TROY MILLS– Cold and wind served as a reminder at the Oct. 6 Lynx Invitational Cross Country meet. It’s late in the season. And as fall temperatures drop, performances have to ramp up. Solon’s girls responded with the week’s second meet title. They now take aim at conference, district and… hopefully… a 10th straight trip to state.
“We start now with ‘more/faster/shorter’ in practice,” outlined coach Emy Williams. “We work on speed, and turnover heading into those meets.”
The coaches have to like what they see heading into the home stretch. The WaMaC meet is Oct. 11. The state qualifier is Oct. 18. Should they be among the top three teams there, Solon runs at State Oct. 27.
More than 20 schools show up each year to wind through the Troy Mills campus. Solon came through big, with six of its seven girls among the 30 medalists, and notching a decisive team win. With 56 points, the fourth-ranked (Class 3A) Lady Spartans outdistanced Class 2A fourth-ranked Cascade with 90, Class 3A sixth-ranked Williamsburg (124), Monticello (No. 13 in 2A), (147) and the rest of the field.
Senior Lauren Benzing took a commanding lead in the second mile for the individual win in 14:19, her best of the year. Sophomore Alex Smith provided the “two” in Solon’s one-two punch. Her 14:59 finish was sixth overall among 130 runners. From that point, a couple scoring adjustments were needed. Two individual runners took seventh and 16th. However, for team scoring, their finishes were discounted.
Junior Tayvia Hansen stirred things up, moving to the third Solon spot in 15:16, good for eighth place. “Tayvia ran a great race. She made a strong move during the second mile,” said Williams. “We are closing our gaps a little, between our runners. We are running more as a pack.”
Senior Mallory Carr kept the Lady Spartans in the front of the field with 16th place (15:32). Senior Bailey Kelsay was the fifth and final scoring Solon runner, with 25th (15:47). Continuing the roll, Molly Walkner (15:51, 28th) grabbed a ‘top 30’ medal, too. Katie Folkerts (34th, 16:01) wrapped up the Solon push.
As they have all year, the junior varsity (JV) turned up the heat. Solon ran away with the JV team title, its 27 points undercutting Williamsburg (64), North Linn (80) and the rest of the field. Sophomore Carlyn Haas led all the way, winning in 16:23. Emily Capper was the only one close, crossing in second (16:42). Senior Corri Goldsmith (17:17) was seventh, followed by freshman Shae Goldsberry (17:20, eighth), sophomore Sydney Gerdts (17:30, ninth), freshman Laurin Brokaw (17:32, 11th) and junior Holly Regan (17:42, 14th).
Heading into the last two weeks of their season, Solon runners feel the push.
Earlier in the week, Benzing raced to a 14:49 clocking over the hilly Wellman course for a 38-second win at the Iowa Mennonite School (IMS) Invitational. Smith was a strong third (15:32) with teammates Carr (16:03) eighth and Hansen (16:28) 11th. Kelsay’s (16:31) 13th place completed the 33-point team total for the win over Williamsburg (76) and 10 other schools. Oct. 1.
That wide margin was great. However, those five varsity runners know they can’t sit back and relax. That push to get better comes from a dozen girls wearing the same uniforms. Only 13 seconds separated Kelsay from teammates Folkerts (16:44, 16th) and Walkner (16:53, 21st) over the 4 kilometer course. they ran sixth and seventh... this time.
“In practice, we all run together. We push each other,” explained Kelsay. “During the meets, our goal is to ‘pack it up.’ Katie, Molly and Carlyn (Haas, who has run varsity most of the season) are right behind me. It pushes me to do better. Tayvia feels the same thing with me right behind her. Mallory has Tayvia pushing her. We’re close enough that we push each other.”
Haas (17:31) led a Solon parade at the front of the 54-girl JV field. Capper (17:34) was second, with Alison McKinnie (18:23) fourth and Goldsberry (18:24) fifth. Gerdts (18:44) crossed in seventh for a close-to-perfect 19 point team score, less than half of runner-up Williamsburg’s 41. Still in the mix were Brokaw (18:51, eighth), with Jade Flansburg, Regan, Emily Moore, Mady Shafer and Abby Haas all crammed into the top 20.