By: Mike Ferguson, Contributing Columnist.
Davenport - For a select number of Polk County female student-athletes this academic year, the term "playing with the big boys" was more than a saying. It was a reality.
Last month at Ridge Community High School, Layla Nickerson signed her letter of intent to wrestle at Iowa Wesleyan, a Division III school. Nickerson, 17, became the first Bolts' female wrestler ever to earn an NCAA scholarship.
When it came to competing against boys, Nickerson wasn't alone at her school. This past fall, Molly Martin served as the placekicker for the Ridge Community football team. In her first game - a 47-20 win over Bartow - Martin became the first girl in Bolts' history to score in a varsity game when she made five extra points.
In Polk County, Martin wasn't the only girl to try her hand at placekicking. At Lake Region High School in Eagle Lake, Issy Pita became the first female player in program history. Her first contest was a 46-7 loss to George Jenkins, but it may have featured a bit of Polk County history.
In the season opener for both teams, three girls played in the contest. Pita made the lone extra-point attempt for Lake Region. For the Eagles, another female kicker, Anna Toms, kicked off 10 times. Linebacker Tyana Holder also saw playing time in the second half.
One week later, Pita was a perfect 8-for-8 on extra points in Lake Region's 56-29 win over Santa Fe Catholic. That was the first win for the Thunder since 2016.
There are a number of prominent and championship-caliber girls teams throughout Polk County. This academic year, however, many have proven themselves capable of excelling in sports previously reserved for boys.