Central track coach receives prestigious Golden Plaque Award

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Central coach Martha Bauder was recently recognized as the 2021 recipient of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union’s Golden Plaque Award for Track and Field. Bauder (second from right holding granddaughter Nea) is pictured with husband Mark (left), daughter Cera with son Leo, son-in-law Ben with daughter Kate and son Daniel holding granddaughter Amelia.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


“We are honored to announce that the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union has selected Central Girls Track and Field Coach Martha Bauder as the 2021 recipient of the Golden Plaque Award for Track and Field,” Central Principal Aaron Reinhart announced during a recent boys basketball game. 


It was with great fanfare and applause that Bauder and family stood in the center of the gym, humbly accepting the award. 


The award, according to Reinhart, is the highest a coach can receive, and Bauder is just the ninth track and field coach in Iowa history to receive it. She is also the “first recipient who can say she built her success without a running track to practice on,” Reinhart mentioned. 


Bauder deflected the praise and placed the success that led to the recognition on the people around her, like her family, the assistant coaches and athletes. 


The sincere humility, a reflection of her character, is such an invaluable aspect of being chosen for the Golden Plaque Award. Bauder, in terms of the award and in the words of Reinhart, “represents what it means to be an Iowa girl.” 


Bauder’s initial response during an interview exuded the humility. 


“While I’m very honored to receive the award because of how much track has been a part of my life, I believe it has not so much to do with success as a coach but more about longevity,” she said. 


When pressed, however, she elaborated: “The award reminded me again of how fortunate I have been to be able to have the opportunity to coach all these years. To be able to do something I enjoy so tremendously for this many years. When you can work at something you enjoy so much, you never feel like you have worked at all…And it’s been really fun going down memory lane.”


The joy for track started in the late 1970s, when Bauder attended an older brother’s track meets. Around seventh grade, a P.E. teacher influenced her to try the hurdles. 


“I must’ve been okay at it,” she recalled. “I don’t actually remember [but] I had some success at hurdles, long jump and sprinting, so that kept me interested.” 


She competed all through high school and college, while attending Concordia in Moorhead, Minn. 


While it all started in Minnesota, a bout of unhappiness with her teaching job, husband Mark finishing school and a little bit of luck landed Bauder in Elkader in the summer of 1982. 


“I was not happy with the school where I was teaching, so we sent out nearly 100 applications during the summer of 1982. We had a few interviews, but nothing worked out until about 10 days before school was to start here in Elkader. We came down from northern Minnesota for an interview, and by the time we got back home, there was a message that they’d offered [Mark] the job. He accepted right away,” Bauder explained. 


By the spring of 1984, Bauder was the new head coach for the track team. On its own, that’s enough to keep anyone rooted to a community, but for the Bauders, it goes beyond simply being employed by the school. People have to choose to stay, and the Bauders have never thought about leaving. 


“The community of Elkader and the Central Community school system has been so perfect for raising a family. It’s hard to stay in one place for nearly 40 years if those two aspects of your life aren’t fulfilling. We’ve never, for one second, regretted our move here,” Bauder said. 


It’s here where the Bauders raised their four children, taught and coached at the school and built a track and field legacy. The legacy is possible because of the support of Bauder’s family, who never made her feel guilty for being gone so much every spring. The legacy also  includes her four kids, all successful track and field athletes who brought out the “pure fun” in being a coach. 


The legacy has been defined by humility because, while winning is a goal, it is not the main aspiration. It’s about setting goals and having the motivation to achieve them. The process is just as rewarding as the outcome. 


“In track, success is available to anyone who wants to work hard and is different for everyone…When someone who sets goals works super hard day in and day out, faces adversity (which is prevalent in a sport like track) and then surpasses one of their goals, watching the thrill they get, it still gives me goose bumps,” Bauder said. 


While that is the most rewarding part of her job, it’s not without a challenge that is somewhat unique to Central, which lacks a track and field facility to practice on. 


“Even though we actually have made a lot of creative ways to get done what we need to, to be successful I feel that a track would have allowed us to be even closer to our goals for success,” Bauder said. 


It’s been 37 years since Bauder took the job for which she won the prestigious Golden Plaque Award, and she has no plans to stop. 


“There have been a few times when family events with our children and grandchildren have made me think about how much longer I will be OK with missing some of the events. But, honestly, I think I’ll keep going until the excitement, goose bumps and butterflies start to fade,” she said.

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