New height of fandom

BY ALEC CLASEN | APRIL 01, 2014 5:00 AM

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Quiet, that is the word most people would use when attending your typical tennis meet or match. For the Iowa women’s tennis team this is not necessarily always the case.

If one were to attend a home match for the Hawkeyes you would most likely notice a group of gentlemen that seem out of place in the stands. Led by University of Iowa student Brooks Miller, the group dons traditional Amish apparel and shouts in German to cheer on Miller’s friend, junior Shelby Talcott.

“I’m friends with Shelby, we had a class together, and she said that she played tennis, and they didn’t get a whole lot of fans, so I was like hey, we can come out an cheer for that,” Miller said.

Miller, who grew up a practicing Mennonite in the rural farming community of nearby Kalona, recruited a number of buddies to join him at the meets to add to the noise level.

Dressed in their distinct suspenders, button-up shirts, and straw hats, Miller and his friends have been to a majority of the home meets hooting and hollering in support of Talcott and the team all spring.

“She’s played better when they are here,” head coach Katie Dougherty said about Talcott. “She seems to do better when they are around.”

It is important to note, however, that Miller and his friends are not Amish, they are Mennonites.

“The Mennonites started back in the 1600s, and then the Amish broke off from that,” Miller said. “This is just an Amish get-up that we wear; we [Mennonites] can wear just regular, everyday clothes.”

The effect of the group’s presence has reflected well on Talcott’s play for the Hawkeyes at home. Talcott is 6-3 at home this season, an impressive record considering the immense talent she has faced this season.

The yelling and cheering that fills the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Center from her Mennonite support group has undoubtedly had a profound effect on her opponents, who are accustomed to a more quiet setting.

“It definitely helps because they are so loud,” Talcott said. “We have a lot of fans, but they’re not always loud, so it’s different to have someone be loud. It helps us.”

Miller and his friends’ presence at the home meets have sparked some other fans’ interests. Miller said that the group has been approached more then once with curious questions.

“People were asking if we were Amish,” Miller said, cracking a grin. “One guy asked us how long it took us to get up here, or if we were just here for the day, we make the joke that it takes a while to get the buggies this far because it’s [Kalona] 15 miles away.”

Miller and his friends don’t actually ride around in buggies. The typical Amish people do, however; most Iowans have probably seen them in the Kalona area before.

The close group of friends’ hopes to continue attending the home meets for the rest of the season. They aren’t necessarily avid tennis fans; they just enjoy the sport and love to root for Talcott.

“We’ll make it whenever we can,” Miller said. “We enjoy it; it’s a lot of fun.”

To get a different insight on the group’s experience at the meets, you can check out Miller’s friend, Shawn Graber, and his blog on the time spent cheering for Talcott at http://unkashawn.blogspot.com.

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