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Iowa state cross country 2018: Runners and teams to watch, predictions

2A girls race between Emily Staal and Marie Hostetler will be a dandy

Iowa City Liberty's Ashlyn Keeney runs to the Mississippi Valley Conference girls' championship Oct. 4. Keeney is the favorite in the Class 4A girls' race at the state meet Saturday at Lakeside Golf Course, Fort Dodge. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa City Liberty's Ashlyn Keeney runs to the Mississippi Valley Conference girls' championship Oct. 4. Keeney is the favorite in the Class 4A girls' race at the state meet Saturday at Lakeside Golf Course, Fort Dodge. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

FORT DODGE — Capsules and predictions for the Iowa high school state cross country meet Saturday at Lakeside Golf Course.

Class 4A Girls

Time — 11 a.m.

Individual race — Ashlyn Keeney, a freshman at Iowa City Liberty, has exploded onto the cross-country scene. She is undefeated, including a 92-second win at the Pleasant Valley regional. Micah Poellet of Linn-Mar was impressive at Noelridge Park, going sub-18 for the first time of her career at 17:52. Last year’s champion, Paige Horner of Johnston did not finish at the Lewis Central regional last week. But since the Dragons qualified as a team, she’ll have another shot at Fort Dodge, if healthy.

Teams to watch — West Des Moines Valley edged defending champion Johnston by a point at Lewis Central last week, and those two teams appear to be the frontrunners, along with fellow Central Iowa suburban schools Waukee and Southeast Polk. Dubuque Senior is the best hope for an Eastern Iowa team to contend. Cedar Rapids Prairie was second to host Pleasant Valley and heads to the state for the first time in school history. The Hawks could finish in the top half of the 15-team field, as could Iowa City West.

How they’ll finish — 1. Johnston, 2. Waukee, 3. Southeast Polk, 4. West Des Moines Valley, 5. Dubuque Senior

Class 4A Boys

Time — 11:30 a.m.

Individual race — Defending champion Tim Sindt of Ankeny is poised to repeat. He cruised to victory at the Ankeny district in 15:52, beating the competition — which included third-rated Sam Hall of West Des Moines Dowling — by 34 seconds. The Metro/Iowa City area has three dandies in Jack Pendergast of Cedar Rapids Prairie, Kolby Greiner of Iowa City West and Jacob Green of Cedar Rapids Kennedy, all of whom are capable of finishing in the top five.

Teams to watch — The list of contenders is the same as last year, when Pleasant Valley, Dubuque Hempstead and West Des Moines Dowling went 1-2-3. Dowling is No. 1-ranked and had five in the top 10 at the Indianola district. Pleasant Valley and Hempstead dominated the field at the PV district, with the Spartans shading the Mustangs by a 34-35 margin. Cedar Rapids Washington and Cedar Rapids Prairie are top-five hopefuls.

How they’ll finish — 1. Pleasant Valley, 2. West Des Moines Dowling, 3. Dubuque Hempstead. 4. Johnston, 5. Waukee

Class 3A Girls

Time — Noon

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Individual raceAdrianna Katcher, a junior from Center Point-Urbana, is the two-time defending champion, but probably enters as a slight underdog. Freshman Ainsley Erzen of Carlisle is top-ranked and won the Pella regional by 33 seconds, in 18:50. Katcher countered with an 18:48 effort at Manchester, building a 28-second margin over Dubuque Wahlert’s Gabby Moran (third last year at state). Grinnell’s Mary Blanchard was second to Katcher last year and won the Fairfield regional. Janette Schraft of Glenwood was eighth in the 1A race last year at East Mills and ran 18:42 at Glenwood.

Teams to watch — It’s hard to imagine anyone wresting the crown away from defending champ Dubuque Wahlert, which placed four in the top nine at Manchester, scored 36 points and won by 50. The Golden Eagles’ competition figures to come from Dallas Center-Grimes and Pella (separated by a point at the Pella regional), as well as Ballard, which took top honors last week at Spencer.

How they’ll finish — 1. Dubuque Wahlert, 2. Ballard, 3. Dallas Center-Grimes, 4. Pella, 5. Sioux City Heelan

Class 3A Boys

Time — 12:30 p.m.

Individual race — The top five finishers from 2017 have graduated, leaving a new crop of championship contenders. Start with Gilbert’s Rees Taylor (sixth last year), who took top honors at the Glenwood district in 16:21. Mount Pleasant’s Cody Mertens was eighth last year and won the Fairfield district by 29 seconds, in 16:10. Add in Sam Kepford of Waverly-Shell Rock and Gus Hayes of Decorah (1-2 at the Manchester district), and that’s a quality quartet.

