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Benzing, Smith pace girls to fourth

FT. DODGE– On the State meet stage, you run your best and hope for the best. With a runner-up finish for Lauren Benzing and teammate Alex Smith grabbing 12th, Solon’s girls capped their cross country season with personal bests and a fourth-place finish in a tight Class 3A race Saturday in Fort Dodge.
With their district win over Davenport Assumption two weeks ago, and no head-to-head comparison with Dubuque Wahlert and Pella, Solon entered as the favorite in 3A. However, Wahlert rode a balanced one-through-five runner finish and Assumption returned two of its top runners to the state meet starting line. Pella had its pack just high enough to go 1-2-3 in the team title. “The girls had a great team effort. Each of them had a (state or all time) personal best (time). We would have liked to have done better, but with those PRs, it was a great way to end the season,” said Coach Emy Williams.
Wahlert’s 94 was the low point total, followed by Assumption (115), Pella (118), Solon (127), with a 31-point drop off to fifth-place Decorah. Ten other teams rounded out the 3A field.
That season-ending top-four finish was highlighted by eight meet titles and two runner-up finishes. At state, as she has all season, junior Lauren Benzing set the pace for her teammates. Over the last two seasons, Benzing had won every meet. This time, however, Dallas Center-Grimes sophomore Madison Waymire set the pace, hitting the four-kilometer finish line in 14:09. Even as runner-up, Benzing’s 14:30 topped her own 2010 Class 2A championship run by three seconds. “It’s okay. Winning the individual title wasn’t the important thing,” reasoned Benzing. “I did the best I could. If that was not good enough; it’s too bad. What is important is the team finish; the bond we formed as a team this year. It was awesome.”
Freshman Alex Smith crossed 12th overall (15:08), sixth in the team standings– after displacement of runners competing as individuals. Junior Bailey Kelsay was next across for Solon, in 15:43, 34th (44th in overall finish). “Bailey looked strong, really strong, from start to finish,” noticed Williams. She was followed by senior Leah Adams (15:49, 40th/51st), junior Mallory Carr (15:55, 45th/59th), sophomore Tayvia Hansen (15:56, 46th/61st) and senior Abby Ashton (16:27, 69th/87th) in the field of 123 3A runners.
“The girls all went out fast and did their best,” applauded Williams. “Those other three (teams) each had a very good day.” This season’s fourth-place finish matches Solon’s 2010 state meet place. The girls have now qualified for state for nine consecutive years. With just three seniors (including alternate Anna Kosek) on the state meet roster, the Spartans has already started to reload. Its deep junior varsity lineup won most of their JV meets this season, as well.