ALBIA – Carson Shively could have made a run at a South Central Conference cross-country title on his home course last year.

Instead, while his Davis County teammates celebrated a conference title at Lake Fisher, Shively was home in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. One year later, in his final conference meet, Shively ran away with his first individual SCC title on Tuesday winning the boys conference meet race by nearly a minute over Knoxville's Seth Walraven leading the 15th-ranked (2A) Davis County boys to another conference team championship.

Shively dashed around the course surrounding Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont High School before heading across the finish line on the track at Ike Ryan Field in 17:12.42. Mark Shirley (fifth, 18:28.6), Brody Humphrey (seventh, 18:54.65) and Aaron Cook (ninth, 18:55) were soon to follow with all-conference top-10 runs for the Davis County boys, allowing the Mustangs to post 35 points, easily outdistancing Albia by 26 and 20th-ranked (2A) Chariton by 29 points to retain the SCC crown.

"I was really ready (Monday) night and (Tuesday) morning. I told myself I was going to have to push it as hard as I can," Shively said. "I was really doing it for myself and my teammates. I was more worried about my effort than the time. I wanted to leave it all out on the course just so I knew I left it all out there regardless of whether I got a bad time or not."

The seven-team conference race was ultimately dominatined by Albia and Davis County. The 11th-ranked (2A) Lady Dees flipped the script on No. 17 (2A) Davis County in the girls race as the top five Albia runners earned all-conference honors by placing in the top 10, leaving the Lady Dees with 25 points beating out the Mustangs by 23.

"The way the girls work together and the way they come to work every day to help each other become better runners, the way they support each other, it's a very rewarding accomplishment," Albia head cross-country coach Todd Ratliff said. "They're just a very hard-working team that's easy to coach based on their desire to be their best together."

Serene Thompson continued her phenominal freshman year running at Albia, winning her first SCC championship as a varsity athlete by jumping out to an early lead and never looking back. Thompson ultimately crossed the finish line in 20:53.26, over 34 seconds ahead of Chariton all-conference runner Emerson Fehrer.

"It's a pretty cool feeling (to win a conference title) and I definitely feel like we all worked hard to get here," Thompson said. "One of the favorite things that people say to me before I run is to run my race. That's what I try to do. I try to run my race and run my best."

Macy Hill, who like Shively was forced to miss the SCC meet last year due to COVID-19 exposure, led the Mustang girls on Tuesday by earning all-conference honors with a third-place finish in 21:30.8.

"I don't feel like I ran my best race," Hill said. "Third is still good. Serene is really impressive. All those Albia athletes are really impressive. I respect all of them."

Hill and the Mustangs had their sights set at the beginning of the season on making a run at a South Central Conference three-peat having won the last two conference team titles. While Davis County has continued to run at a high level this year, the emergence of the young Lady Dees has definitely caught the attention of their SCC and Class 2A area rivals.

"I don't think we thought about how good Albia was doing until the season got underway," Hill said. "Some of their returning runners have really improved. What we need to do now is close the gap."

Avery Major (fourth, 21:34.69), Lily Buckingham (fifth, 21:41.02) and Olivia Sheffield (sixth, 22:07.34) would put Albia in position to lock up the SCC girls team title with Juliana Brown (10th, 22:34.7) officially locking up the team title for the Lady Dees. Addison Stutchel earned all-conference honors for the Davis County girls for the second straight year, finishing eighth in 22:18.16. 

"Our goal as a team was to stay in the pack and run as a pack," Stutchel said. "Cassidy (VanLaningham) also stepped up really well for us (finishing 12th in 22:57.42). Makayla (Bachman) gave us a solid fifth score (18th in 24:04.15). My goal was to see Macy finish. It helps keep all of us near the front of the field. I think we did a good job of that."

Centerville sophomore Lauren Phillips earned all-conference honors for the second straight year, finishing ninth in the girls race in 22:29.98. In the boys race, Albia secured second place as a team with all-conference top-10 runs by Ethan Stalzer (third, 18:14.41) and Dawson Bonnett (sixth, 18:32.55) leading the way.

"Davis County has a few good runners. You've got Carson up there, but also some good young runners that are coming up," Stalzer said. "It helps having someone you know that can run with you and push you to keep your mind off the race a little bit."

Davis County and Albia are not through pushing each other in big races. The top two SCC squads will run against each other in the Class 2A state qualifying meet at Williamsburg next Thursday.

"You never know what's going to happen up there," Davis County head cross-country coach Josh Husted said. "There's a lot of good teams up there with Mid-Prairie and Williamsburg. Fortunately for us, we've competed against those squads off an on throughout the season. I've gotten a good look at all the teams attending our district meet. We've gone to right meets all season and seen the right teams. I don't want to forecast what's going to happen, but this would be four straight trips to state for the boys and three straight for the girls if we're fortunate enough to qualify this year."

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

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