OTTUMWA – Making it to state is never easy.
For some area cross-country teams, getting to Fort Dodge will be a tougher chore. In particular, CIML Metro conference champion Ottumwa and South Central Conference champion Davis County will have to battle some of the best opposition in the state in order to punch a ticket to the girls portion of the state cross-county meet.
The 13th-ranked Ottumwa girls, fresh off upsetting 11th-ranked Des Moines Roosevelt by a single point to win the Metro championship meet last Thursday, will have to knock off at least one more ranked rival this Thursday at Marshalltown Community College as the Bulldogs will compete with top-ranked Johnston, seventh-ranked Cedar Rapids Prairie and 15th-ranked Iowa City Liberty among the field battling for one of the top three teams scores to earn a chance to compete on Nov. 2 at Kennedy Park in Fort Dodge in the 4A state cross-country race.
“We know Johnston will claim a lot of individual spots, but we couldn’t ask for a better regional,” Ottumwa head girls cross-country coach Kristen Mitchell said. “Facing the 15th-ranked team in the state gives us a good chance for an upset. These girls already ran well at Marshalltown earlier this year and really like the course.”
Ashlynn Kenney of Iowa City Liberty is the pre-race favorite to win the regional girls individual title. If Kenney, ranked second in 4A, needs any more motiviation, she’ll find it in the runner that is the second-highest ranked runner in the field and potential rival for the regional title. Alli Bookin-Nosbisch, ranked sixth in 4A and fresh off winning the CIML Metro girls conference race, tracked down Kenney this past spring to win the Class 4A 800 meter title on the final day of the Iowa High School state track and field meet in Des Moines.
The boys side of the 4A state qualifier in Marshalltown features eighth-ranked Johnston, seventh-ranked Cedar Rapids Prairie and 10th-ranked Iowa City Liberty with all three schools featuring the only five ranked runners in the field. While it would take an upset for the Ottumwa boys to earn a state team berth, all-conference runners Asa Canny and Max Thomason could be in the hunt for one of the top 13 individual state qualifying berths next Thursday.
In Class 3A, the Fairfield Trojans will head to Pella to compete on the Central College course. Both teams have tall tasks in front of them with top-five programs in Dallas Center-Grimes (third in both boys and girls rankings) and Norwalk (fourth-ranked boys and seventh-ranked girls) joining the Pella Little Dutch in their own hometown.
“It’s going to be tough, but I think it’s a course that suits us well,” Fairfield head cross-country coach Jerrod Belzer said. “It’s one of those that will challenge you mentally.”
“There’s a lot of good teams there,” Fairfield all-conference runner Alex Forrest added. “A lot of ranked teams.”
No state qualifying site is as loaded as Williamsburg, which will feature a pre-state postseason battle between No. 1 Mid-Prairie and No. 2 Williamsburg on the girls side. Davis County, which has been impressive all season earning a place in the top five of the state rankings, will be looking to ensure that all three teams ranked in the top-five can advance in a district that features a dozen ranked runners.
As for the Davis County boys, ranked 12th in the state, making it to Fort Dodge will require some work with top-10 foes including Danville-New London and Mid-Prairie in the mix. Kenny Cronin, the 18th-ranked male runner in 2A, leads the Mustangs into a district that will truly be a test for Josh Husted’s program to earn a pair of state cross-country berths out of.
Albia, who has battled Davis County in several meets including a tight battle between for the South Central Conference boys team title this past week, will run at Panora with second-ranked Des Moines Christian and 14th-ranked Central Decatur among the contenders with the sixth-ranked Blue Demons for the three state cross-country berths. The Lady Dees, facing 10th-ranked Panorama and No. 12 Emmetsburg, will be looking to join the field at state with all-conference senior Sherryl Mae Rowe leading the charge.
In Class 1A, the Pekin Panthers seemed poised to make another run to state to compete in both boys and girls competition as both squads are the second-highest ranked teams in their state qualifying site at Iowa City. The Panther boys are ranked seventh, just two spots behind Calamus-Wheatland with the two highest ranked runners (Brady Millikin, Colten Glosser) in the field while the Pekin girls figure to be in the mix for a regional team title as the sixth-ranked Panthers battle No. 5 Iowa City Regina, the host for the meet at the Iowa City Kickers Soccer Complex.