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Doug Hines / Scott Morgan  

Iowa State’s Cameron Lard (2) celebrates with teammate Jakolby Long after defeating Texas Tech 70-52 Saturday Jan. 20, 2018, in Ames, Iowa.

Cedar Falls pickleball plan advances

CEDAR FALLS — An outdoor pickleball complex could be coming to Cedar Falls later this year.

The City Council recently approved a plan to locate new pickleball courts at Orchard Hill Park, off Rownd Street and adjacent to Orchard Hill Elementary School. A couple of tennis courts there already have been lined for pickleball.

The project has been moved up to this summer due to private funds raised.

“The pickleball group (Cedar Falls Pickleball Club) did actually fund raise to move this project up,” Jennifer Rodenbeck, director of finance and business operations for the city of Cedar Falls, told members of the council and the Cedar Falls Planning and Zoning Commission. “People really wanted that to happen and took it upon themselves to raise the money.”

Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court with a tennis net, large plastic paddles and a pickleball, which looks similar to a wiffle ball. The game is faster than badminton, provides exercise without straining the joints and even allows for conversation during competition. The activity has grown in popularity in Cedar Falls among seniors and with students who play in physical education classes.

The project would be paid for with $50,000 the pickleball group raised along with private grants. The city would finance $50,000 with general obligation bonds and $50,000 is being sought from the Black Hawk County Gaming Association, which may make a decision on that request next month. The association allocates a portion of Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo adjusted gross revenues for community projects.

A new location within the park was proposed and approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission and the City Council.

The initial proposal was to eliminate two tennis courts at the site and replace them with pickleball courts, said Mark Ripplinger, the city’s director of municipal operations and programs. But concerns about losing the tennis courts moved the new courts east of an existing restroom.

A basketball court at the park would have to be moved, “but this provides the opportunity to update that amenity as well since the surface is currently uneven asphalt,” Ripplinger said.

Pending approval of gaming funds, “it is believed this project could start construction in later summer or fall 2018,” Ripplinger wrote.

The pickleball group currently plays at the Cedar Falls Recreation Center and outdoor tennis courts when weather permits. It has also played on Peet Junior High School courts and at the Cedar Valley SportsPlex in downtown Waterloo.

Council member Susan deBuhr praised the private fundraising, as well as staff and pickleball proponents for reworking the plan to retain and resurface the tennis courts and rebuild the basketball court in addition to building pickleball courts. Ripplinger noted the tennis court work would cost about an additional $25,000 and be done in 2019.

Pickleball club members have said the outdoor pickleball complex would be the largest of its kind within 50 miles and be an attraction for visitors to the city for tournaments and fun.

Waterloo native remakes life as world-class athlete

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For the vast majority of his life, Kevin Pease was anything but a world-class athlete.

A self-described “total geek” at Waterloo West High School, where he graduated in 1973, Pease grew up passing on athletic pursuits in favor of activities like singing and ham radio. To hear him tell it, even if he’d wanted to give sports a go, things would have ended badly.

“I was totally uncoordinated, would trip over my own feet,” he said. “I was the furthest thing from an athlete.”

While it’s rare for most men to see their chances at achieving sporting glory increase with age, those odds seemed particularly long for Pease, who at just 5-feet-7-inches tall eventually saw his weight balloon up to 280 pounds.

So when the competitors were announced for July’s Aquabike World Championships, which will bring athletes from 50 countries to Odense, Denmark, Pease said he wouldn’t have blamed people for assuming it a coincidence his name was on the list.

But a coincidence it is not. He is very much expecting to take part in the duathlon event, the culmination of a complete physical and mental transformation the 62-year-old has undertaken over the past five years, one that has taken even him by surprise.

“I never, ever would have dreamed of any of this,” he said. “Nor would have anyone I know. It’s a world-class event and I never would have expected to be here.”

Pease knew he had to make a change. He remembers the exact date, Sept. 1, 2012, he finally decided to take action. Following a particularly unpleasant physical, his doctor told him it was imperative he start working out or else risk irreparable damage to his health.

Admitting he’d let himself go to a dangerous degree, Pease took that advice to heart.

“On that day I made an interesting decision. I decided I was going to get back down to around where I was in high school if it killed me in the process,” he said. “I was going to go through a total body transformation and the person that came out the other side would not be the same person.”

