Three Panthers named to All-GTNS cross-country team
BY ANDY KRUTSINGER
Mt. Pleasant News
It was a fantastic year for the area’s cross-country teams, and that means one thing for the All-GTNS squad. It is one tough team to get on.
The area brought home a whopping five top 10 team finishes this year, with the Mid-Prairie boys winning in Class 2A and the Mid-Prairie girls and Pekin boys and girls taking home top three finishes. The Mt. Pleasant boys were the leading big school team, with a ninth-place result.
The boys’ and girls’ squads this year are stacked with not only state qualifiers, but runners who performed well in Ft. Dodge and in all of the big races leading up. Let’s have a look at the teams.
ALL-GTNS GIRLS’ TEAM:
Coach: Davis Eidahl, Pekin: The Pekin Panthers are not only one of the best cross-country teams in the state; they are one of its most storied dynasties. Year after year, head coach Davis Eidahl is able to beef up another crop of fresh legs for a deep postseason run, and that is why he is our All-GTNS girls’ coach of the year.
Pekin began the year with the tall task of replacing a couple of runners who finished in the top 10 at last year’s state meet, Gwynne Wright and Taylor Lock. If Eidahl couldn’t find runners to step up, the Panthers’ streak of eight consecutive conference titles would be in jeopardy.
Fortunately for the Panthers, its upperclassmen rose to the occasion and its large contingent of underclassmen followed suit as they captured their ninth conference title in a row, another district title and a third-place finish at state.
Anna Hostetler, Mid-Prairie junior: After being one of the top-ranked runners in Class 2A all season, Anna Hostetler ended the 2016 season with a bang.
The Mid-Prairie junior’s season made her a shoe-in for the All-GTNS selection, after claiming the Class 2A individual state championship in Ft. Dodge, posting the fastest time that any girl, regardless of class, posted on that day.
Her meet-topping time also helped lead the Mid-Prairie girls’ team to a third-place finish at the state meet, and she will be the heavy favorite heading into next season, while also being one of the top runners to look out for in the spring, when she looks to qualify for multiple distance events at the state track meet.
Marie Hostetler, Mid-Prairie freshman: Having Anna Hostetler on a team is envious for any cross-country program, but having her younger sister also on that same squad seems just unfair.
Marie Hostetler was nearly as strong as her sister in her first year of high school competition, and capped off the season as the second place finisher in Class 2A, only behind Anna.
Marie will also look to emerge on the scene come track season, and will join her sister as an early favorite for the 2017 cross-country season.
Shea Dahlstrom, Pekin senior: At the point of Pekin’s spear was senior Shea Dahlstrom, consistently its No. 1 runner except for one meet.
Dahlstrom was the runner-up at the district meet and finished 30th at state with a time of 20:57.
Remi Duwa, Pekin freshman: Joining Dahlstrom on the All-GTNS team is her freshman colleague Remi Duwa. Duwa made a big splash during her inaugural year on Eidahl’s squad as she routinely finished in the top five.
She also showed her coach she could perform under pressure as she saved her best race for last, finishing 13th at state with a time of 20:26.
Claire Horak, Washington sophomore: Despite not going out for cross-country in her freshman season, Claire Horak made quite an impact in her first year of competition for the Demons.
Horak quickly became one of the top runners in the Southeast Conference, resulting in a second-place finish at the conference meet, and finished in third place at the district meet in Solon, becoming the first Demon in nine years to qualify for the state cross-country meet.
She matched her Class 3A ranking at the state meet, picking up 21st-place overall, and finishing as the first Southeast Conference runner in Fort Dodge.
After a strong sophomore season, Horak figures to be one of the top runners in the conference for the rest of her career.
Ashley Bloomquist, Fairfield sophomore: Fairfield has a runner with a good chance of making this list three years in a row, and that is sophomore Ashley Bloomquist.
Bloomquist proved she was ready for the spotlight her freshman year when she put together a stellar run at districts and just barely missed the state meet.
In her second year with the program, Bloomquist regularly posted times under 21 minutes to lead her team to a second-place conference finish. The Trojan sophomore was fifth at districts and 33rd at the state meet, where she ran a 20:04.
