ORANGE CITY, Iowa – Since Thanksgiving, Dave and Renae Dunkelberger of Waconia, Minn., have driven 14,000 miles for Red Raider basketball.
Son Brent, a senior, just finished his last season for Northwestern College. Mom and Dad were in Point Lookout, Mo., for his final game, an opening-round loss at the NAIA Division II Men’s National Basketball Championship.
The Dunkelbergers hopped in the car after the game and drove to Sioux City to catch daughter Alli, a freshman, suit up for the Red Raiders in the national women’s tournament at the Tyson Events Center.
The couple caught 49 of Northwestern’s 67 men’s and women’s varsity basketball games this season.
Dave Dunkelberger, 50, played for Northwestern College from 1982-84. The Pilot Mound, Iowa, native kept working during much of his travel this winter. Wells Fargo Bank, his employer, allowed him to set up a temporary office site last week in Sioux City.
“I normally work out of Minneapolis, where I’ve been for seven years,” said Dunkelberger, a corporate credit consulting manager who has been with the company 25 years. “From time to time, when I get down there, I’ll work out of the Sioux City Wells Fargo location.”
‘A higher power’
One of the scenes I remember from the 2011 national tournament took place March 11, shortly before Northwestern took the court to face Sterling College.
I walked past the locker area where the Red Raiders prepared. Coach Earl Woudstra sat alone in the adjacent tunnel, looking down at what I thought was a scouting report. Coaches often go over in their heads (or on paper) those last-minute X’s and O’s.
Woudstra? He read the Bible.
“That’s Earl,” said Barry Brandt, Northwestern College athletic director. “In his talk with a team before a game, he talks about playing the game for a bigger reason, a higher power. He goes to scripture to prepare his team, and also to calm himself.”
(Brandt told me he reached Woudstra on the morning of the national title game one week ago. Woudstra was washing the team’s uniforms. The Journal’s Barry Poe walked out of the Tyson Events Center that night following NWC’s title conquest. Poe said Woudstra carried a bag of towels and sweaty uniforms, not a championship trophy.)
“As a team, we play to glorify God,” said Becca Hurley, the Raiders’ national player of the year. “I think it shows up in unselfish play. We are used to working for and playing for each other.”
Hurley spoke in front of an estimated 1,000 NWC students in Christ Chapel on Monday morning. That’s the message she shared.
She spoke with me later about teamwork of a different stripe. It involves Marilyn Mayberry of Orange City, a surrogate mother of sorts for several Raiders. Hurley stayed with Mayberry two weeks ago while she (Hurley) battled Influenza B during the tournament that decided the champion of the Great Plains Athletic Conference.
“I didn’t play Briar Cliff that weekend (Feb. 26) and watched the game from Marilyn’s house via the Internet,” Hurley said. “My doctor didn’t even want me in the gym.”
With Mayberry’s help, Hurley regained her strength and kept the team rolling to its third national title in her four-year career.
“It’s a blessing to have Marilyn,” Hurley said. “Her home is quiet, relaxing and away from campus.”
Hurley, a Christian education major, cleaned out her locker Monday afternoon, a reminder of sorts her athletic days are coming to a close. The fifth of Chuck and Chris Hurley’s 10 children said we’ll hear from her family again.
“My sister Emily, who is 10, really likes basketball,” Becca Hurley stated. “The last time I was with her, I showed her how to shoot a left-handed layup while jumping off the correct foot. She’ll be better than me.”
Could we see a Hurley in the spotlight a decade from now?
“You might,” Becca Hurley said.