Contributions of Iowa athletes featured in new book

Cover of "Amazing Iowa Athletes" book

AMES, Iowa – Cyclone fans will certainly recognize the face on the cover of Katy Swalwell’s new book “Amazing Iowa Athletes,” but the story of Jack Trice is one every Iowan should know.

Trice – Iowa State University’s first black athlete – died in 1923 after a football game with the University of Minnesota. As Swalwell writes in the book, “an opposing player broke his collarbone and, a few plays later, three others trampled him.” The night before the game, Trice wrote about the expectations others had for him to do big things. Swalwell says the obstacles he faced in pursuing his dream made him a perfect fit for the book.

“All the stories in the book highlight the obstacles these athletes faced because of various forms of oppression,” said Swalwell, an associate professor in ISU’s School of Education. “I did as much research as I could to find stories of athletes from different sports, backgrounds and time periods to make sure that it was as representative and inclusive as possible.”

You don’t have to be a sports fan or athlete to find inspiration in the stories and artwork, illustrated by a team of Iowa artists. Swalwell says more than 100 athletes are featured in the book and all used their sport to do incredible things. For example:

Denise Long is one of the most successful six-on-six basketball players in Iowa. She was the first woman drafted by the NBA, but was not allowed to play because of her gender.

Timothy LeDuc and his skating partner, Ashley Cain-Gable, won a gold medal at the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championship. LeDuc is one of the few openly queer athletes.

Haley Eckerman was a top volleyball recruit in high school. At 17, she gave birth to her son, Cayden, returning to play her senior season. She played professionally and earned Big 12 and All American honors as a student-athlete at the University of Texas. She also started a team of all-black women players, which was the first all-black team to win the Women’s Open Division of the USA Volleyball Open National Championship.

Amazing tool for teachers

The book is ideal for families and children of all ages. Swalwell says she developed the book with teachers in mind. The state’s new social studies standards require Iowa history be taught at every grade level. Through her work with teachers, Swalwell learned many feel unprepared to teach Iowa history. She says the book provides material to, “teach Iowa history in a responsible, ethical and accurate way.”

“Amazing Iowa Athletes” is the second of what will be a five-book series. The first focused on amazing Iowa women, the following books will feature artists, scientists and change-makers. Swalwell says what she enjoys most about the work is discovering the global impact of Iowans.

“These are intensely, local personal stories mixed with really big global connections,” Swalwell said. “In researching these books, I always learn how the world would not be what it is, without people from Iowa. It is really fun to see this impact.”

Swalwell wants younger and future generations to understand the significance and be proud of the contributions made by Iowans. The book is published by RAYGUN and available for purchase online. Supplemental materials can be found at