One thing that made the transition easier was that when developing an exercise plan, Pease didn’t have to start from scratch. A cyclist growing up, he still owned an old Schwinn that had spent years gathering dust in the garage of his Nashville, Tenn., home.

In addition to biking, Pease also became a bit of a gym rat, working out two to three times daily. Further aided by an improved diet, he quickly became unrecognizable, dropping more than 100 pounds in a year’s time.

Along with the weight loss, Pease also began to notice the development of a competitive side that previously had laid dormant. Luckily, he didn’t have to look far to find an outlet for his newly developed combative juices.

To supplement his cycling, Pease began swimming at a YMCA. He hated to swim in school, but his feelings for the sport made a 180-degree shift, one that eventually took his life in a most unexpected direction.

While at the Y, Pease took notice of a fellow swimmer who was making detailed documentation of her lap times. When he asked why, she said she was training for a triathlon, a revelation that quickly piqued Pease’s interest.

“To make a long story short, I signed up for it too,” he said.

Pease took part in his first triathlon on May 16, 2015, placing fourth in the Male 60-64 age group with an overall time of 1:00.49 at the Cedars of Lebanon Triathlon in Lebanon, Tenn.

Cedars of Lebanon proved to be the first of three triathlons he took part in that year. And though he enjoyed the competition, Pease quickly found he was lacking in one key area.

“I’m not a real good runner,” he said. “I’m not built for it. And to be competitive in triathlon, you’ve got to be a really good runner.”

And while he’s still attempting to improve that aspect of his race, Pease found an outlet even better suited to his skills in 2016.

Aquabike, a duathlon event which began as a pilot program in 2005, consists of a 1.2-mile swim and a 56-mile bike ride. It provided Pease with an opportunity to compete in a race where he didn’t have a glaring weakness.

And while he expected to have some success, just how much turned out to be a surprise even to him.

After failing to arrange travel to the Penticton ITU Aquabike World Championships in Canada last August, Pease registered for the Long Course Triathlon and Aquabike National Championship in Miami on Nov. 12, where the top-18 qualifiers in each age bracket moved onto the 2018 World Championships in Denmark.

Though qualifying was his ultimate goal, Pease admits he was nervous to compete on what was, at the time, the largest stage he’d ever been on. Luckily, those nerves didn’t get the best of him, opening him up for the chance to hop on an even bigger stage in July.

Behind a swim of 1:01:42 and a ride of 3:21:15, Pease grabbed one of the qualifying sports in the 60-64 age group, coming in 17th.

“It was a very exciting and very humbling experience,” he said of the Miami race. “I’ve never gone through anything like that in my life.”

Knowing the competition will only get more intense once he gets to Odense, Pease kicked his training up several notches by enlisting the services of John Maines, an Iron Man certified coach now overseeing Pease’s intense daily workout regimen.

A triathlete himself, Maines is well aware of the time and dedication needed to succeed at a high level, and says he’s seen all the necessary qualities in Pease, which is especially impressive considering how far he’s come to get to this point.

“He’s one of my hardest workers,” Maines said. “He’s turned his life around by attacking triathlon with vigor. He never misses a workout and he’s always searching for that next step.”

Part of that next step is figuring out how pay for the trip to Denmark this summer. Aside from he and his family, Pease is hoping to bring Maines along with him and is in the process of setting up a crowdsourcing page with his daughter, April.

Regardless of how he performs in the championships, Pease’s physical strides have clearly caught the eye of his friends and family, who say he’s made good on his promise to come out of the experience a changed man.

“It just goes to show anybody, if they have the will, they can really accomplish something, even at 62 years old,” said Pease’s father Roger, who still lives in Cedar Falls. “He’s had a determination and made it work and it’s just been great to see.”

Kevin says he’s also had several people tell him he’s inspired them to improve their own diet and exercise habits, something he clearly takes pride in.

Already enjoying the thrill of inspiring others, Pease says there’s an even better way for him to do so when he gets to Denmark.

“My objective is to go for the gold,” he said. “Will I do it? Probably not. But I’m still going to give it what I’ve got. It’s an honor to compete against the best in the world, and I want to make the most of it.”

The Aquabike World Championships will run from July 6-14. PayPal users who wish to donate towards the competition can do so at

For further donation information, email Pease at

Democrats optimistic about 2018 midterms

DES MOINES — A half-dozen special elections in Iowa over the past 14 months showed a clear trend: Democratic candidates doing better — much better, in some cases — than their party did in the 2016 presidential election.

