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Spartans take all four races at North Linn

Boys edge Marion with fifth runner Girls pack five scoring runners in the top 15
Senior Nolan Garbes stretches toward the chute in the last 100 meters at the North Linn Invitational.

TROY MILLS– Twin wins– no, make that four– on Saturday sent Solon’s cross country teams into the postseason on a high note. In a battle of Class 3A leaders, No. 4 Solon’s boys edged No. 2 Marion 45-47 for the North Linn Invitational title Saturday, Oct. 10. Second-ranked (2A) Tipton was third, with sixth-ranked (2A) Williamsburg fourth.
Solon’s girls, also ranked No. 4 in 3A last week in the state coaches poll, beat four top-ranked schools (from 2A and 1A) on their way to a title, scoring 52 points, to runner-up Williamsburg’s 80. Those varsity races came right after Solon’s junior varsity (JV) squads posted solid victories, too, in the 16-team meet.
The Saturday sweep came just a couple days before regional qualifying meet assignments came out from the two high school athletic associations… and Thursday’s WaMaC Conference meet.
“Our finishes looked strong– boys and girls,” emphasized Coach Emy Williams. “The boys beating Marion by two points is huge! Now, it’s just, can we keep that going for the next couple weeks (through conference, the regional and hopefully the state meet)?
“We will taper our workouts now, the JV, getting their legs fresh… not working them hard like we have been the previous two weeks,” she continued. “We can take advantage of all that hard work they’ve put in. At Conference—at Williamsburg, Thursday, both teams should feel real good, and hopefully take advantage of all that hard work in the weeks prior. The varsity, too, they’ll do a little more work this week, since they will have regional meet… and hopefully (qualifying for state) a couple weeks more.”
The girls placed five scoring runners in the top 15. However, it was a new face leading the crowd. Sophomore Mary Fiala was seventh overall, in 19:52. Senior Kiersten Conway was seven seconds back, in eighth place, with freshman Gracie Federspiel ninth (20:07). Anna Quillin, a freshman, was 13th in 20:21, followed by junior Emma Bock, 15th, in 20:23. Freshman Ashlynn Williams crossed 20th, 20:39, with junior Annika Kruse 24th, at 20:50 in the 87-girl field.
Fiala has worked her way up the pack, running as high as second (on the team) several times this season. “I was on that back loop, coming out of the woods on the last lap, and caught up with Kiersten and just thought to myself, ‘OK, I’ve gotta go all out!’ I didn’t know if I could stay there, but felt confident. This is really good for us.”
“That was good for Mary; just to see how she could go out like that,” agreed Williams. “That’s one of the positive things we have as a team. There’s always somebody there, who can pick it up and go, and have a good day. Mary had a really good day. As a team, they all took advantage of the course, the weather.” (Weather note: Usually the last regular season meet, North Linn is no stranger to cold rain, snow, ice, wind or all of the above, in most years.)
In the JV win, junior Meghan O’Neill led a one-two-three Lady Spartan parade across the finish line (20:44), along with Mara Düster (21:14) and Mia Duckett 21:38.
The boys utilized pack running for the win.
The first runners across the finish line are always important in cross country. At North Linn, though, the fifth Spartan through the finish line chute determined the win in the 14-school race.
Junior Gabe Hinman was fourth across overall (16:30) and the first Spartan to score. Close behind were senior Tyler Bilskie (fifth, 16:38) and freshman Brick Kabela (7th 16:52). Another freshman, Michael Yeomans, was 13th for Solon (17:00). Still, as the clock continued to run, Marion was edging Solon 22-29. When the fifth, and final scoring runners crossed, Ben DeValk’s 16th-place (17:12) knocked back Marion– as their next runner finished 25th– giving the title to the Spartans.
The finish shows how important those five-six-seven runners are, as well as the junior varsity teammates who rotate in and out of varsity from meet to meet. Senior Noelan Garbes has been there. He has been on varsity for all but one meet this year. He has seen the finish line from the JV side, as well. Garbes finished as Solon’s sixth varsity runner at North Linn, (17:31, 24th overall).
“It’s kind of stressful, trying to stay up there. There are a lot of people who are really good. It’s like a fight, sometimes, whether you stay on varsity or not,” admitted Garbes. “Other than that, it’s really refreshing after all these years to get higher places at meets, getting some of the (team) firsts this season. So, it’s refreshing at the same time.”
Junior Ty Becicka finished 38th (18:05) of the 89 varsity runners on the course Saturday.
And there were 99 more running on the JV slate. Nate Ferguson, a junior, was Solon’s top finisher. He and six teammates showed that depth. They grabbed seven of the top 11 JV spots in the race for a 25-43 margin over Williamsburg.

North Linn Invite-Varsity Girls Finish
Solon 52
Williamsburg 80
Tipton 95
Benton Community 148
Iowa City Regina 150
Marion 154
Starmont 168
Hudson 169
North Linn 214
Washington 269
Independence 284
Grundy Center / Gladbrook-Reinbeck 369
(there were four incomplete teams)

North Linn Invite-Varsity Boys Finish
Solon 45
Marion 47
Tipton 94
Williamsburg 145
Maquoketa Valley 166
Grundy Center / Gladb 181
Hudson 200
Benton Community 238
Washington 239
Clayton Ridge 275
Iowa City Regina 278
Starmont 283
North Linn 306
Isaac Newton Christian 376
Independence 420
Midland 454
(there were two incomplete teams)