State champs lead the pack

Carollin Mellin, Grace and Alli Bookin-Nosbisch, seen here running down the Market Street Bridge during Ottumwa girls cross-country camp, will be starting their season years at Ottumwa High School as teammates on the OHS girls cross-country team this season. The trio joined Meghan Coulter in becoming the first Ottumwa female track and field athletes to win a state championship this past spring, winning the Class 4A girls 4x800 relay title in May.

OTTUMWA — Grace Bookin-Nosbisch has experienced a lot of success as an Ottumwa High School athlete.

Before joining twin sister Alli, soon-to-be senior classmate Carollin Mellin and soon-to-be junior teammate Meghan Coulter as the first athletes to win a state track and field title for the Bulldog girls, Bookin-Nosbisch was a starter for both the OHS volleyball and girls basketball teams. On the volleyball court, only Anne Guest had more kills, blocks or sets played last fall for the 19-17 Ottumwa spikers.

Now, Grace Bookin-Nosbisch is trying something completely different. For the first, and only time as a high school athlete, Grace will join her state track championship teammates on the cross-country course looking to parlay the success of last spring's track and field season into success on the 3.1-miles courses across Iowa.

"This is first time since seventh grade that I've actually ran a timed 5K," Grace Bookin-Nosbisch said. "I was pretty nervous going into it, but I know I'm going to be okay with my teammates there helping to pace me."

The first timed run for Grace Bookin-Nosbisch as a high school cross-country runner came earlier this month on the opening night of Ottumwa's cross-country camp. Running the trail system from the Bridge View Center around the Des Moines River across the Market Street Bridge and finishing on the levee north of The Beach, Bookin-Nosbisch produced a 3.1-mile time of 19:16, second on the team only to twin sister Alli's time of 19:06.

Those times would have been good enough to finish in the top 20 of last year's Class 4A girls state cross-country meet. Not a bad start for the first state-championship winning sisters in Ottumwa track program history.

"I was guessing 21:32, so I guess I was way off," Grace Bookin-Nosbisch joked. "I know that, personally, I need to put a lot of work in running the hills. I'm going to put a lot of time in with that. Alli and I have trained on them a couple of times. You can tell that I definitely do not have as much experience with that. I need to work on that to keep up with what I can already do."

Alli and Grace Bookin-Nosbisch, along with Mellin, are the three senior leaders for what could be a special year for the Ottumwa girls cross-country program. First-year head coach Kristen Mitchell is hoping to get the Bulldogs back to state as a team after qualifying in 2017. Mellin and All Bookin-Nosbisch are hoping to compete at state for the third straight year after making it as individual qualifiers last fall.

"It's going to be an exciting season. It's even more exciting when you get to run with another awesome runner and someone that is one of my best friends," Mellin said. "I couldn't be more excited to have Grace with us. I've been wanting her to run cross-country for quite awhile now."

Like Mellin, Alli Bookin-Nosbisch is thrilled to have her sister out competing in cross-country this fall. It will be the one and only season the two will have to run both cross-country and track together at Ottumwa.

"I've been telling Grace for years that she needed to be running cross-country. I'm glad she finally decided to come out for the sport in our senior year," Alli Bookin-Nosbisch said. "I have a lot more faith in Grace than she probably has in herself. I know that, when she puts her mind to something, she can do great things."

For an athlete that just helped bring home a state championship, and a top-six finish for the Ottumwa girls track and field program in the state track and field meet this past spring, Grace Bookin-Nosbisch admitted that confidence in her abilities as a runner kept her away from the sport of cross-country for several years. It was only over the past year that Bookin-Nosbisch finally started to gain that confidence to go all in with running this year adding cross-country to her athletic resume.

"After my sophomore year of track, I was really down on myself and what I had done that season. I wanted so much more," Grace Bookin-Nosbisch said. "I trained and I trained. It definitely benefitted us with what we accomplished last spring. In that time, I really learned to love what I was doing. I really learned to love running and learned to love every aspect of it.

"I just decided that, if I would finally go out for cross-country, I'd be doing what I love and it would help benefit me in the future."

That future appears to be filled with opportunities for the Bookin-Nosbisch sisters to continue running at a high level. The twins and Mellin have both gone from state champions on the track to busy runners this summer taking part in various camps around the country, including a month that saw Alli and Grace spending more of their time away from home.

"We were actually home only about eight days during the entire month of July," Grace Bookin-Nosbisch said. "It took a lot to get all those runs in. There were mornings where we got up to get a run in at 5 a.m.

"We went on a mission trip to South Carolina. Every morning before we went out to work in the heat, we went out together to get a run in," Alli Bookin-Nosbisch added. "We made sure to get in something beneficial every day."

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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