Prep Sports

Iowa state cross country 2020 preview: Scouting the individual and team races

It's a two-day event this year, starting at 10:30 Friday morning

From left: South Winneshiek's Billie Wagner, Lansing Kee's Haley Meyer and Turkey Valley's Jalyssa Blazek run the course
From left: South Winneshiek’s Billie Wagner, Lansing Kee’s Haley Meyer and Turkey Valley’s Jalyssa Blazek run the course during last year’s Class 1A regional cross country race at Cedar Falls. Led by Meyer, last year’s state runner-up, this Upper Iowa Conference trio is ranked 1-2-3 among 1A girls. They’ll compete at the state meet at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Lakeside Golf Course, Fort Dodge. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

FORT DODGE — The 2020 Iowa high school state cross country meet is a two-day event this year, Friday and Saturday at Lakeside Golf Course.

Here’s a primer on the meet:

Class 4A girls

Time — 10:30 a.m. Friday

Individuals to watch — Led by runner-up Ashlyn Keeney of Iowa City Liberty, five of the top six finishers from last year return. Keeney took top honors at the Pleasant Valley regional last week, finishing in 19:00 and winning by 16 seconds. Linn-Mar senior Micah Poellet won the title in 2018 before settling for fourth last year. She’s certainly a contender, finishing second at the Dubuque regional, 13 seconds behind Dubuque Hempstead freshman Keelee Leitzen, but just ahead of Dubuque Senior’s Lillian Schmitt, the third-place state finisher in 2019. Also back are Kaia Downs of Sioux City East and Belle Heikes of Johnston, who ran 1-2 at Council Bluffs.

The team race — Three teams stand above the rest. Last year’s champion, Johnston was impressive at the Council Bluffs regional, scoring 33 points and winning by 24. Sixth last year, West Des Moines Valley was ranked No. 1 before regionals and did nothing to hurt its standing, with its top four runners finishing 2-3-4-6 at Marshalltown. Poellet is one of five veterans back from last year’s Linn-Mar team that finished third. The Lions held off Dubuque Senior and Dubuque Hempstead to win the title at the Dubuque regional.

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

Class 4A boys

Time — 11 a.m. Friday

Individuals to watch — Ryan Winger of Dubuque Hempstead is the top returner from last year; he finished sixth. Winger ran away from the field at the Dubuque district, finishing in 15:28 and building a 40-second margin of victory. Sioux City North’s Jayson Bouwers and Will Lohr finished 1-2 at the Council Bluffs district, and Bouwers entered the postseason ranked No. 1. He was ninth last year. Kole Sommer of Pleasant Valley has a rough state meet last year, finishing 64th, but he’s ranked No. 2 now and was impressive in a 15-second victory on his home course last week.

The team race — If you like pack running, you’ll love Cedar Falls. The Tigers’ top five runners finished within eight seconds of one another at the Marshalltown district, placing 2-3-4-5-6. Cedar Falls didn’t graduate anybody from its state team from a year ago. Neither did Sioux City North, and Dubuque Hempstead brought back six guys from its third-place team from a year ago. All three won their districts comfortably. West Des Moines Dowling lost its top three runners from its 2019 state-title team, but entered the postseason rated No. 1 and scored a tidy 24-point total at Pleasant Hill. Any of those four teams could reign.

How they’ll finish — 1. Cedar Falls, 2. Dubuque Hempstead, 3. Sioux City North, 4. West Des Moines Dowling, 5. Cedar Rapids Prairie

Class 3A girls

Time — 3:30 p.m. Friday

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Individuals to watch — Three of the top contenders were on display at the Pella regional. Ballard sophomores Paityn Noe and Shewaye Johnson lived up to their lofty state rankings, both breaking 18 minutes and running away from the field. Johnson ran second at state last year, and Noe was third. Carlisle’s Ainsley Erzen also competed at Pella and placed third. Kiki Connell of Charles City was eighth last year and was the lone non-Ballard runner to break 18 minutes at regionals, running 17:57 to win by 27 seconds at Waverly.

The team race — With six returners from last year’s title team, Ballard is a significant favorite to repeat. Led by Noe and Jackson, the Bombers scored 24 points at Pella and won by 39. Dallas Center-Grimes and Dubuque Wahlert were second and third last year, and that might be how they fit again Friday. DCG had three of the top five runners at Winterset; Wahlert placed four in the top six at Monticello, including Gabby Moran and Alix Oliver at the front. Solon, Decorah and Center Point-Urbana were the area qualifiers, and all have the potential to finish in the top half.

How they’ll finish — 1. Ballard, 2. Dallas Center-Grimes, 3. Dubuque Wahlert, 4. Glenwood, 5. Davenport Assumption

Class 3A boys

Time — 4 p.m. Friday

Individuals to watch — Quinton Orr of Humboldt and Nate Muller finished 1-2 at state last year, and that duo figures to lead the pack again. Orr ran to a 52-second victory at the Spencer district, clocking in at 15:27. Mueller, meanwhile, sizzled to a 15:15 effort at Winterset and outran Aidan Ramsey of Dallas Center-Grimes — the fifth-place state finisher last year — by 26 seconds. Eli Larson of Center Point-Urbana, Shane Erb of Marion and Brady Hogan of Decorah were the top three at the Waverly district and all broke 16 minutes. Larson was third at state last year, Hogan fourth.

