Mike Powers| News-Bulletin photos
Hoover-Ball players from Belen High School get in some practice before competing in the national tournament in Iowa.

Belen

Move over, pickleball. Step aside, cornhole. Take a hike, professional tag. Make room for Hoover-Ball, the next American sports’ sensation! Maybe.

Whether Hoover-Ball is headed for prime time or not, doesn’t really matter to a group of Belen High School girls, who love the game.

“It’s basically like ‘hot potato’ times 10,” Sithandra Dowdy, a BHS junior explains. “Don’t drop it.”

Belen High School Hoover-ball players are, from left, Anida Clayton, Sithandra Dowdy, Celestina Shirley, Brooke De Leon and Victoria Lopez.

“It” is a 4-pound medicine ball, tossed back and forth over a net, with a three-person team winning the point if the opposition can’t return the ball in one or two throws. The rules for men are slightly different.

Dowdy, Anida Clayton, Celestina Shirley, Brooke De Leon and Victoria Lopez comprise a BHS team competing in the national Hoover-Ball tournament starting Saturday, Aug. 5, in Iowa.

All five members first heard about Hoover-Ball during Navy Jr. ROTC class, introduced by Gunnery Sgt. Juan Lara, a NJROTC instructor.

“Gunny,” as he is called, says Hoover-Ball is “high intensity,” and is used in the military and cross-fit gyms for conditioning. Techniques to heave the ball over the net include underhanded and over-the-head backwards.

The national Hoover-Ball tournament starts Aug. 5 in West Branch, Iowa

H-B has been described as a combination of volleyball, tennis and medicine ball.

“I like how tough it can be, how difficult it can be,” explains Shirley, a recent BHS graduate. “You have to always stay on your toes with it.”

De Leon, a junior, says the sport is a good cardio workout, and “it’s like a fun, team-game, too, to play with friends.”

As for Dowdy, “I’m just really into competition. Anything we can play, and win or lose at, I’m down to play.”

Hoover-Ball is named for Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States. The sport was invented in 1928 by White House physician Adm. Joel Boone to keep the president physically fit. Hoover is the only president from Iowa, born in West Branch, which hosts the national championship each year.

The BHS team received an invitation after winning an Albuquerque tournament, and while most of the Eagles are keeping expectations low, not Dowdy.

“I really want to win the whole thing, but that’s just me. As always.”

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Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.