their next paycheck is going to come from.  They have families to take care of.  It was mass chaos.

Now that you’re back in Florida, what are your plans for the future?

This week is my get-my-life-situated week, because I’ve been cut off from the world for a month.  I need to play catch up on my schoolwork.  I’ve also been talking to journalists and reporters from back home.  Hallie Christofferson is helping design a T-shirt that I can put up on my blog for people to purchase in order to help people affected by the hurricane in Puerto Rico.  I’m just trying to help people back there while being here.  I’m still figuring out if I’m going over to Europe to play. My agent is still searching for teams, but I do have my finals in December that I’ll have to work around or work with them in order to accomplish playing again.

T-Shirt purchase links:

https://www.bonfire.com/unidos-por-el-787-1-1/

https://www.bonfire.com/unidos-por-el-787-2-1/

 

The last time we talked for a Cyclone Sidebar was 2013 during your season with the Boomers. Do you want to give a quick rundown of what you’ve been up to since?

I tore my ACL with the Boomers at the end of their season. I rehabbed in Ames all summer and then I went to Poland and had to come back early at the end of December because I had micro-fracture surgery on my knee (the same knee).  And then I rehabbed again and then I went to Switzerland, had a healthy season and we won the championship.  Then I enjoyed the summer and I went to Puerto Rico and tore my ACL again.  I rehabbed that this past year while working and doing my MBA.  I was working in medical imaging equipment sales for the past year.

 

After so many season-ending injuries, you still keep rehabbing and continuing to play basketball. What is it that keeps you going?

I just play it by ear honestly nowadays.  My plans never work out as planned, obviously.  I enjoy playing basketball and as long as my body actually feels good, I’ll try to keep doing it and get into what makes me happy.  To get paid to do something you love is a rare thing.  I enjoy it, and I enjoy the people I meet playing along the way.  I know I have lots of options, especially with my MBA and other job opportunities.  I’ll just keep playing it by ear, whatever feels right.

I saw you were in the Ivory Coast recently. What were you doing there?

“I went to the Ivory Coast with Athletes in Action, which is a Cru affiliated organization.  It was basketball and church.  We ran clinics, held youth clinics, coaching clinics, and played some games against the national team there.  We provided some humanitarian aid to some of the people in the Abidjan area.  We got to experience and interact with people there firsthand.  It was nice, because I know how to speak French, so I was able to actually communicate with some of the people there. 

How did you get Involved with Athletes in Action?

“One of my friends had done it with volleyball and I’ve always wanted to go on a mission trip. It’s always been on my bucket list.  This was the first time I didn’t have basketball interfering with it.  It was a good way to test my knee after rehabbing all this time.  It just worked out perfectly.  They reached out to me after I barely started the application and it just went from there.  I said, ‘Okay, why not?’  Honestly, everything went so smoothly with the fundraising to support me going.  I enjoy it and being on that, I would definitely try to help Puerto Rico and try to help them rebuild and go on some kind of mission trip there if possible.

Since leaving Ames, Iowa, Poppens has traveled and played in Australia, Poland, Switzerland, Ivory Coast, Puerto Rico and China. Below are a few additional photos of her travels. 

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Catching Up With Cyclone Great Angie Welle

I sat down with Cyclone great Angie Welle to talk about her time at Iowa State and upcoming induction in the Athletics Hall of Fame. Welle still holds six career records at Iowa State including the most points (2,149) and most rebounds (1,209). 

Can you tell me a little about your recruitment process and how you landed at Iowa State?

“Coach Fennelly and his staff; Coach Frese at the time, I felt like they really wanted me. This wasn’t just sending out a token letter. I was getting handwritten letters in the mail, they were coming to volleyball and they would come during blizzards. I felt like they really wanted me to come, and that’s what separated them early on from the rest of the schools, which in the end that’s a huge part of why I came. That makes sense because they have such a family atmosphere here.

What other schools were you looking into at the time?

When I think of who I was narrowing it down to, looking at Iowa State, Penn State, Iowa, Georgia and Creighton were the last five I narrowed it down to.

What about Coach Fennelly made you really want to play for him?

He was very relatable and personable, and he had those unique touches that made my parents and I comfortable. He just seemed to really care about me, so that’s what is so unique about him.

What was your most memorable game as a Cyclone?

There could be a long list of them. It could be when we beat Connecticut, and how we were all racing to the payphone to tell our parents. We beat Oklahoma at Hilton when they were No. 1 in the nation. Above all is the Big 12 Tournament. I can’t pick a game or a year, it was just the dynamic of how it was set up when we played there. We were there, the men were there, and we were good and the men were good. Everybody came because both teams were winning championships. We looked forward to getting to Kansas City for the Big 12 Tournament every year.

What is your relationship like with all of your former teammates?

I always am so grateful to Coach Fennelly. He brought us all together, kind of by chance, and now I have these lifelong friends through basketball. We keep in touch. We are all kind of scattered. Some are in Minneapolis, Iowa and Texas. Thank God for social media, because we can all stay in touch that way.

How does it feel to be strongly regarded as the best women’s basketball player?

I’m going to tell the players the same things former alumni told us; it goes so fast, but you never think about the position I’m in today. When you’re playing, you do what you do and you try really hard, try to help your team out. That’s just what I did, and we won a lot of games, but you don’t think something like this is going to happen; where players are going to remember you for what our team did and how I helped that. I’m totally overwhelmed as you can tell, but it brings back a lot of pride having played for Iowa State.

What does it mean to be officially inducted into Iowa State’s Hall of Fame?

Well I joke and say it’s a sign of old age because you have to be so far out of college to receive an honor like this, but I am excited to have this whole weekend at Iowa State. I have 20 family members coming from Fargo. I thought it was just going to be my husband, Lily and Fletcher, and the four of us were going to come for the weekend. We would do our thing and make memories, but now I have this whole crew of family coming to celebrate, which I am most excited about.

Do you keep in touch with the coaches?

I do. Coach Fennelly probably the most, because he is kind of the patriarch of the bunch. I follow Coach Frese dearly. Coach Pingeton is at Missouri now. I thank God for social media because we can stay in contact. Coach Abrahamson-Henderson, Coach Harris is still here, which I love. She beat the heck out of me for four years. It’s fun to stay in contact and watch the successes of the assistant coaches who are now head coaches with their own programs.

What would you say to someone considering playing for Coach Fennelly?

There is something just so unique about him. He wears so many hats, that when you play for Coach Fennelly, you feel like you really want to. Sometimes he wears the dad hat, the coach hat or the friend hat. I don’t think you get that a lot of places. I think that some other coaches just want you to come there and be a great basketball player for them, but I never felt like Coach Fennelly treated any of his athletes as just a coach. I remember my car breaking down during a snowstorm and the highway was closed. I called him and cried to him like I would’ve called my dad. I think that is the most unique thing about him.

Are there any other fond memories about your time at Iowa State?

It’s funny to think about the stories during basketball. We left a manager at a truck stop after a bathroom break. A plane broke down and we had to bus to Oklahoma in one night. We scored nine points in one half against Texas Tech one night. It’s funny how you don’t remember these amazing games that well, but you these silly little details stick with you, which Coach Fennelly warned us about.

 

Rapid Fire Questions:

Favorite Coach Fennelly saying – Irregardless

Favorite road trip location – Kansas City

Favorite part of traveling with team – Denise picking awesome places to feed us.

Favorite restaurant in Ames – Hickory Park/Wallabys

Favorite class at ISU – Student Teaching

Funniest locker room personality – Desiree Francis

Other sport than basketball – Gymnastics, but not realistic. Volleyball more so.

Best player you played against – Post player from Baylor

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