Dike-New Hartford's Hannah Willms (2) celebrates a kill during the 2008 state volleyball tournament. (Gazette photo)
CEDAR RAPIDS — So, which is it?
Is it volleyball, the sport that will pay her way through college?
Or is it track and field, the sport that has treated her to numerous state championships?
Which is Hannah Willms’ best sport?
If you ask her father … neither.
“I have to be careful here,” said Scott Willms. “But I think her best sport is basketball.”
Basketball? She doesn’t even play basketball any more.
“She was great at it,” said her father, who coached her middle-school teams to a 33-0 record. “They were good. Very, very good. But Hannah just didn’t like it much.”
“I did like it,” said Hannah, a senior at Dike-New Hartford. “But then I started playing volleyball.
Hannah Willms is a brunette these days. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
“I’m just not built like a basketball player.”
She’s built like a gazelle, 6 feet tall and slender.
Hannah Willms exudes athleticism.
“Athletically, she’s very much at the top of the list of kids I’ve ever coached,” said Jay Grassley, Willms’ club coach for Six Pack Volleyball. “She has so much potential that is still untapped, and that’s exciting.”
Willms has been a 2A first-team all-state volleyball selection after leading Dike-New Hartford to back-to-back runner-up finishes.
The Wolverines return this week — they face Camanche in the first round Thursday.
If you’ve seen her shine, whether at the U.S. Cellular Center or at Drake Stadium, a double-take will be necessary Thursday.
When regionals began, Willms went brunette. Dark brunette.
“I’ve always wanted to try dark hair,” she said. “My mom (Susan) had always said no. I finally convinced her. “I like it.”
The Willms family lives in Waterloo, and Hannah began her education at Walnut Ridge Baptist, a tiny school in Waterloo.
After the volleyball season of her freshman year, she open-enrolled to Dike-New Hartford, 15 miles away.
“We thought about moving when I was in sixth grade, but my brother (Joshua) was a freshman then and he liked it where we were,” Hannah said.
“After he graduated, I made the decision to transfer. Sports are the main thing in my life, and I thought I would have more opportunities (at DNH).”
It has been a good match. Willms is a solid student (she holds a 3.7 grade point average) and a quiet, unassuming leader that doesn’t crave the limelight.
But she can’t avoid it. Not when she’s among the state’s best female athletes. She holds the all-time Iowa best in the high jump (6 feet, 1/4 inch) and owns 2A state-meet records in the 200 meters (24.49 seconds) and 400 meters (54.68).
“She’s just a rare athlete,” said DNH volleyball coach Diane Harms. “She has so much quickness and jumping ability. On the volleyball court, she sees the floor well and has good instincts.”
Willms will take her skills to Iowa State next year. The ISU program is ascendant — the Cyclones are ranked No. 8 in the nation. She hasn’t decided whether she’ll compete in track.
This week, she’ll try to lead a young DNH team through a 2A field that includes heavyweights Western Christian and Mount Vernon.
“It’s a tough class,” Willms said. “Western has had the upper hand on us the last couple years, and now Mount Vernon is down a class and Wapsie Valley is up.
“We’re young, but I have a lot of faith in my teammates.”