Four MP runners make all-area XC team
Youth has taken over the All-Golden Triangle News Service’s 2013 cross-country team.
Out of the 14 runners selected to this year’s squad, not even one of them is a senior. Five juniors, five sophomores and four freshmen are the featured athletes in a group that very well could all make this team again next season.
Pekin headlines the girl’s side of the action. The Panthers showed dominance as they won their fourth state title in the last six years. Coach Davis Eidahl described this year’s performance by his girls as business as usual, but that doesn’t take away from the tremendous accomplishment of winning state — and it earns Eidahl another All-GTNS Coach of the Year honor. Pekin won districts by more than 40 points and won the state meet by more than 30.
Sophomore Gwynne Wright led the attack for Pekin. Wright sat out races at the beginning of the season with a leg injury, and the complexion of the team completely changed once she was back in the lineup. Wright finished fourth at state in Ft. Dodge for the second year in a row with the time of 15:17.4.
Wright’s teammates Shea Dahlstrom and Taylor Lock were always right behind her.
Dahlstrom finished seventh overall at state with the time of 15:43.7. Lock was Pekin’s number two runner for most of the season. Not only did she finish ninth overall at state, she won meets while Wright was out of the lineup, including the Fairfield Invitational.
Lock is only a sophomore and Dahlstrom is a freshman, so expect the Panthers to be back at it again next season. This is the second year in a row Wright and Lock have received all-GTNS honors.
Fairfield’s Taylor Ferrel had one big goal after her freshman year — to make it to state. And that’s just what she did. The sophomore finished 51st at the 3A level at the state meet and was the only Trojan to make the trip to Ft. Dodge.
“Taylor’s season was a prime example of hard work paying off,” Fairfield coach Jerrod Belzer said. “The entire season she focused on achieving certain goals, and through that she was able to accomplish everything that she did.”
Another 3A runner, Beth Wells, was a valuable addition to the Mt. Pleasant girls’ cross-country team after transferring from Cedar Falls. The junior makes her first All-GTNS cross-country appearance after leading her new team with a time of 16:10 at the state qualifier, finishing just three places away from a trip to Ft. Dodge.
She also led the Panthers to a Southeast Conference title with a third-place overall finish at the SEC meet, earning all-conference honors with a time of 16:28 — and teammate Ellie Conrad was right behind.
Conrad also makes her first All-GTNS cross-country appearance after leading the Panthers for most of the cross-country season. The Mt. Pleasant junior spent some time in the rankings mid-season and claimed a fourth-place spot in the conference meet, finishing in 16:30 to claim all-conference honors.
Wells and Conrad shared the team’s Most Valuable Runner honor this season.
Mid-Prairie’s Abby Tornow rounds out the All-GTNS girls’ squad. She qualified for the state meet as a freshman with a time of 16:27 in the qualifying meet. She then topped that time with her personal record of 16:04 in the state meet. Tornow had a 28th place finish. She has three more years to improve her placing and time at the state meet.
The boys’ team is led by Mid-Prairie Coach Mark Hostetler. The Mid-Prairie boys’ cross-country team qualified for the state race, where they finished just two points out of second place and four spots ahead of their No. 11 Class 2A ranking.
Hostetler had a big hand in this, earning All-GTNS Coach of the Year honors for boys’ cross-country.
The Golden Hawks were very balanced with three runners in the top 20 at the qualifying meet, and one of those runners make this year’s All-GTNS squad.
Junior Jared Draper helped Mid-Prairie qualify for state with a time of 18:02 for 13th place. He then had the highest scoring time from his team at the state meet, taking 32nd place in 17:25. Draper will look to lead his team to state in back-to-back seasons during his senior year.
Highland’s Evan Mahler had a season to remember. The junior finished in first place at multiple races. He then qualified for state and left little doubt that he was among Iowa’s best. In a field of 130 runners, he took third place. His 16:41 time was four seconds away from second place. His best time of the season was the qualifying race at 16:10.
Mahler’s teammate, sophomore Keiffer Sexton, had a solid season as well. He qualified for state with a time of 16:25 in fifth place. At the state meet he had an 18th-place finish at 17:27. He finished 11 places higher than his projected finish before the state race.
The Pekin boys will lose two seniors before next season, but two-time All-GTNS selection Austin Fariss will be back to lead the group. Fariss led his team to the state meet in 2013. Fariss, still only a sophomore, is another peak performer in Pekin’s long line of success. He finished 18th at state with the time of 17:11.
Mt. Pleasant’s Logan Murray is the leader of a strong group of freshmen runners that played a big role for the Mt. Pleasant boys’ cross-country team this season.
Murray won every race he ran as an eighth-grader last year and made a seamless transition to the longer varsity races in his rookie season.
He claimed an individual gold medal in four races this fall, including the Panthers’ home meet and the Southeast Conference meet.
At the state meet, Murray placed 18th in Class 3A with a time of 16:41, the fastest freshman in the class by more than 30 seconds, after earning his trip to Ft. Dodge with a third-place individual finish at the state-qualifier.
Murray was chosen by his teammates as this year’s MVP.
Murray’s teammate, Jack Pieper, was also part of the Panthers’ strong group of freshmen, which made up the majority of the varsity team this season.
Pieper was second for the Panthers in most of the team’s races this year, including the conference race, which he finished in 16:41 to take sixth overall and claim all-conference honors. He was given the Newcomer Award by his teammates.
IMS junior Kirby Shetler saved his best race for last. He couldn’t have picked a better time to post a personal record with a time of 17:41 in 37th place at the state meet. After running in the middle of the pack for the first mile, he worked his way ahead. He did post a time of 16:43 at the qualifying meet but that was on a shorter course.
If Shetler can qualify for state next year, it will mark the 12th-straight year that IMS has had at least one runner compete at state.
The 2013 All-GTNS teams are selected by sports editors Ashlee De Wit of the Mt. Pleasant News, Allyus Fritz of the Fairfield Ledger and Hunter Tickel of the Washington Evening Journal.