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Twice as nice! Solon boys and girls both head to state

Boys win regional Monticello meet; girls third
The Solon varsity cross country teams celebrate winning berths to the state cross country meet with a group photo Oct. 21 in Monticello. (photo by Eric Bilskie)

MONTICELLO Again, using a mix of veterans and freshmen and a pack of runners so close they could almost tag teammates around them, Solon is sending both boys and girls cross country teams to the 2020 state meet.
The Class 3A girls race is at 3:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30, on Lakeside Municipal Golf Course, in Fort Dodge. The boys hit the course at 4 p.m.
You just have to feel great getting both teams to the state meet. The last time we had both teams there was 2010, applauded Coach Emy Williams. First time the boys have made it since we moved up to 3A; just a huge accomplishment and something to be excited about.
In the regional qualifier, Oct. 21, in Monticello, the Lady Spartans crowded all seven runners into the 10 through 20 spots, in the 78-girl field. Still, fans were on edge for a few minutes, while results were tallied, showing Solon in third place, of the 12 schools there. In each of the five Class 3A regional meets, the top three teams and top 15 individuals punch their tickets to state. Dubuque Wahlert, ranked third in Class 3A, took the title with a one-two-four finish on the way to 27 team points. Wahlerts Gabbie Moran was the individual winner in 18:58. Davenport Assumption, rated sixth this week, was runner-up with 57. Fourth-ranked Solon came in at 73.
We were a little disappointed in our finish in the girls race, admitted Coach Williams. Assumption? We have beaten them this season. They have improved. But we did get to see a Wahlert team that seems to be the real deal. Now we know what we have to do if our girls are going to make some noise at state.
In 2019, the Lady Spartans finished seventh among the 15 teams there.
For boys the first team trip to state in a decade.
On the boys side, there was little doubt, as a pack of five Spartans, ranked third this week in Class 3A, surged across the finish line within 20 seconds of each other, notching fifth, eighth, 10th, 12th and 13th to under-point runner-up West Delaware, 44-77, for the regional pennant. Wahlert was third, with 85 points. Overall, Clear Creek-Amanas Brandon Barker was the boys winner crossing the line in 16:17.
It was back and forth through much of the 5 kilometers, across the Monticello High School grounds. Junior Gabe Hinman was the first Spartan to finish (at 16:43) in fifth place, but, It didnt start out so well. Everyone was kind of going out for us. That led to a lot of people getting out very fast, remarked Hinman, ranked 23rd among 3A runners last week.
My start could have been a lot better, he continued. But we showed a lot of maturity; not matching that speed just knowing they were going to drop back, and (we should) just maintain.
To many, cross country just seems like a lot of kids on their own, running a long distance. But it is very much a team sport. Teammates often run in two-, three- or even four-runner packs.
When did Hinman know Solon had a good attack underway?
It was a ways out (along the 5K course). Our coaches would shout out, OK, youre 15, 16, 17 as I went by, so I knew that was probably Tyler (Bilskie) and Brick (Kabela), he said. There were multiple guys that the three of us took down, one after the other, after the other.
Bilskie, a senior, finished eighth (16:49) overall. Kabela, a freshman, was 10th (16:52). A few strides back were freshman Michael Yeomans (12th, 17:03) and senior Ben DeValk (13th, 17:04). Teammates Noelan Garbes (33rd, 18:04) and Nate Ferguson (36th, 18:08) were in position, had a teammate faltered.
They ran an amazing race. They really attacked that race and went after it. To get the win felt really great, noted Williams.
For the girls, it was continuing a state streak. The Lady Spartans had to work a little harder for their return to state. Senior Kiersten Conway led the way, running 10th (19:57). Backing her, junior Emma Bock (20:12), sophomore Mary Fiala (20:13), freshman Anna Quillin (20:14) and junior Megan ONeill (20:20) were bumping elbows, within those eight seconds, to claim the 14, 15, 16 and 18 spots.
Bock liked the winding, mostly flat course.
It was really easy to split up the different sections. I felt really strong in the first mile, said Bock. Then, into the second mile, just coming around again, I felt really strong, (with) Mary and Anna just right by me. So, I knew it was going be a strong race.
So, individual or a team thing?
That second lap? We stuck together really well and finished together, emphasized Bock. Oh, yeah; its always a team sport with us.
As Quillin prepared this week to compete at state, that is how she saw it, too. As the regional meets 16th finisher, she would not make the individual cutoffat 15. As a team member, though, she runs again to help her teammates.
It feels really coolespecially as a freshman, to experience all this, she said amid team photos, family photos, an awards assembly, applause, well wishes and planning for the week ahead, at the end of the Monticello qualifier. Being so young, I obviously didnt think I would ever be on varsity. I didnt think I would make it this far. It feels really good to help out.
Solons girls finished seventh in 2019 at state with Bock, 26th overall, the top runner for the Lady Spartans. In the boys field last year, Hinman was Solons individual entry and finished 35th. He also qualified as a freshman in 2018.