Abby Ryon, Mt. Pleasant freshman: Abby Ryon bursted on to the scene for the Mt. Pleasant girls this season. She immediately became the number one runner, leading the team in every race this season.
Ryon was competitive in the conference all season and led the Panthers to a third place team finish with a fifth place individual finish at the SEC race in Fairfiel.
Ryon’s hard work paid off at the state qualifier in Pella when she placed ninth, in 19:55.9 and advanced to state. In Ft. Dodge, Ryon represented Mt. Pleasant well, with a 39th place finish, in 20:17.9. Not a bad debut for the freshman.
ALL-GTNS BOYS’ TEAM:
Coach Mark Hostetler, Mid-Prairie: For the second-straight season, Mid-Prairie head coach Mark Hostetler saw both his boys’ and girls’ teams qualify for the state tournament.
The girls’ team he oversees was highlighted by his daughters finishing first and second in the state meet, en route to a third-place finish, but his All-GTNS nod comes on the boys’ side, where the team claimed its first team state title.
The Golden Hawks didn’t have a runner finish in the top 15, but the grouping Mid-Prairie brought for the state meet gave them a 17-point victory over Unity Christian for the Class 2A state title.
Next season, the Golden Hawks figure to be heavily favored in both the boys’ and girls’ competitions.
Logan Murray, Mt. Pleasant senior: All eyes were on Logan Murray coming into the 2016 season. He was the defending state champion in Class 3A and he was coming off of an injury which forced him out of the majority of track and field season last spring.
Murray had another fantastic year, winning most of his races, including the SEC championship and the state qualifier.
In a stacked state field, Murray brought home his third straight top 10 finish and fourth top 20 finish of his career. He crossed the line in seventh place, in 16:32.6.
Ryan Milliken and Malcolm Myers, Pekin seniors: One of the most entertaining storylines from the fall sports season was the friendly rivalry between two excellent runners on the Pekin boys’ cross-country team.
As juniors, Ryan Millikin and Malcolm Myers pushed their team to a second-place finish at state, and they repeated the feat this year in their final campaign.
Myers got the better of Millikin at the final race of 2015, but Millikin responded this year by being a touch faster than his teammate.
Peyton Miller, Mid-Prairie junior: Leading the Golden Hawks in the state meet, and throughout the season, was Peyton Miller, who claimed a 17th-place finish overall in Ft. Dodge.
Miller was a strong junior leader for the Golden Hawks en route to the Class 2A state title.
The junior was ranked 13th coming into the state meet.
Cody Mertens, Mt. Pleasant junior: On a stacked Panther boys’ team, Cody Mertens made the biggest strides in 2016. He consistently improved and became the number two guy on the team.
Mertens added to his resume with a second place finish at the conference meet, becoming one of seven top 10 finishers for Mt. Pleasant in the SEC.
After qualifying sixth at the state meet, Mertens ran an impressive 16:44.4, for 16th place. He cut almost a minute from his time in 2015. The season he had put him in good position to take over the top spot on the team next season.
Zach Pettit, Mid-Prairie junior: Zach Pettit joined Miller as one of the top Mid-Prairie runners on the boys’ side all season, capping his year off with a 19th-place finish in Fort Dodge.
Coming into the state meet, Pettit was ranked No. 14 in Class 2A, one spot behind Miller, and the two figure to be among the leaders next season, along with Floyd Evans, the routine No. 3 runner on the Golden Hawks’ squad.
With Miller and Pettit leading the way, Mid-Prairie will be easy favorites heading into 2017.
Trevor Albert, Cardinal senior: Cardinal had a young cross-country team this year without much experience, but the one Comet who did have a host of races under his belt was senior Trevor Albert.
Though Cardinal was going through a rebuilding year, Albert showed his teammates what was possible through hard work and determination.
He finished sixth at the conference meet with a time of 18:11. A few weeks later, he shaved almost a minute off that time when he turned in a 17:18 at the state meet, good for 17th in Class 1A.
The All-GTNS cross-country teams were selected by Andy Krutsinger of the Mt. Pleasant News, Aaron Viner of the Washington Evening Journal and Andy Hallman of the Fairfield Ledger.