OSKALOOSA — Meghan Coulter spent her first three years running at Ottumwa High School being mentored by some of the best athletes to compete in the sport.
On Tuesday, Coulter took her place alongside Kylie Latham and Alli Bookin-Nosbisch as the next Ottumwa female cross-country runner to cross the finish line first during a varsity race. With four Williamsburg runners giving chance, Coulter took the lead midway through the Oskaloosa Invitational girls race and never looked back earning her first varsity win in just the second race of the season for the Bulldogs in 21:39.7, helping the OHS girls secure a runner-up finish as a team to the second-ranked (2A) Raiders on Tuesday at Edmundson Park.
“I was hoping to finish in the top three going into the meet. I knew it was going to be hard. Williamsburg has so many amazing runners,” Coulter said. “I was so shocked when I took the lead. I was even more shocked that I held on to the lead. I knew how strong Williamsburg’s runners were.”
Natalie Bemer, Macey Marovets, Taylor Winegarden and Macey Kent provided the Raiders with a pack of top-five runners throughout the race. Bemer ultimately was the closest to Coulter in pursuit of the win at Edmundson, staying within 10 seconds of the Ottumwa senior.
After being edged out down the stretch in Ottumwa’s first meet at Wildwood Park 12 days earlier by Danville-New London’s Addison Parrott, Coulter was determined not to repeat history. Coulter maintained her lead, beating Bemer to the finish line by just under nine seconds.
“Coming from Wildwood, I didn’t want to go from first to second again, especially because there were no excuses this time,” said Coulter, who was passed late by Parrott at Wildwood after Parrott was taken off course after opening an early lead in the Ottumwa race. “I knew I had to give it my all. I did not want that girl catching me.
“It’s almost felt like a right of passage. I’ve been running with Alli, Grace (Bookin-Nosbisch) and Carollin (Mellin) for so long. Each of them congratulated me after the race. They all knew I had it in me. It just took me a little longer to get there.”
Coulter was joined in the top 10 by freshman teammate Jasmine Luedtke, who followed up a top-five finish in her first varsity race at Wildwood with a seventh-place run at Edmundson in 22:34.5. Ottumwa ultimately edged out Oskaloosa for second place with 83 points, clinching runner-up honors when Isabelle Mellin (28th in 26:12.9), Olivia Coram (29th in 26:32.2) and Yaeli Carapia (30th in 26:32.2) finished ahead of Oskaloosa’s Abby Lumsden as the Bulldogs and Indians were separated by just two points after each had four of five scoring runners cross the finish line.
“Having eight girls with close times fighting for varsity spots is making for an exciting season,” Ottumwa head girls cross-country coach Kristin Mitchell said. “I think we will see a lot of improvement throughout the rest of the season.”
The Ottumwa boys came up on the short end of a battle for second with Oskaloosa as the Indians held on by four points (99-103) as William Leonard beat out Mason Young by three spots and 12.8 seconds in the battle of the fifth and final runners for each team. The OHS-Osky battle began at the front of the boys race, however, with Patrick Deronde beating out Asa Canny for the individual win in 17:48.6. Canny was second in 18:05.
“Patrick ran a great race,” Oskaloosa head coach Michael Comfort said. “He took control in the first mile and never looked back. It was a great performance.”
Behind DeRonde, Caden Ayala finished just outside the top 10 while edging a pair of Williamsburg runners for 11th place with a time of 19:02 for Oskaloosa. Max Thomason was sixth for Ottumwa in 18:31.6, giving the Bulldogs a pair of top-10 finishes in the boys race
Anthony Reyman posted Ottumwa’s third-best finish, coming home 24th in 19:48.6. Phillip Abrahamson (25th, 19:49) and Aden Scott (26th, 19:56) were right behind Reyman. Quinten Hull’s 32nd-place run of 20:14.3 pulled OHS within a point of Osky with runner left for each side before Leonard’s 36th-place run clinched second for the Indians.
“Caden, Aden, Phillip, and William did a good job of fighting in the middle mile and held at the end to secure a second place finish,” Comfort said. “That was a good result for our boys team.”
The 11th-ranked (2A) Albia Blue Demons finished fourth on Tuesday with 107 points, edging Grinnell out by a single point with Dawson Bonnett leading the Blue Demons by placing seventh in 18:33.7. Alex Forrest scored another top-10 finish for the Fairfield boys, who placed sixth with 127 points, as Forrest came home ninth in 18:37.1.
Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont was ninth among the boys with 242 points, led by a 34th-place run from Jackson Sheldon in 20:24. The EBF girls were eighth with 203 points, led by a 34th-place run of their own from Rocket freshman Megan Lobberecht in 27:08.3.
The Albia girls matched the Albia boys by placing fourth, scoring 105 points on Tuesday. Allison Major finished 15th in 24:38.8 while the Lady Dees had four straight runners (Avery Major, Juliana Brown, Sayler Rozenboom, Brooke Smith) cross the finish line in the top 20 to edge out Fairfield by 16 points for fifth despite an eighth-place run from Trojan freshman Malena Bloomquist in 22:36.5.