TROY MILLS– After a nearly three-month season, Solon’s cross country team is heading toward finals. The WaMaC conference, districts and… hopefully… a trip to state lie ahead.
With a late season surge, the Spartans are starting to firm up the lineup. “They are starting to come on; to run as a team,” assessed coach Emy Williams. “They’re pushing each other. They are more consistent with their races.” Staying in-sync will be important in the next couple weeks.
With a crowded, talented field, Solon’s boys locked-in sixth place at the Oct. 6 Lynx Invitational.
It was a typical North Linn meet; cold, wind… minus the snow flurries. Monticello, top ranked in Class 2A, literally ran away with the team title; its 19 points undercutting 11th ranked Class 3A Vinton-Shellsburg’s 112. Marion (13th in 3A) had 134, with Tipton (eighth in 2A) at 134 and Center Point-Urbana (seventh in 2A) at 174, ahead of the Spartans’ 178. There were 20 full teams and five incomplete squads on the 5 kilometer course.
Senior Zach Slusher returned to the head of the pack, his 17:50 5-kilometer time pacing five Spartans crammed together from 32nd to 39th in the 144-runner field. Following him were sophomore Keegan Paisley (17:53, 34th), senior Matt Reiland (17:57, 36th), junior Patrick McGill (17:58, 37th) and sophomore Ty Appleget (17:59, 39th). Backing the top five were junior Taylor Walkner (18:32, 62nd) and senior Quinn Kelsay (18:37, 65th).
Solon was second (with 52 points) in the junior varsity (JV) race; the only school close to Monticello (20). Freshman Keegan Hess set the pace; running seventh (18:38 ). Junior David Coberly was right behind (18:52). Senior Ryan Kunkel was 10th (19:00) with junior Josh Prybil 11th (19:08). Freshman Simon Duster was 16th (19:16). Senior Brent Kennicott (24th, 19:31) and Jake Schaeckenbach (25th, 19:32) also medaled on the JV side of that 137-runner slate.
Ahead of North, Solon’s boys recorded their best 2012 finish with runner-up honors at the IMS Invitational Oct. 1.
Thirteenth-ranked (Class 3A) Vinton-Shellsburg– with four of the first five runners– cruised to the team championship with 27 overall points. From there, though, Solon packed four runners into the top 20, with a fifth at 26th, for 71; outpacing Mid-Prairie (95), Clear Creek-Amana (129) and nine other schools.
Patrick McGill was Solon’s No. 1 runner again, logging 17:39 for sixth place on the 5-kilometer course, run over the hilly fairways and past the sand greens of the Wellman golf course. Keegan Paisley was the next Spartan across, eighth in 17:43. Quinn Kelsay’s 17:52 was good for 11th, with Matt Reiland (18:14, 20th) and Nik Rehnke (18:26, 26th). Zach Slusher (31st, 18:33) and Taylor Walkner (38th, 18:55) rounded out the seven-runner varsity lineup.
That lineup has shifted from meet to meet; with no locked-in order of finish. Several runners have gone back and forth, between junior varsity and varsity. “It makes everybody run faster; competing for those positions,” noted Quinn Kelsay. “We try to stay in front of as many people as we can in the meets. At the (combined JV-varsity) Williamsburg meet, I saw I was the eighth Solon runner at one point. I started kicking it toward the finish (to get that seventh varsity spot); not just passing my teammates, but getting them to come with me. It’s good motivation.”
That was never more apparent than at IMS, where Solon grabbed 11 of the top 17 JV spots. Ty Appleget’s 18:39 was good for the medalist spot. Ryan Kunkel (19:17) was third, with teammates David Coberly (19:20), Keegan Hess (19:22) and Simon Duster (19:35) in line behind him. With Mid-Prairie not fielding a full JV team, their top runner was dropped as team finishes were computed. That gave Solon a perfect 1-2-3-4-5 finish.
Grayson Harrington took the ninth overall spot, with Jake Schaeckenbach, Brent Kennicott, Austin Hunt, Jake Singhofer and Joe Regan locking in 13 through 17, ahead of the rest of the 81-runner field.