The team race — Defending champion Dallas Center-Grimes brought back four of its top five runner from last year, and the top-ranked Mustangs only enhanced their role as favorite last week, putting all five scorers in the top 10 at the Winterset district and scoring 26 points. Pella reigned on its home course behind individual champion Tony Schmidt. Wamac Conference champion Solon is intriguing. The Spartans’ fate will be determined by how close to the front its pack runs. A good run could put the Spartans on the podium, while Center Point-Urbana and Marion (separated by one point at the Waverly district) are top-five caliber.

How they’ll finish — 1. Dallas Center-Grimes, 2. Pella, 3. Solon, 4. Center Point-Urbana, 5. Marion

Class 2A girls

Time — 10:30 a.m. Saturday

Individuals to watch — After watching her sisters win the last four 2A girls’ titles (Anna in 2016, Marie in 2017-19), Mid-Prairie freshman Danielle Hostetler is poised to follow their lead. Hostetler cruised to a 32-second win over Addison Parrott of Danville-New London at the Williamsburg regional, finishing in 18:47. The sixth-place finisher at state last year, Parrott will be one of Hostetler’s main challengers again this week, along with Amanda Treptow of Jesup, who placed ninth in 2019.

The team race — Mid-Prairie doesn’t have to be perfect to win its fourth consecutive title. The Golden Hawks just have to be themselves. Led by Hostetler, the Yoder sisters and Mitzi Evans, Mid-Prairie could have four finishers in the top 10 and should dominate. If anybody is going to challenge, it’s Williamsburg. The Raiders finished a point behind Mid-Prairie at state last year and have five runners back. The gap between the two at regionals was 21-49. Tipton has made big strides after finishing 13th last year. The Tigers had four runners in the top 10 at a strong Jesup region and won comfortably.

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How they’ll finish — 1. Mid-Prairie, 2. Williamsburg, 3. Tipton, 4. Davis County, 5. Panorama

Class 2A boys

Time — 11 a.m. Saturday

Individuals to watch — Tipton’s Caleb Shumaker was disappointed after last year’s third-place finish, and enters Saturday’s race as the favorite. Shumaker blazed through the Jesup district race in 16:09, topping the field by 59 seconds. Last year’s champion, Dylan Darsidan of Camanche will be back, but not as the favorite. Darsidan was fourth at the Williamsburg district, 26 seconds behind Ty Carr of Danville-New London. Carson Houg of Des Moines Christian and Brendan Cain of Sheldon also were sub-17 district champs.

The team race — Two-time defending champion Tipton lost four of its top seven runners to graduation after last year, but the Tigers have reassembled nicely, and it doesn’t hurt that they have a frontrunner in Shumaker. Danville-New London is ranked No. 1, bringing back all seven runners from last year’s sixth-place squad, and was extremely impressive in a 23-point win at the Williamsburg district. The 2019 runner-up, Des Moines Christian got a 1-2 finish from Houg and Aaron Fynaardt at Eagle Grove, while Davis County blew away its competition at Panora.

How they’ll finish — 1. Danville-New London, 2. Tipton, 3. Davis County, 4. Des Moines Christian, 5. Mid-Prairie

Class 1A girls

Time — 3:30 p.m. Saturday

Individuals to watch — The northeast corner of the state is home for three of the top small-school girls. Lansing Kee’s Haley Meyer (19:36), South winneshiek’s Billie Wagner (19:47) and Turkey Valley’s Jalyssa Blazek (19:52) ran 1-2-3 at the Guttenberg regional, and that trio comprises the top three in the rankings. Last year, Meyer was second at state, Blazek third, Wagner fifth. Tri-Center’s Peyton Pogge is the defending state champion, and cruised at the Guthrie Center regional, running 19:56 and winning by 57 seconds.

The team race — Pekin edged then-No. 1 Iowa City Regina by a 28-38 verdict at the Ottumwa regional, and those two teams are the favorites to win Saturday afternoon. The Panthers had a slight edge at four of the five scoring spots. Pekin was ninth last year and didn’t graduate anybody from that team; Regina finished fifth in 2019. Led by individual champ Clare Kelly, Van Meter went low at the Mount Ayr region, scoring just 27 points. Hudson and Avoca AHSTW bring back a lot of veterans from their second- and third-place teams of a year ago.

How they’ll finish — 1. Pekin, 2. Iowa City Regina, 3. Van Meter, 4. Hudson, 5. Avoca AHSTW

Class 1A boys

Time — 4 p.m. Saturday

Individuals to watch — Last year’s 2A runner-up, Bellevue senior Brady Griebel is down a class, and certainly resembled a title contender, running in 16:31 and winning by 29 seconds at the Cascade district. Jason Renze of Madrid was third in 1A in 2019, and edged teammate Clay Pehl by a single second at Audubon last week. Randy Jimenez of Southeast Warren was fifth last year and was the Mount Ayr district champion, and Saint Ansgar’s Riley Witt sped through the Manly course in 16:36.

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The team race — Two-time defending champion Madrid isn’t a bad bet to repeat. The Tigers brought back four runners from their title team, and they posted a 22-point score at the Audubon district, sweeping the top three spots. Fourth a year ago, Earlham had four in the top six runners at Mount Ayr and appears to be the Tigers’ top challenger. Annually a strong team, South Winneshiek had five of the top eight at Guttenberg and is a potential threat.

How they’ll finish — 1. Madrid, 2. Earlham, 3. South Winneshiek, 4. Bellevue, 5. Hudson

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

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