INDIANOLA — Senior Cody McConnell made his return to competitive cross-country action Thursday night, making his season debut in one of the toughest meet in the entire state.
McConnell, the Bulldog boys’ top returning runner, returned after missing the first month of the season due academic ineligibility at the Indianola Invitational. The senior harrier made an immediate difference in Ottumwa’s team score with his 18th-place finish leading Jeff Smith’s squad at Pickard Park. The Bulldogs scored 314 points as a team in the meet to finish in 12th place, but were saved almost 100 points by McConnell’s return.
McConnell completed his first competitive run since last fall’s district meet in a time of 18:01.
“I didn’t know exactly what to expect from Cody. There’s no replacement for that first actual competition even though he has been working with us all year,” Smith said of the senior’s first race of the season. “I thought he held his position well against some really tough runners, so we have a good starting position for him to work from and where we have to go with four weeks left until districts.”
The oldest of the McConnell brothers beat out the younger for top OHS honors on Thursday. Collin McConnell, who has been the Bulldog boys top runner in the past four meets, edged out Curtis Ford by four seconds for the second finish among Ottumwa runners as McConnell came home 66th in 19:13 while Ford finished 69th in 19:17.
“I almost say it’s a mini-state meet, then I look around at competition and it looks like the state meet,” Smith said. “There are some things we could have done better, but as I look around at Cody and the entire team, I’m pleased with where we are. I think we can only get better from here.”