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First and second at Spartan Cross Country Invitational

Brick Kabela pushes the pace in the last quarter-mile of the Solon Invitational, Sept. 21. The freshman has been a mainstay in the early season for the fifth-ranked, Class 3A Spartans. (photo by Joe Wilkinson)

SOLON– Approaching midseason, Solon’s cross country teams are leaning heavily on their depth to finish at– or near– the top of the standings.
That was driven home at Solon’s Sept. 21 home meet, at the Solon Recreation and Nature Area. Varsity boys shook off a one-point bump to second from their last meet to a close first place this week. With three top-10 runners, the Spartans pushed past Bettendorf, and a 52-59 win. In the junior varsity (JV) meet, they were second, 30-39 to Mount Vernon-Lisbon.
The girls varsity came up a point short, edged by No. 9 (Class 4A) Bettendorf, 52-53. The JV girls exacted a little revenge, with a16-18 bump over the Bulldogs, for first in their trip around the course.

Boys strong from one to seven
With three runners in the top 10, the fifth-ranked (Class 3A) Solon boys looked strong from start to finish. The order looked familiar. Gabe Hinman was first through the finish chute for Solon, fourth overall in 17:12. Tyler Bilskie was sixth (17:16), with Brick Kabela ninth. The freshman clocked at 17:32. Tipton’s Caleb Schumacher was the overall winner, in 16.29
“It was exciting for the boys, to get that win,” applauded coach Emy Williams. “It’s fun to see them work. That balance they have throughout the lineup? If someone is not having their best day… someone else steps in. Tyler Bilskie and Gabe Hinman got out really strong. Most of the varsity guys did. Brick Kabela (a freshman) was our number three runner today.”

From meet to meet, the Spartans can rely on a cast of 10 or so runners… with different ones stepping up each time out. A good thing? “Oh, yeah, especially trading places. It really gets competition in the races,” reviewed Bilskie. “It’s awesome having that front pack. We can really compete in the team race, even if one of us has a bad day. (Today,) the first mile? We got out strong… and then we had a pretty good second mile, too.” Backing them were Ben DeValk 12th (17:49) of the 48 runners. Freshman Mike Yeomans was 21st, in 18:19.
In the JV race, Solon’s Noelan Garbes and Ty Beckicka ran fourth and fifth for Solon.
“Looking at the times, most of the varsity and JV guys were faster on this course than they were last year,” noted Williams.

Bettendorf edges Solon Girls by a point
A week ago, Solon’s boys were on the short end of a tight finish. This week, the seventh-ranked (Class 3A) girls ended up a point short… to Class 4A, ninth-ranked Bettendorf. The Bulldogs rode a one-three finish from their top two runners, to counter Solon’s two-eight-10 (Kiersten Conway, 19:55, Mary Fiala, 20:44, with Gracie Federspiel 20:58) run over the twisting 5K Solon course.
Bettendorf’s Hannah Bientama was the meet medalist in 19:28. “Kiersten went out strong today and took control of her own race; Second overall, but she didn’t let anybody else in the field even think about it,” said Williams.
For the Lady Spartans, all seven varsity runners were top 20. Junior Kaia Holtkamp, a two-time state meet qualifier, has taken a turn in the JV lineup this year…. but was back this meet, 18th of the 48 varsity girls out of the gate. For her? It’s ‘team.’ “I really like having a deep team. We have the competition; always competing. I love how we all run together,” explained the junior. “I am SO for everyone on this team.”
And it wasn’t bad for Holtkamp, running on her home course…. with twisting turns and a detour through the woods. “I am not a fan of courses where you can see everything,” Holtkamp admitted. “I like how ours is sort of hidden. You don’t have to look out toward everything ahead of you.”
“Mary Fiala, Gracie Federspiel really stepped up. A couple other freshmen stepped up again today. It’s fun to see them do real well,” noted Williams. She was looking at the JV results, too, where Solon got a little revenge, beating Bettendorf. Junior Meghan O’Neill won the race in 21:13. Teammates Mara Düster, Mia Duckett and Ashlynn Williams finished three, six and seven.