This trend has bolstered Democrats’ spirits as they hope to rebound in this fall’s midterm election.

But election experts recommend caution. They say it is dangerous to suggest results from those six special elections foreshadow any future results.

At first glance, the results would not appear to be cause for Democratic optimism. In each of the six races for seats in the Iowa Legislature, the party that previously held the seat won the special election. Democrats won three and Republicans won three.

The Democrats get their encouragement from comparing the special election results to the 2016 presidential election results.

In each of the six special elections, the margin was better for Democrats than it was for the party in the 2016 presidential vote. In four of the six races, the Democrat’s margin improved by more than 30 percentage points.

For example: In the August special election in Iowa House District 82, which includes Davis and Van Buren counties and part of Jefferson County in southeast Iowa, Democrat Phil Miller won his race by 9.3 percentage points. In the 2016 presidential vote in that same district, Democrat Hillary Clinton lost to Republican Donald Trump by 21.3 points.

That represents a shift of 30.6 percentage points to the Democratic candidate from the 2016 presidential election to the special election nine months later.

Three other special elections featured similar shifts toward Democrats, also surpassing 30 percentage points. Even in the races Democrats lost, their candidate outperformed the 2016 presidential margins.

To Democrats, those shifting margins, along with large, energized crowds showing up at government functions, rallies and protests, show voters are rejecting Republican policies in the wake of the 2016 election and moving in the Democrats’ direction.

“You really see that there is a growing trend building across the state, that the momentum is swinging toward the Democrats,” said Troy Price, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party. “I think you saw that in special election after special election after special election, that people are fired up and ready to go, and the numbers indicate that.”

Iowa elections experts are more hesitant to assign any value to the half-dozen special election results.

“I would be reluctant to feel real confident that what happened in these special elections is a clear indication of what’s going to happen in November,” said Christopher Larimer, a political science professor at the University of Northern Iowa. “It sends a signal right now, but beyond that I think you need to be careful.”

There are myriad reasons special election results should not be viewed as a predictor of this fall’s midterm election results, experts said.

Perhaps foremost is turnout.

In that House District 82 special election, just more than 7,000 votes were cast. Nearly twice as many were cast in that district in the 2016 presidential vote.

The disparity is even greater in other districts. Just more than 1,500 votes were cast in a June 2017 special election in Iowa House District 22, which covers most of rural Pottawattamie County. Nearly 17,000 votes — more than 11 times as many — were cast in that district in the 2016 presidential election.

Such large turnout disparities makes for an uneven comparison, experts said.

“The turnout numbers are so different,” Larimer said. “You just have to be careful about making any broad generalization.”

It’s not just the low number of special election voters — it’s the type of voters. In a special election, typically only the parties’ most ardent and politically engaged voters cast a ballot. The electorate in the 2016 presidential election was vastly different, as will be the electorate in this fall’s midterm election. There will be more casual voters and independents.

In short, the people who voted in the recent half-dozen special elections were just a small subset of the people who voted in 2016 and who will vote this fall.

And historically, midterm turnout favors Republicans. So any gains perceived by Democrats in the special elections could be negated if history holds and in November they don’t turn out as well as Republicans.

“The increased vote for Democrats is a positive sign, but we don’t know whether that’s a continuing, improving trend,” said Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University. “Democrats and independents do not have a very good turnout record in recent midterm elections in Iowa as compared with Republicans.”

It is difficult to compare the recent half-dozen special election results with previous election results because in the past two election cycles most of the incumbents were not challenged.

The special elections took place in six districts, which saw a total of 10 elections in 2014 and 2016. Of those 10 races, only two featured both a Republican and a Democrat on the ballot. The Democrats did significantly improve their margins when comparing those results.

The special election results do not concern Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa. He said in one of the Republican wins the party may have been a little complacent in assuming victory, but otherwise the results cause him no consternation.

Kaufmann said he does not see the special election results as an indicator a Democratic wave is coming this fall, and that in traveling the state he sees no reason to believe Republicans are in danger of losing what soon will be a 59-41 majority in the Iowa House.

“I’m not seeing anything there that even remotely looks like one of those game-changing type of swings,” Kaufmann said.

The Democrats, on the other hand, believe the results portend big things to come for their party. Price said their challenge is to sustain that energy and duplicate those results in November.

“We feel good,” Price said. “We think the numbers show there is some momentum on our side.”