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Girls third at WaMaC

Boys 12th at conference cross country meet in Vinton
Sophie Nicol works her way up a hill on the backside of the Vinton High school cross country layout at the WaMaC meet Oct. 12. Solon’s girls finished third in the 16-team Super Meet, and this week run for a berth at state. (photo by Joe Wilkinson)

VINTON– For 14 Solon cross country runners, the 2017 season rests on one race.
The top three teams and top individuals to emerge from the Oct. 19 regional qualifying meet will run another day– Oct. 28 at the state meet in Fort Dodge.
Solon hosts this area’s Class 3A qualifier at the Solon Recreation and Nature Area. The girls, after a strong third place conference finish in the Oct. 12 WaMaC meet, are on the bubble. They square off against No. 1 Wahlert, No. 9 Grinnell and No. 15 Benton Community, as well as seven of 3A’s top-30 individual runners. Solon’s girls– and Assumption’s too– are among the next five ranked teams to watch.
“It will be a tough state qualifying meet. All seven will have to put together our best race to take down two of those teams,” predicted Solon Coach Emy Williams. “We are closing the gap on Benton and Assumption. They beat us the last time we saw them. We haven’t ever seen Grinnell or Wahlert this season.”
For Solon’s boys, it’s ‘never say never’ as they go against teams ranked fourth, fifth and eighth in 3A... and five individual top-25 runners.
There will be an earlier starting gun, too. Solon also hosts a Class 1A qualifier with girls at 3 p.m., and 1A boys at 3:30 p.m.

Girls third, Conway Second Team All-Conference
The up and down course wrapping around Vinton High School at the WaMaC meet Oct. 12 closed the girls’ regular season. With their five scoring runners packed into the top 27, Solon claimed third place in the 16-school super-meet.
The top four– Benton (with 88 points), Marion (92), Solon (96) and Anamosa (98)– were separated by only 10 points. From there, it went Central DeWitt (117), Williamsburg (139), Western Dubuque (163), Mount Vernon-Lisbon (171), Center Point-Urbana (208), Clear Creek-Amana (295), Vinton-Shellsburg (333), West Delaware (350), Independence (360), South Tama (362), Dyersville Beckman (398) and Maquoketa (483).
Center Point-Urbana’s Adriana Katcher– last year’s Class 3A individual state champion as a freshman, set the WaMaC pace for 106 varsity girls, running 18:30.
Solon freshman Kiersten Conway was eighth overall. “At the middle (of each of three laps) there was a hill. A couple people would pass me,” reviewed Conway. “Then, on the downhill, I could pass them back, and a couple more, as I went.” In the last lap, that downhill surge led right to the finish line and Second Team All-Conference honors.
Right behind her, teammates Nicole Shafer (18th, 20:52), Erin Kerkhoff (19th, 20:52), Sophie Nicol (24th, 21:01) and Ella Düster (27th, 21:09) were packed in just 17 seconds apart. “I’m not really looking for them; but after the turn, going uphill, I could see them; could find a few people,” explained Conway. Insurance for the third-place team finish came from teammates Ashley Stinocher (49th, 22:04) and Saige Hauer (57th, 22:42).
“Wow, 10 points separating the top four teams was very exciting,” said Williams. “Nicole ran a great race. We are really working on moving up during the second mile and Nicole did a great job of that at WaMaC.” Williams noted that Shafer, Kerkhoff and Nicol (in the top 25) were Honorable Mention All-Conference.
For their junior varsity (JV) teammates, WaMaC provided another title.
“We had four in the top 10,” noted Williams. “Cayley Annis hadn’t been able to run in a meet since the season-opener because of an injury.” Annis responded well; runner-up in the 181-girl field, at 22:20. Junior Calista Haasl (22:34) was fourth. Sophomore Aira Foster (22:40) was seventh, Piper Radcliffe (22:50) was 10th, and freshman Selma Kleinsmith (23:15) notched 16th, for a 39 point total. Only two other teams could get under 105.

Boys: Pushing the pack at WaMaC, on to regional
Payton Philipp, after a turn as the top Solon boys runner early in the season, did so again at WaMaC. The senior was 18:22 over the 5K varsity course. He had four teammates within 22 seconds of him. “I guess it was the whole thing of fighting to stay with your teammates... and the confidence Emy had in us,” said Philipp.
With the winding course, he could spot teammates, ahead or behind; and move the pack closer. “It helps, by surging down the hills. We had our own surge (to hold place or move up). One of us starts and the teammates move up, inching forward.”
“It is a very competitive conference,” added Williams. “We have talked about putting surges in during the race and going with people when they are trying to pass you. They continue to get stronger and run faster.”
Sophomore Ethan Kober was next across for Solon (61st, 18:37), with freshman Tyler Bilskie (67th, 18:40) next. Senior Carl Richey (70th, 18:42) followed with junior Andrew Bransky (72nd, 18:44) capping the team score. Solon was 12th in the 16-team race.
Though top-rated Jeremy Fopma (15:45) and Marion teammate Harrison VanderLinden (16:47) went one-two in the 108-runner varsity field, Mount Vernon-Lisbon won the team title (56 points). Marion (64) was runner-up. Following were Clear Creek-Amana (67), Benton (138), Williamsburg (139), Western Dubuque (154), Vinton-Shellsburg (165), Center Point-Urbana (175), West Delaware (200), Anamosa (258), Central DeWitt (305), Solon (321), Independence (408), Maquoketa (441), South Tama (472) and Dyersville Beckman (483).
In the JV competition, Solon was ninth of 13 schools fielding teams. Freshman Brad Yeomans was the first Solon runner across (31st, 19:25), with sophomore Kenji Fisher next (33rd in 19:26). There was a crowd on the course, with 231 JV boys taking off at the gun.