SOLON — She’s too young to understand. But Nora Sanderson has a lot of support from a lot of friends she doesn’t know.
She also has a stake in their success.
The high school track and field season has reached the home stretch; state-qualifying meets (girls’ regionals and boys’ districts) are Thursday. It figures to be an extremely productive day for the Solon High School girls, one of the state’s strongest teams in Class 3A.
And one of the most generous.
The Spartans are dedicating their regional meet to Sanderson, a 2-year-old from Ely who is battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia. They raised pledges for a benefit fund, and in many cases, the amount is based upon Thursday’s meet.
“A lot of girls are trying to raise $1 per (pledge, per state-qualifying individual event or relay),” said Spartans Coach Brent Sands.
If that’s the case, each member of the Spartans’ roster of 36 will raise $200 if the team gains 20 qualifiers — with 10 pledges each — from their regional meet at Grinnell.
That’s the goal — 20 qualifiers for the Spartans, $7,200 or more for the Sanderson family.
“It might be a stretch,” said Mallory Carr, a senior long sprinter and middle-distance runner. “But we have some strong possibilities.”
The Spartans have chosen a cause each of the past few seasons.
“We want the girls to understand that there’s a big world out there, and a lot of people have it worse than you,” Sands said. “It’s my hope that everyone who goes through this program feels they are a part of a family, and can count on one another in a time of need.”
Running for Nora is a natural cause. Nora’s mother, Michaela (Manternach) Sanderson, was a 2002 Solon graduate and was a track athlete.
Nora was diagnosed in late November.
“She had some lingering viral symptoms, ear infections, stuff like that,” said her father, Ben Sanderson. “She went from being a happy, energetic little kid to one that didn’t have any energy.”
Blood tests detected leukemia. Chemotherapy treatments at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital began in December and are scheduled to run through February 2015.
“The first 30 days were brutal, then she had a couple good months,” said her father. “This current phase is hitting her hard.”
The family took another blow two weeks ago, a fire in their garage. The blaze did not spread to the house, but smoke and soot did, damaging many belongings.
They have relocated temporarily with Michaela’s parents in Solon.
Ben Sanderson said the Spartans’ outreach “really has opened our eyes. We have a tough road, but we know there are a lot of good people out there. It helps us stay positive.”
Carr did most of her solicitation for pledges with family and faculty.
“A lot of family that don’t even live around here, they’d e-mail back and say they’d love to donate, what a great cause,” she said.
“I think this project says we’re people that are able and willing to go out and make a difference.”
Pledges can be made through a Solon High School girls’ track athlete or to Sands at firstname.lastname@example.org. Checks can be mailed to Brent Sands, Solon Community School, 301 S. Iowa St., Solon IA 52333.
THURSDAY’S STATE QUALIFYING MEETS
Girls regionals and boys districts are Thursday, all at 4 p.m.. The state meet is May 16-18 at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.
State-qualifying meets with area teams:
CLASS 4A (top 2 automatically qualify in each event, plus 12 at-large statewide)
At Dubuque — Cedar Falls, Clinton, Dubuque Hempstead, Dubuque Senior, Iowa City West, Waterloo East, Waterloo West, Western Dubuque.
At Linn-Mar — Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Cedar Rapids Prairie, Cedar Rapids Washington, Cedar Rapids Xavier, Iowa City High, Linn-Mar, Marshalltown.
CLASS 3A (top 2 automatically qualify in each event, plus 8 at-large statewide)
At Decorah — Charles City, Clear Lake, Crestwood, Decorah, Independence, Oelwein, Waukon, Waverly-Shell Rock.
At Grinnell — Benton Community, Grinnell, Oskaloosa, Pella, Solon, South Tama, Union, Williamsburg.
At Mount Pleasant – Centerville, Clear Creek Amana, Davenport Assumption, Fairfield, Fort Madison, Keokuk, Mount Pleasant, Washington.
At Vinton — Anamosa, Center Point-Urbana, DeWitt Central, Dubuque Wahlert, Maquoketa, Marion, Vinton-Shellsburg, West Delaware.
CLASS 2A (top 2 automatically qualify in each event, plus 8 at-large statewide)
At Eddyville — Albia, Bondurant-Farrar, Cardinal, Central Lee, Colfax-Mingo, Davis County, Eddyville EBF, Mediapolis, Mid-Prairie, Monroe PCM, Pella Christian, West Burlington-Notre Dame.
At Monticello — Alburnett, Bellevue, Cascade, Clayton Ridge, Dyersville Beckman, Denver, Dike-New Hartford, Hudson, MFL MarMac, Monticello, Mount Vernon, Waterloo Columbus.
At Osage — Aplington-Parkersburg, Central Springs, Forest City, Hampton-Dumont, Nashua-Plainfield, New Hampton, North Fayette, Osage, Saint Ansgar, South Winneshiek, Sumner-Fredericksburg, West Fork.
At Tipton — Camanche, Columbus Junction, Durant, Iowa City Regina, Louisa-Muscatine, North Cedar, Northeast, Tipton, Wapello, West Branch, West Liberty, Wilton.
CLASS 1A (winner automatically qualifies in each event, plus 12 at-large statewide)
At Belle Plaine — Belle Plaine, Central City, Colo-Nesco, Don Bosco, Garwin GMG, HLV, Iowa Valley, Lisbon, Meskwaki Settlement, Midland, North Linn, North Tama, Springville.
At Brooklyn — BGM, English Valleys, Keota, Lynnville-Sully, Melcher-Dallas, Montezuma, Moravia, North Mahaska, Pleasantville, Sigourney, Tri-County, Twin Cedars.
At Edgewood — Bellevue Marquette (boys only), Clinton Prince of Peace, East Buchanan, Edgewood-Colesburg, Elkader Central, Lansing Kee, Maquoketa Valley, Postville, Preston, Starmont, Turkey Valley, Valley Community, West Central.
At Grundy Center — Ackley AGWSR, Clarksville, Conrad BCLUW, Dunkerton, Gladbrook-Reinbeck, Grundy Center, Janesville, Jesup, North Butler, Tripoli, Valley Lutheran (boys only), Wapsie Valley, Waterloo Christian (girls only).
At Riverside — Calamus-Wheatland, Danville, Fairfield Maharishi, Fort Madison Holy Trinity, Harmony, Highland, Iowa Mennonite, Lone Tree, New London, Pekin, Van Buren, WACO, Winfield-Mount Union.