For a well-traveled coach like Gary Stamp, this is one long honeymoon period.
Stamp is in his fourth year of his 13th coaching job. He’s enjoying it as much as the day he was hired. Maybe more.
“This is a unique group of kids,” Stamp said. “They like the game. They like each other. They’re fun to be around.”
It’s more fun when you’re winning, of course. And these days, winning is all that female athletes at Mount Vernon High School are doing.
The Mustangs are reigning Class 2A state champions in volleyball and basketball, and the combined Mount Vernon-Lisbon track team claimed the 3A title last month.
Mount Vernon reached its first state softball tournament last year, placing sixth in 3A. This year’s version is rated fourth in 2A and stands 11-2 overall, 6-2 in the Wamac Conference heading into Wednesday’s showdown with defending 3A champion Clear Creek Amana.
“The first two weeks, especially last week, was about survival,” Stamp said. “We played on the road every night. The kids had finals, so late nights and early mornings.
“They persevered through a tough stretch.”
Becca Lowe rescued the Mustangs with a pair of clutch three-run home runs, against West Delaware and Cedar Rapids Prairie. She has three long balls this season, and is one of six players batting .400 or better.
Kylea Weber leads in hitting (.475) and runs (17), while Micah Wieditz (.432) has collected a team-high 15 RBIs while catching all but three innings this season.
Emily Stoner (8-1, 0.26 ERA) leads the pitching staff.
“She’s been phenomenal so far,” Stamp said. “You look at her and you say, ‘How in the world does she get people out?’ But she does. She has good movement on her ball.”
The Mustangs have gotten an unexpected defensive lift from eighth-grade second baseman Miranda Chapman.
“She has exceeded expectations,” Stamp said. “We may get some eighth-grade mistakes from her at some point, but we haven’t yet. She fits the mold of the other kids.”
All-state shortstop Karly Cochrane and Sarah Ryan have been valuable pieces in the volleyball, basketball and track glory.
Despite all of that winning, Stamp had to address the team’s psyche after the first game, a 4-3 win over Springville.
“It’s a confident group of kids, but that first night, I saw some fear in their eyes,” he said. “I told them I should never see that. They proven themselves so many times in so many sports.”
Fran Strub has wasted no time in making an impact at Clear Creek Amana.
The sophomore outfielder is batting .564 and ranks among the state leaders in runs (19) and RBIs (21).
Strub was a third-team Class 4A all-stater last year at Iowa City West.