Solons Erin Kerkhoff, Denver's Cam Krueger named 2018-19 All-Iowa Courage Award winners

Solons Erin Kerkhoff, Denver's Cam Krueger named 2018-19 All-Iowa Courage Award winners

The presentation of the Des Moines Register’s annual Courage Award is one of the highlights of the All-Iowa Sports Awards. The honor is given to athletes who overcome tremendous obstacles on their way to success.

After consultations with many involved with the production of the 2019 All-Iowa Sports Awards, the Register has decided to honor two Courage Award recipients this year: Solon senior Erin Kerkhoff and Denver sophomore Camden Krueger.

Both Kerkhoff and Krueger are visually-impaired athletes who have not let their disabilities keep them from the sports they love. Kerkhoff proved to be a highly successful track athlete this year, while Krueger was a monster on the wrestling mat.

But more than that, both provided the rest of their families, coaches, teammates and peers with an example of courage that transcends sports. They showed the power of the human spirit when paired with passion.

Kerkhoff has 20/400 vision — meaning she needs to be 20 times closer in order to see something on par with someone who has 20/20 vision — due to optic-nerve degeneration in both eyes. It cannot be corrected with contacts or glasses.

Her parents, Scott and Teri, first noticed something was wrong when Kerkhoff was three. She may never drive a car. While at school, an iPad with the font greatly increased helps her study.

Still, there was always sports. Cross country and track were the big ones, but Kerkhoff even played basketball up through her junior year. She shot 38.5 percent from the floor and even sank a 3-pointer. 

Track was always her favorite. When Kerkhoff looks straight ahead, her eyesight is poor, but she has great peripheral vision, allowing her to stay in her lane while running. And as it turns out, she is quite good.

This past year, Kerkhoff finished third at the Class 3A state meet in the 400-meter dash, and anchored Solon’s sprint medley relay (third), 4×200-meter relay (third), and 4×400-meter relay (state champions). She also anchored Solon’s sprint medley team at the Drake Relays, which took fourth place, and finished seventh individually in the 400.

Her track career isn’t over yet. Kerkhoff is headed to Northern Iowa, where she’ll continue to compete and study business.

Krueger was born with bilateral congenital cataracts, and after close to 20 eye surgeries, he remains legally blind. He currently has no measurable vision in his right eye and about 20/200 vision in the left.

His mother, Jennifer, rushed him to the hospital after he wasn’t responding to light at just two months old. He’s undergone various operations and cycled through various lenses and medication to help fight viruses and maintain normal eye pressure.

Krueger’s list of diagnoses is long: congenital nystagmus (his eyes don’t work together) to bilateral ocular hypertension (pressure in his eyes is higher than normal) to nystagmus (miscommunication in the neurological pathways between his eyes and his brain).

► More: Read more about the inspiring story of Denver wrestler Cam Krueger 

As Krueger grew older, he found solace in the weight room and on the wrestling mat. His older brothers, Creed and Cael, were star athletes for Denver, and father Chris is the Cyclones’ head wrestling coach.

Wrestling offers a touch-rule for visually-impaired athletes. Both competitors must be in contact at all times throughout a match. Krueger also wears a mask to help protect his eyes — last year, he underwent five retinal detachment surgeries over 75 days, ending his season a month early.

This year, Krueger went 25-8 with 20 pins while competing at both 195 and 220 pounds. He helped Denver reach the Class 1A state duals championship finals, posting a 2-1 record inside Wells Fargo Arena. He also helped the Cyclones to fifth place at The Clash, one of the nation’s toughest high school dual tournaments, going 2-3 with two wins by fall.

Krueger has two years left in high school before he tackles the next stage in his life. He has big goals, too. Inside Denver’s wrestling room are lists of the school’s state medalists from year’s past. He wants to add his name before he’s done.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

Des Moines Register Sports Awards

The Des Moines Register Sports Awards recognizes and honors top athletes from across the state of Iowa in 21 sports. The event is hosted by the Des Moines Register and will take place Friday, June 21, 2019, at Wells Fargo Arena. The show features various awards, contests and guest speaker Kurt Warner with a special appearance by Lolo Jones.

Athletes: Each honored athlete will receive two complimentary tickets. Athletes will be contacted by their school’s athletic director or coach with details on how to RSVP for the event. Go to for a full list of nominees.

Ticket info: General admission tickets are now on sale for the Des Moines Register Sports Awards. Purchase your tickets at

  • Individual ticket price: $25 plus service fees.
  • Family Four-Pack Ticket Price: $52 plus service fees.
  • Student Ticket Price: $10 plus service fees. Limited two per order. Use promo code STUDENT at checkout.
  • Merchandise: Sports Awards T-shirts, tank tops and more are on sale now at

Published at Sat, 08 Jun 2019 08:29:00 +0000