Kee High's journey: From 'just one' to No. 1 in girls' cross country

Hawks make a long trek for Thursday's state qualifier

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LANSING — It’s a 3-hour, 135-mile trip from the Kee High School parking lot to Solon. The journey begins at 10:30 Thursday morning.

“We’ll get our hair done. We’ll take a nap,” junior Katie Brennan said. “We’ll stop halfway to stretch out.”

Literally, it’s a long way to go. Figuratively, the Kee High girls’ cross country team has already come much further.

From “just one” to No. 1. In only two years.

Kee High takes the top-ranked girls’ team in Class 1A to Solon for Thursday’s state-qualifying meet. The gun goes off at 3 p.m.

Each class has five state-qualifier meets. From each site, the top three teams and the top 15 individuals advance to the state championships at Lakeside Golf Course, Fort Dodge, on Oct. 28.

In 2015, there was no complete team for Kee High. Nicki Wood was the lone varsity runner.

Brennan played volleyball that fall — “I wasn’t awful, but I wasn’t outstanding,” she said — then advanced to state track in the 3,000 meters the following spring.

“That was our big break,” Kee Coach Pat Wagner said. “She saw she was a good runner and made the decision to switch to cross country.”

She didn’t come alone. The Hawks sported a compete team last year, and narrowly missed qualifying for state.

“We finished fourth, and the three teams that beat us went on to finish in the top five (at state),” Wagner said. “The girls realized then that they belonged.”

It’s still not a large squad by any stretch. The team consists of six girls: Wood is a senior, Brennan and Makayla Walleser are juniors, Makayla Peters, Rachel Walleser and Laura Colsch are sophomores.

The Hawks validated their No. 1 ranking last week at the Upper Iowa Conference meet. Brennan, Peters, Rachel Walleser and Wood ran 3-5-7-8 as Kee outran 1A top-five teams South Winneshiek and Elkader Central.

“Every race, they’ve come through when they’ve had to,” Wagner said.

Five of the six girls are part of the softball team that has won the last two 1A state titles, so you know the moment won’t be too big for them Thursday.

“We just have to go down there and do what we can,” Brennan said. “You can’t try to do too much. Just do what you can.”

Solon is hosting a double competition (1A and 3A), with the first race starting at 3 p.m. Pella has a 2A/3A double meet.

The other races start at 4 p.m. Metro/Iowa City 4A teams are split between Iowa City and Marshalltown. Manchester joins Solon and Pella as 3A sites, with Dike and Iowa City Regina holding 2A meets and Ottumwa in 1A.

Four area runners are defending state champions — Jeremy Fopma of Marion (3A boys), Bailey Nock of Iowa City West (4A girls), Adrianna Katcher of Center Point-Urbana (3A girls) and Anna Hostetler of Mid-Prairie (2A girls).

Thursday's state qualifying meets

Top 3 teams, top 15 individuals from each site advance to the state meet Oct. 28 at Lakeside Golf Course, Fort Dodge

CLASS 4A

At Iowa City (4 p.m.) — Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids Prairie, Cedar Rapids Washington, Iowa City High, Iowa City West, Muscatine, North Scott, Waterloo East (boys only), Waterloo West, Western Dubuque.

At Marshalltown (4 p.m.) — Ames, Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Des Moines Roosevelt, Fort Dodge, Linn-Mar, Marshalltown, Mason City, Newton, Urbandale.

CLASS 3A

At Manchester (4 p.m.) — Anamosa, Cedar Rapids Xavier, Charles City, Decorah, DeWitt Central, Iowa Falls-Alden/AGWSR, Independence, Maquoketa, Marion, Vinton-Shellsburg, Waverly-Shell Rock, West Delaware.

At Pella (3 p.m.) — Chariton, Clarke, Clear Creek Amana, Dallas Center-Grimes, Fairfield, Knoxville, Nevada, North Polk, Norwalk, Oskaloosa, Pella, Saydel, Washington.

At Solon (3 p.m.) — Benton Community, Center Point-Urbana, Davenport Assumption, Dubuque Wahlert, Fort Madison, Grinnell, Iowa City Liberty, Keokuk, Mount Pleasant, Mount Vernon-Lisbon, Notre Dame-West Burlington, Solon, South Tama.

CLASS 2A

At Dike (4 p.m.) — Cascade, Crestwood, Dike-New Hartford, Garner GHV, Hampton-Dumont, Jesup, New Hampton, North Fayette Valley, Oelwein, Osage, South Hamilton, South Hardin, Union, Waterloo Columbus, Waukon.

At Iowa City (4 p.m.) — Camanche, Central Lee, Danville-New London, Dyersville Beckman, East Marshall, Iowa City Regina, Louisa-Muscatine, Mediapois, Monticello, North Cedar, Northeast, Tipton, Wapello, West Liberty.

At Pella (3 p.m.) — Albia, Centerville, Davis County, Des Moines Christian, Eddyville EBF, Grundy Center GCGR, Interstate 35, Mid-Prairie, Monroe PCM, Pella Christian, Pleasantville, Roland-Story, Van Buren, West Marshall, Williamsburg.

CLASS 1A

At Ottumwa (4 p.m.) — Belle Plaine, BGM, Cardinal, Colfax-Mingo, Conrad BCLUW, Denver, Don Bosco, Dunkerton, English Valleys, Fort Madison Holy Trinity, Garwin GMG, HLV, Hudson, Keota, Lynnville-Sully, Melcher-Dallas, Meskwaki, Montezuma, Moravia, North Mahaska, North Tama, Pekin, Sigourney, Southeast Warren, Twin Cedars, Valley Lutheran, WACO.

At Solon (3 p.m.) — Alburnett, Bellevue, Bellevue Marquette, Calamus-Wheatland, Clinton Prince of Peace, Columbus Community, Durant, East Buchanan, Easton Valley, Edgewood-Colesburg, Elkader Central, Highland, Iowa Mennonite, Isaac Newton Christian Academy, Lansing Kee, Lone Tree, Maquoketa Valley, MFL MarMac, Midland, North Linn, Postville, Rivermont Collegiate, Springville-Central City, Starmont, Wilton, Winfield-Mount Union.

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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