Teams to watch — Defending champion Gilbert is the favorite to repeat until somebody else says otherwise. The Tigers had five in the top 11 in a 32-point tally at Glenwood. Carlisle rolled up a 45-point winning margin at the Pella district, and Clear Creek Amana re-established bragging rights on Wamac Conference rival Marion by winning by 23 points at Fairfield. CCA returns all seven runners from last year’s 10th-place team.

How they’ll finish — 1. Gilbert, 2. Carlisle, 3. Clear Creek Amana, 4. Decorah, 5. Marion

Class 2A Girls

Time — 1 p.m.

Individual race — The duel between Central City-Springville’s Emily Staal and Mid-Prairie’s Marie Hostetler will be one of the best things to watch all day. Staal is up a class after winning the 1A title last year, and Hostetler is the reigning 2A champion. They went head to head at the Tipton regional last week, with Staal (17:34) racing to a 6-second win. Other contenders include Cassigy Ihns of Crestwood, who outran 2017 fifth-place finisher Sophia Jungling of Aplington-Parkersburg by 40 seconds at Garner, along with Madeline Rhomberg of Cascade.

Teams to watch — Mid-Prairie returns a good core back from last year’s title team, but got a challenge by Williamsburg at the Tipton regional, pulling out a 53-61 win. The Raiders have good balance, which will help in a big field. WC-KP posted a 33-point tally at Orange City, and Panorama — up a class after earning 1A runner-up honors in 2017 — won handily on its home course. Jesup had three in the top six in winning the Monticello regional.

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How they’ll finish — 1. Mid-Prairie, 2. Williamsburg, 3. Panorama, 4. WC-KP, 5. Jesup

Class 2A Boys

Time — 1:30 p.m.

Individual race — Seven of the top eight runners return from 2017, led by Reece Smith of Garner GHV. Last year’s runner-up, Smith blistered his home course at districts, running in 16:09 and winning by 33 seconds. Joe Anderson of GLR-Central Lyon and Spencer Moon of South Central Calhoun were third and fourth last year, and went 1-2 (in 16:32 and 16:55) at the Orange City district. Treynor’s Jerry Jorgenson was fourth in 1A last fall, and won the Panorama district race by 44 seconds. Caleb Shumaker of Tipton is another contender.

Teams to watch — The third-place team last year, Tipton moves into the favorite’s role. The Tigers are ranked No. 1, and won a district on their home course by 41 points, with three runners in the top seven. Bellevue brings back a strong core from last year’s 1A runner-up squad, and cruised to victory at the Monticello district. Sioux Center also was impressive, claiming top honors at Orange City. Monticello could give the River Valley Conference a third top-five team.

How they’ll finish — 1. Tipton, 2. Bellevue, 3. Sioux Center, 4. GLR-Central Lyon, 5. Monticello

Class 1A Girls

Time — 2 p.m.

Individual race — With Staal moving up to 2A, the title race opens up significantly. The next three runners from 2017 all competed at the Guthrie Center regional, with Tri-Center’s Peyton Pogge winning it convincingly, in 19:56. That probably warrants her as the favorite. Emma Lucas of Bedford and Kate Crawford of Guthrie Center ACGC were next. Freshman Jalyssa Blazek of Turkey Valley was the winner of the Cedar Rapids regional in 19:49, and the Sporrer sisters of Logan-Magnolia (Taylor is a junior, Courtney a freshman) were 1-2 at Hawarden.

Teams to watch — The fourth-place team last year, Logan-Magnolia entered this season as the favorite and lived up to the billing last week, sweeping the top three spots at the Hawarden regional. Iowa City Regina might be the top challenger, along with Lansing Kee and Denver, who went 1-2 at the Cedar Rapids regional.

How they’ll finish — 1. Logan-Magnolia, 2. Iowa City Regina, 3. Lansing Kee, 4. Hudson, 5. Denver

Class 1A Boys

Time — 2:30 p.m.

Individual race — Sean McDermott of Madrid was the 2017 runner-up, and claimed the title at the Marshalltown district in 16:32, 10 seconds ahead of Lake Mills’ Carson Rygh — the eighth-place finisher last year. Hunter Rickels and Chase Knoche of Calamus-Wheatland ran 1-2 at the Iowa City district. Will Roder of LeMars Gehlen and Caleb Silver of Conrad BCLUW ran in the low 17s in winning district titles.

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Teams to watch — Nodaway Valley has captured the last three 1A titles, but will be hard-pressed to extend its streak. Madrid has looked like the heir apparent all season, and had an impressive run in beating a strong field at Marshalltown. Calamus-Wheatland was a convincing winner at Iowa City. Earlham edged Nodaway Valley at the Guthrie Center district.

How they’ll finish — 1. Madrid, 2. Calamus-Wheatland, 3. Earlham, 4. South Hamilton, 5. Nodaway Valley

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

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