Eastern Iowa teams Shine at State Cross Country Meet
FORT DODGE She came. She ran. She savored.
Stephanie Jenks of Linn-Mar capped an undefeated freshman season with a Class 4A championship at the state cross country meet Saturday morning. Her time of 13:42 ranks No. 4 all-time at the 4,000-meter distance.
"My mom told me to come here, have fun and enjoy myself, so that's what I did," Jenks said.
Jenks took control of the race shortly after the gun went off, winning by 18 seconds over runner-up Ashlynn Yokom of Iowa City West.
"I knew she was behind me," said Jenks, who ran the first mile in 5:16 and had a 14-second cushion at the mile mark. "I could hear (some of the spectators) yelling, 'Go Ash, go!' "
Jenks' title highlighted a strong day for Linn-Mar. The girls were 4A runners-up; the boys finished third.
Pleasant Valley captured the girls' crown with 49 points. Linn-Mar was next with 93, with Johnston edging Cedar Rapids Kennedy, 156-157, for the third-place trophy.
Led by individual champ Jason Thomas, West Des Moines Dowling won its second straight boys' crown with 60 points. Pleasant Valley was second with 111 points, followed by Linn-Mar (120) and Iowa City West (135).
The pre-race favorite, Jenks didn't fret Saturday about those she was about to run against.
"I don't really think about the competition as long as I get a good time," she said. "I'm happy."
Amber Decker, another freshman, was 10th for Linn-Mar. Kennedy's Alyssa Averhoff was eighth.
Yokom passed Dowling's Karissa Schweizer in the final half-mile to finish second in 14:00.
"The last 800, I knew I had to go fast," Yokom said. "I wanted to get (Jenks). I always want to get her. You don't want to settle for anything less than first place. But this is state, you know it's going to be a fast pace, and I'm pretty happy."
Thomas emerged from a pack of seven in the final portion of the race and won in 14:51, the first boy to run a sub-15 5K at Lakeside.
Brook Price of Iowa City High was fourth in 15:02; Isaac Jensen of Iowa City West was fifth in 15:06.
"I ran a really tough race, but I wish I had a little more at the end," Price said. "At the end, it came down to the kick, and they had a little more."
Last year's runner-up, Josh Evans of Linn-Mar was ninth. He battled injury through the end of the season, but gutted out a strong effort Saturday.
"I didn't see that time (15:12) coming," Evans said. "I was praying that I could give 100 percent, and that's what I came in and did."
Last year, Nick Meyers watched as Monticello won a state cross country championship.
Saturday, he contributed as the Panthers won another.
Monticello did the expected at Lakeside Golf Course, trampling the field for its second straight Class 2A boys crown. The Panthers had five runners in the top 20 and amassed a tidy 52-point total. North Polk was second, way back at 132.
"It wasn't our best race, but it was a good, solid race," said Monticello Coach Dan Sauser. "You always want to run better, but I'm pleased with our effort, and the outcome was what we had in mind."
Meyers was an alternate the Panthers' No. 8 runner last year. So he watched and cheered for his teammates. Saturday, he got an opportunity and ran with it.
He was second on the team, eighth overall.
"The saying goes, 'Summer miles bring autumn smiles,' " Meyers said. "This is an amazing feeling. I was just up for it."
Will Norris of Spirit Lake passed Gilbert's Thomas Pollard in the final mile and won going away in 15:25.
Michael Melchert was Monticello's lead runner, third in 15:46, followed by Meyers (eighth), J.J. Frawley (10th), Dallas Lumpa (13th) and Tiler Streets (20th).
The Panthers have been ranked No. 1 nationally among small schools all season long by XCnation.com.
Unity Christian repeated as the 2A girls champion. The Knights scored 97 points. Northeast was second with 124. Monticello and Cascade scored 159 apiece, with the Panthers taking the tie-breaker.
Cassandra Stufflick of Danville-New London was the individual champion, in 14:54. Mariah Kauder of Cascade was the runner-up for the second straight year, in 15:09.
"You come in second one year, and you have really high goals for the next," Kauder said. "I really wanted to make a mark here."
Kauder had run solo in the past, but a strong crop of freshmen have Cascade a full team and a very good team.
"I would love another year with these girls," said Kauder, a senior. "They're going to be really good."
Cascade's Kylie Kelchen was fifth. Paige Gibson of North Fayette was eighth, Monticello's Ellen Schlarmann 10th.
Eric Lenz of Tipton was sixth in the boys race, leading the Tigers to a fourth-place team finish. Brennan Bogert of Iowa City Regina was ninth.
Need further evidence of the depth of Decorah's girls cross country team?
Not even a catastrophic injury to one of their top runners could stop them.
Brinn Anderson suffered a compound fracture in her leg with a quarter-mile to go, but her teammates stepped forward. That helped Decorah to a girls-boys Class 3A sweep at the state meet Saturday afternoon at Lakeside Golf Course.
"Definitely some mixed emotions," Shana Kelly said. "This just showed how deep we are. A runner goes down and everybody stepped up for her."
The Vikings actually trailed MOC-Floyd Valley through four runners, but a big advantage at No. 5 staked them to a 63-85 advantage over the Dutch. Davenport Assumption was third with 93 points.
Decorah's boys scored 62 points to complete the sweep. Pella was second with 74.
In both cases, depth was key. Kelly was 15th, then came a cluster of Stef Bjerke (19th), Amanda Taylor (21st), Linnea Kephart (23rd) and Gara Lonning (24th).
Anderson was in that clump until she went down before the final, frantic stretch. She did not finish.
Kyle Hosting was fifth in the boys race, in 16:02. Patrick Larson, Ethan Pankow and Thomas Knobbe were 10th, 12th and 13th.
"We've had a solid top four all year long," Hosting said.
Boone juniors Chandler Austin and Albert Meier were 1-2 in 15:24 and 15:35. Austin Springsteen of Mount Vernon-Lisbon was ninth.
Anna Holdiman of Waverly-Shell Rock won the girls race by 39 seconds, finishing in 13:51. Lauren Benzing of Solon ran past defending champion Madison Waymire of Dallas Center Grimes in the final half-mile to finish second in 14:30.
Benzing was the 2A champion in 2010, then the 3A runner-up in 2011 and 2012.
"I heard that I had two girls on my heels, so I knew I had to push," Benzing said. "I just kept my eyes on (Waymire's) back. I don't have a great sprint at the end, but I do feel I'm pretty strong overall in the last 600 or 800 meters."
Elkader Central had one of the younger small-school girls teams at the state cross country meet.
One of the better teams, too.
The Warriors placed third in the Class 1A field Saturday afternoon at Lakeside Golf Course.
Led by individual champion Rebekah Topham, Griswold won the team title with 86 points. Pekin was second with 102, followed by Central, with 151.
Central has three freshmen in its lineup, including lead runner Haley Schroeder, who was 12th.
Topham, a sophomore, was clocked in 14:05 to win her second straight crown.
Jasmine Staebler of Clayton Ridge was the top 1A finisher girl or boy with a seventh-place effort. Kari Fitzpatrick of Edgewood-Colesburg was ninth, Abi Watson of North Tama 10th.
North Linn's Nicole Miller was in the top 10 before a misstep on a bridge, about a half-mile from the finish, took her down. Preliminary diagnosis was a sprained ankle.
Council Bluffs St. Albert won its second straight 1A boys title. The Falcons scored 68 points; Denver was second with 84.
St. Albert's Josh Sindelar was the individual champ in 16:15. Jason McVay of Alburnett was eighth.