2016 state run holds special connection for 1991 championship basketball team

By: Teyha Tournier

Making State in women’s basketball was, of course, a dream come true for this year’s team, but it was also the culmination of a 25-year-old aspiration for some other storied Tiger alumni.

In 1991, the CFHS women’s basketball team went 27-1 and was the first women’s team to make it into the state tournament. Jenny Savold, a point guard for Cedar Falls who is now known as Jenny Nelson, said it was something they had dreamt about.

“We started playing together in seventh grade, and my dad coached us. He would take us to the state tournament to watch. I had been to the state tournament to watch my brother play in 1987, and my brother’s team got third at State. We had a dream. That was our goal, and we worked really hard during and outside of the season,” Nelson said.

The 1991 girls basketball team had eight seniors, and one of the two juniors also started. Nelson said they were very close best friends, especially the eight seniors on the team. She is still very close with Nikki Volker who had a huge game and was a big part of the team. Barb Frankie, or “Miss Iowa Basketball,” was also a big part of the 1991 team, and both Nelson and Frankie were there for this year’s 2016 state tournament run.

Another teammate the girls were close with was Cara Oltmann. Nelson described her as fearless, driven and competitive.

“We always looked toward her for leadership and toughness when the team needed it,” Nelson said.

Oltmann and her boyfriend, Shore Young, were killed in a car crash at 19 years old. The cause of the crash still isn’t clear. Nelson said she was very close with Cara, Barb, Nicki and their other friend Tammy who played basketball with them.  She said she would imagine Oltmann and her boyfriend would have gotten married, had kids and been involved with Cedar Falls athletics.

“All four of us were really close. Cara wanted to be a teacher and a coach. I’m sure she would have been at the high school for teaching or coaching.  Her boyfriend, Shore, wanted to be a teacher and a coach too,” Nelson said.

Oltmann loved playing basketball, and Nelson said she would have been very proud of them and maybe would have even helped coach or could have had a daughter on the team.

“That’s what’s hard to think about is what kids would they have had or what could have happened. I don’t just miss Cara and Shore. I miss their friendship, and when they passed away I know they were saved. When Cara passed away, that was when we really surrendered our lives to the Lord and started living fully for him. I am so thankful for her, and she would have been a part of the team somehow,” Nelson said.

Nelson said it was very special to see how far the girls went this year.  She has coached Emma Gerdes, Calli Johnson and Reilly Johnson.

“It was really special, especially being 25 years and having them go to State. It was amazing. I just felt like Cara was just a part of that. I was really proud of the girls. They worked really hard. It just doesn’t come from a lack of hard work. The coaches and players work extremely hard. It was very special,” Nelson said.

Senior Emma Gerdes said that it meant a lot to go to State, especially in her senior year, and as a team it was very cool and meant a lot to everyone.

“We were able to reach one of our goals to make it to State and also win at State. We worked really hard all season for it, so to make it happen was really cool.”

Nelson and Gerdes have known each other for a long time. Nelson had started coaching Gerdes when she was really little.

“She’s the reason I fell in love with the game,” Gerdes said.

Gerdes said it was an amazing feeling to play at the Wells Fargo Arena. She said all the hard work paid off and felt really cool to make it to State. “I don’t think there’s much more you could ask for than playing at the Well your senior year,” she said.

Gerdes described her last second shot as “crazy” and a lot of fun. She said they always practice last second shots in practice or when they’re just messing around with teammates, but they never actually think it would ever happen.

Both Gerdes and Nelson were supported by the entire school.  More than anything, Nelson said she was proud to see that the tone from the 1991 team still thrives in Tiger women’s basketball.

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