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“Grit, Gravel, Grind– Lightning Within Us”

2019 Liberty Girls Cross Country preview
Liberty High’s Ashlyn Keeney, then a freshman, placed 72nd at the 2018 Class 4A State Cross Country Championships Saturday, Oct. 27, at Kennedy Park, in Fort Dodge. Keeney completed the race in 20:22.8 and was the sole Bolt to qualify last season. (file photo by Crystal Eskelsen, The Mount Vernon Sun)

NORTH LIBERTY– The Liberty High varsity girls cross country Head Coach Tonya McDonough titled her 2019 preseason media guide “Grit, Gravel, Grind– Lightning Within Us,” which sets the tone for the Lightning.
This is the third season for the program, having run an incomplete team in 2017, which competed as an independent, not affiliated with an athletic conference.
Camille Mac, then a freshman, qualified for the Class 3A state meet and finished 13th overall in 19:16.
Last year, the program moved up to Class 4A and joined the formidable Mississippi Valley Conference (MVC), home to Iowa City West High, City High, and other perennial power-houses.
Ashlyn Keeney quickly made a name for herself as she won frosh/soph races, won the MVC conference meet, earned conference Runner of the Year honors, and qualified for the 4A state meet ahead of her Drake Relays and State Coed Track and Field Meet success this past spring.
Now, in 2019, the Bolts return all nine of last year’s varsity letter winners.
Mac, McKenzie Logan, Chaise Lange, Lily Nicknish, Carly Sulwer, and Christella Luyeye are juniors, while Keeney, Isabelle Woody, and Beth Jaeger are sophomores.
“The Lightning are looking to move up in the ranks among a very competitive MVC and Class 4A field,” McDonough said.
Keeney leads the pack with Mac and Logan backing her up as a talented two-three punch.
“With the training that they put in over the summer, they are certainly ready to make the jump to the next level and be even more competitive,” the coach said.
Woody, Jaeger and Sulwer are talented runners with a year’s worth of growth and experience, she said, adding “each of them is eager to close the gap and make an even bigger impact for our team overall.”
Also back is the program’s first senior, Tessa Miller. Miller ran for the West High Women of Troy as a freshman before joining the Lightning in 2017. “Tessa is a leader and someone that everyone looks up to,” McDonough said. “Her positive attitude and the enthusiasm she brings on a daily basis is contagious.”
McDonough said the Bolts had a great summer of training. “Twelve returning runners ran consistently this summer and were joined by two newcomers. We are lucky to have freshmen Hannah Ramsey and Malia Taylor joining us this year. Chaise (Lange) has made huge improvements by committing to the training and is looking to have a great year.”
She anticipates Nicknish, XXXXXX Kusick, and Luyeye contending for spots in the varsity line up, as well.
“This group of young girls have really come together. They love and respect one another, they understand the sport better than the year before, and they are determined to work hard to accomplish their goals – individually and as a team. If everyone is able to contribute the way that they can, the Lightning should be a force to be reckoned with this season.”
The season opens on Thursday, Aug. 29, with Iowa City West’s meet at the University of Iowa’s Ashton Cross Country Course at 5:45 p.m. Liberty hosts the MVC Super Meet, at the Iowa City Kickers Soccer Complex, on Thursday, Oct. 10, at 4:30 p.m.

2019 Liberty High Girls Cross Country Schedule
Thursday, Aug. 29 Iowa City West meet at U of I’s Ashton Course 5:45 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 5 Iowa City Regina’s meet at Kicker’s Complex 6:00 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 12 CR Kennedy invitational at Noelridge Park 4:40 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 19 Cedar Falls invitational at Birdall Park 4:30 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 23 Solon Invitational at Solon Nature & Rec. Area 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 3 City High meet at U of I’s Ashton Course 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 10 MVC Super Meet at Kicker’s Complex 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 17 MVC Divisional Meet at Dubuque Soccer 4:30 p.m.