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Girls 4th, boys 9th in Prairie invitational

Solon freshman Kiersten Conway (right) heads to the front of the pack during the last mile of the Prairie Invitational cross country meet Saturday, Aug. 26. Conway was the first Solon runner across the line. The Lady Spartans were fifth in the 11-team girls varsity 5 kilometer race around the Cedar Rapids Prairie school campus. (photos by Joe Wilkinson)

CEDAR RAPIDS– Come to Prairie? Run with a crowd.
Each year, Solon’s cross country opener, at Cedar Rapids Prairie High School, provides an eye-opener of what is going well early in the season… and what needs improvement.
Prairie even adds a shorter 4 kilometer ‘freshman-sophomore’ race, to break out newer runners from the junior varsity (JV) and varsity divisions. That helps coaches and runners observe how team members stack up against kids close to their level. Over six races, Saturday Aug. 26, 1,120 high schoolers circled buildings, athletic fields and– this year– a mountain of dirt at a new construction site, across Prairie’s sprawling campus.
“We use this competition as a measuring stick to see where we are and what we need to work on. I was very pleased with how we did,” explained head coach Emy Williams. “We had 17 girls and 16 boys running a high school cross country race for the first time– 33 of our 67 runners in their first meet! Most of the runners are just learning how to run a race. It’s always good to get that first one under your belt.”
Though the individual race fields totaled more than 180 runners a couple times, places for large and smaller schools are sorted out at the finish line. Solon’s Class 3A 13th-ranked varsity girls managed fourth place on the 11-team ‘Orange’ (smaller school) scorecard. The boys notched a ninth-place finish, in their 10-team field.
Overall, in the girls’ race, Mid-Prairie’s one-two punch of sisters Anna and Marie Hostetler went first (18:25) and second (18:28) again; just as they did all of last year– including the Class 2A state meet. Adding more muscle this season, freshman Ana Fleming was fourth, (20:46), to help Mid-Prairie run away with the team title with 41 points. Monticello was second with 63.
From there, it was a four-way fight. Marion (134) edged Solon (137), Anamosa (138) and Mt Vernon Lisbon (143)… providing a lesson, showing how much a couple runners, moving up a couple places, can affect a team’s finish. From there, Xavier (168), Ft. Madison (182), North Cedar (185), Clear Creek-Amana (263) and Maquoketa (319) rounded out the finish, with two incomplete teams not rating a team score.
For the Lady Spartans, freshman Kiersten Conway raced to their top finish; 14th (21:44), among the 80 girls on their 5-kilometer course. “Kiersten ran a great race as a freshman. She’s a freshman, but has run a lot of races before so that helped her,” noted Williams. “Overall, our girls did a great job in the small school division.”
Senior Sophie Nicol (22:03) was 19th. Sophomore Caylee Annis (22:46) was 30th. Sophomore Ella Düster (33rd, 23:17) and junior Erin Kerkhoff (41st , 23:47) were the fourth and fifth scoring runners.
“I really like this course. It’s good to keep changing from the curves to the hills. It makes me aware of what is coming next,” reviewed Nicol. “The weather (cool, with sprinkles) was great for running. The raindrops actually cool me down while I run.” In most years, Prairie’s Invitational arrives under glaring 90-degree sun… with rehydration a must for runners.
Prairie also offers an early season plus; 10 varsity runners per school, rather than seven (though only five still figure into the overall scoring). For Solon, sophomore Nicole Shafer (23:59, 45th) was next across, followed by juniors Calista Haasl (24:29, 57th), Saige Hauer (24:42, 64th), Piper Radcliffe (24:43, 65th) and freshman Ashley Stinocher (25:12, 71st).
In the girls’ JV race, sophomore Sylvia Havlicek was eighth (25:34) with Allison Capper 12th (25:56) and freshman Selma Kleinsmith 13th (25:58). In the freshman/sophomore division, Grace Chapman was 11th overall (21:33) with Morgan Richard 13th, 22:03.
On the boys’ side, senior Carl Richey’s 19:09 5K (good for 36th place) led Solon in the varsity race. Payton Phillip, another senior, was the second Spartan across in 19:48 (48th). Behind them, a pack with juniors Andrew Bransky (20:00), Jorel Justus and sophomore Edward Richey (each 20:15), and sophomores Kenji Fisher (20:17) and Ethan Kober (20:24) ran 54th, 57th, 58th, 59th and 60th. Also in that 10-runner varsity mix for Solon were; Gabe Yetley (20:30, 71st), Jake Roskopf, (20:38, 72nd), Ben DeValk (20:4, 73rd) in the 86-runner field.
“The boys have some new faces stepping up to fill the varsity spots,” relayed Williams. “Andrew Bransky and Payton Philipp cut almost four minutes off their time from last year! We didn’t finish that great as a team, but really made a lot of improvement from last year.”
Cedar Rapids Xavier (68) and Mt. Vernon-Lisbon (78) went one-two for the boys smaller division team finish. Mid-Prairie (82) and Clear Creek-Amana (96) went third and fourth. Anamosa (104), Marion (135), Monticello (153), Fort Madison (183), Solon (253) and Maquoketa (314) rounded out the field. Six of the top seven schools are ranked in the early season 2A and 3A Iowa Association of Track Coaches poll.
Solon seniors Christian Haight (19th, 20:52) and Ryan Sears (22nd, 21:00) paced the JV boys for Solon. In the 4 kilometer ‘frosh-soph’ competition, Solon’s Tyler Bilskie was third (15:36). Brad Yeomans was ninth (16:09).
Both teams take off from the starting line of the Regina Invite, Aug. 31, in Iowa City. The first gun sounds at 5 p.m.