OTTUMWA – Even with one of their top runners in a walking boot, the Ottumwa cross-country team would not be denied on their home course.

The 10th-ranked (4A) Bulldog girls placed four runners in the top 10 and six runners in the top 15 on Thursday at the Wildwood Park Invitational, clinching the second team title in as many meets for OHS in 2019. The Ottumwa boys made it a clean sweep, edging Pekin and Danville-New London with six runners placing in the top 20, giving the Bulldog harriers both team titles for the second straight year in the only meet of the season the two teams will run in their hometown.

“Even though Pekin hosts this meet, this is our home,” said Asa Canny after pacing the Ottumwa boys with a fourth-place finish. “We train here all the time. We know every inch of this course. It’s really something to behold.

“It just seems like we have a little extra adrenaline at this meet,” OHS head boys cross-country coach Jeff Smith added. “I told the guys to take advantage of running at home. Take advantage of more people that will be rooting for you than what you’ll have when you run on the road. All I ask is that the kids give 100 percent, and that’s what I saw tonight. They worked hard.”

The Ottumwa girls secured a second win in as many meets after edging CIML Metro conference rival Des Moines Roosevelt by a single point last week in the Marshalltown Early Bird season-opener. It appeared as though the hopes of the Bulldog girls would be compromised before the race even began with senior Carollin Mellin arriving to the course in a walking boot after spraining her foot earlier in the week.

Instead, the Bulldogs dominated a field that included five ranked runners and three ranked teams. Leading the way were twin sisters Alli and Grace Bookin-Nosbisch, who secured their first 1-2 finish of the season.

It was the second win in as many races for All Bookin-Nosbisch, who improved by 80 seconds from her fourth-place run in last year’s Wildwood race crossing the finish line in 19:38. Grace Bookin-Nosbisch, who finished third last week at Marshalltown in her competitive prep cross-country debut, improved by seven seconds finishing her first competitive run at Wildwood in 20:04 before collapsing into mother’s arms.

“I just went into this with a different race plan than at Marshalltown. I think that helped a lot,” Grace Bookin-Nosbisch said. “I’ve heard this is the hardest meet of the year. I didn’t know what to expect coming into it, but I’m happy with the results.

“That Wildwood hill takes a lot to navigate, but (OHS head girls cross-country coach) Kristen (Mitchell) has been having do a lot of hill work,” All Bookin-Nosbisch added. “I really used Grace to pace myself. We always really push each other.”

Even without Mellin, a two-time state cross-country qualifier, the Bulldogs beat out No. 7 (1A) Pekin by 40 points for the girls team title. Meghan Coulter improved by four seconds and jumped 10 spots from her 17th-place run at Marshalltown, finishing right in between top-10 runs by Pekin teammates Lauren Dersheid (sixth in 21:33) and Lily Fariss (eighth in 22:27)

After Coulter cross the finish line seventh in 22:15, Mellin’s younger sister Isabelle brought home a ninth-place finish for the Bulldog girls in 22:48. Sophia Ford clinched the team title for OHS with a 12th-place run of 23:09 while Lina Newland added a 14th-place finish for Ottumwa in 23:22.

“It’s nice to see our girls step up. Our younger girls really rose to the occasion,” Mitchell said. “The girls have worked hard this year. They’ve done a lot of hard workouts. They’re ahead of where I thought they would be at this point of the season when I was planning out the workouts. I thought some of the harder workouts that we’d have to hold off until later in the season are workouts they can do right now.”

Pekin, ranked sixth in Class 1A, settled for third place in boys competition on Thursday with Southeast Iowa Superconference north division rival Danville-New London edging out the Panthers by six points for second. Colten Glosser continued his strong start to the season for the Panthers, winning for the third straight race with a time of 17:04 at Wildwood.

“I put in a lot of miles this summer. I’m about where I want to be after three races this season,” Glosser said. “I’m never going to be satisfied until I’m on top. I’m not settling for anything. As a team, the sky is limit for us.”

Millikin placed second to Glosser for the third straight meet, running across the finish line in 17:42. Danville-New London’s Ty Carr finished third in 17:55, one second ahead of Canny and 15 seconds ahead of Sigourney’s Mason Moore.

“I feel good, but I also feel like I can get better and close that gap with Colten,” Millikin said. “Give him a lot of credit. He’s put in his time this summer. As a team, I think we’re getting better every meet.”

Ottumwa was lifted to the boys team title thanks to top-10 runs from Max Thomason (sixth in 18:12) and Mason Young (10th in 18:29). Just 12 seconds behind Young was Trenton Elliott, who placed 11th in 18:41.

Gatlin Meninga’s 17th-place run of 19:08 clinched the team title. Tayler Young gave the Bulldogs one more top-20 run, placing 19th in 19:12.

Van Buren’s Jonah Heckenberg led the Warrior boys with a 14th-place run of 18:54, edging out Fairfield’s top runner, Alex Forrest by four seconds for the position. Gunner Zugg had Cardinal’s top run in the boys race, placing 30th in 19:54, while Jackson Sheldon led the Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont boys finishing 36th in 20:26.

In the girls race, Faith Neeley secured a top-10 run for Van Buren edging Kisha Reed of Twin Cedars by a second for 10th place in 22:59. Madysen Wade led the EBF girls by finishing 15th in 23:22 while Alexia McClure paced the Cardinal girls with her first top-20 finish, finishing 20th in 24:07.

Fairfield was led by Makenzie Kraemer’s 17th-place run of 23:47. Ottumwa added the middle school girls team title at the end of the night with the Pekin boys also claiming a team championship at Wildwood.

Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com

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