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Western Dubuque’s Lauren Klein signs a National Letter of Intent to run at the University of Northern Iowa. From left, Dawn Klein, Lauren Klein and Dan Klein.

Western Dubuque cross country and track standout Lauren Klein recently signed a National Letter of Intent to participate in both sports at the University of Northern Iowa in a ceremony at Western Dubuque High School.

Klein, who will join the Panthers as a preferred walk-on, is excited about the opportunity.

“After looking at a few other schools, I really liked how UNI is a good distance from home and it was larger with a bigger campus than most of the other places I looked at,” Klein said. “UNI has a challenging athletic program.”

Klein is a two-time participant in the Class 4A State Cross Country Meet, finishing 46th in 2020 and 33rd in 2019. She was also a State Coed Track qualifier in 2018 and 2019 as a member of Bobcat relay teams.

Western Dubuque Cross Country coach Mark Digmann believes Klein is heading to the right program at UNI.

“Lauren has an opportunity over there. She doesn’t have to play a big role right away, but she can work her way up,” Digmann said. “She’s got the work ethic and she’ll fit in real well with their program.”

Klein expects to run distance events for the Panthers on the track, and felt a connection with the UNI coaching staff.

“I’ll be running longer events, probably the 1500 meters and up,” she said. “I really liked talking to the coaches. Even though we couldn’t meet each other in person, it was really easy to communicate with them on Zoom. They stayed in touch with me through the whole season this fall, which I thought was really nice.”

Klein has played a big role at Western Dubuque, according to Digmann.

“Lauren has meant a lot to our program. She came in as a freshman running in the number one spot right away, and has been very consistent. Lauren is someone we could rely on every night,” Digmann said. “She’s very positive. She’s a prime case of someone leading by example and is overall a great teammate.”

After the 2020 track season was canceled due to COVID, Klein is looking forward to the upcoming 2021 season and feels well prepared for a big year on the track.

“Individually, I’d like to make it to Drake and the state meet this year. The coaches at Western Dubuque have pushed me to reach the next level,” she said. “I hope our team can also make it down to state. Hopefully, we can get our 4x8 team down there and medal.”

On the academic side of things, Klein plans to pursue a challenging course of study at UNI.

“I’m planning to major in biology with a biomedical emphasis in order to hopefully become a physical therapist,” she said.