Track, Cross Country Coach Rises Above Flood Waters

Like many other residents in the Palo community, Ryan Scheckel never thought the water would reach his home. “I saw them sandbagging the supermarket and thought, ‘What in the world are they doing? The water is never going to get that high,’” says Scheckel, the head coach for men’s and women’s track and field and cross country.

Scheckel, whose house is located in the area farthest west of the river, immediately began to move a few items off his basement floor, placing some things on shelves and tables. He and his wife, Jill Larsen Scheckel ’01 assumed the water would not reach that high if their home flooded.
Sandbagging had already begun in Palo, and Scheckel was quick to lend a hand, working alongside other volunteers to cover manholes and other key areas of the city.

The water, though, kept rising — as did the predictions of how high it was going to get. Scheckel and others spent hours sandbagging houses and other areas, only to be told that the new predictions declared all their efforts to be futile. “We learned that all those sandbags we placed
probably weren’t even going to slow the water down,” says Scheckel.

It was then that Scheckel decided to remove everything he could from his basement, which in the end enabled his family to salvage many of their possessions. The Scheckels ended up losing their water heater, furnace and carpet, along with a few other items to the dirty flood waters. In the end, the water came up to four feet in the basement. Scheckel, known on campus for his positive attitude, is confident his family will rebound from this loss. “It’s just a setback,” he says optimistically.

For Scheckel, the most difficult part of the ordeal was the mandatory evacuation decreed in Palo. “That was hard,” says Scheckel. “We had to leave our home, not knowing what would happen to it.” Uncertainty seemed to be everywhere. Scheckel noticed that even the firefighters who
stayed behind were unsure just exactly what they would be up against.

Through it all, Scheckel agrees that the community came together when it mattered most. “When you all go through something like that together you really get to know one another,” he says. Scheckel says he knows his neighbors on a deeper level now. “They’re more than names now,” he says, “Now we really know each other. Everyone really pulled together.”

During the crisis Scheckel found support in his family as well as the Mount Mercy community. He and his family were able to stay with his wife’s parents and several alumni and current students helped Scheckel and his family move boxes and other items. “I don’t know what we’d have done without our family and Mount Mercy,” he says.

The devastation that Scheckel witnessed in the Palo community has given him a deeper sense of empathy for other communities that have gone through similar circumstances, such as the tornado disaster at Parkersburg. “I guess you always have compassion, but now you have understanding,” he says.

Despite everything that happened, Scheckel feels very fortunate to still have a house that he and his family can live in, pointing out that many other families have much harder circumstances to overcome than the one his family is facing. “Out of many in the community we are one of the
most fortunate,” says Scheckel.