HOIC cross country preview
By BRANDON HURLEY
A veteran-laden Gilbert squad is the team to beat in Heart of Iowa Conference girl’s cross country this fall.
The Tigers finished seventh overall at state a year ago and return six runners, including five juniors. The Tigers put a stranglehold on the competition at last October’s conference meet and placed five runners in the top 10 at the conference meet, all of which return.
Gilbert is led by junior and all-state runner, Emily Branson, who cruised to a seventh place finish at state with a time of 19:26. In all, the Tigers had three runners place in the state’s top 50. Junior Maggie Pollard finished 26th while senior Carly Rahn came in 49th.
All 10 of the Heart of Iowa Conference’s top runners return this fall, heavily dominated by Gilbert and North Polk. North Polk ran to a second place finish at the conference meet in Ames last October and came in ninth overall at the Class 2A state meet.
The Comets should be Gilbert’s biggest threat, as they return five of their top six runners from a year ago.
The only non Gilbert or North Polk runner in the top 10 was Collins-Maxwell-Baxter’s Heather Jessen, who came in eighth as a junior.
Greene County finished seventh at the conference meet, with senior Olivia Hansen leading the way, gliding to a time of 22:42.7, which secured her 17th overall.
Junior Emily Finch finished 21st with a time of 7:21.9 while freshman Melanie Doran snuck into the top 70 with a spot at 68.
BOY’S CROSS COUNTRY
Gilbert is also the cream of the crop on the boy’s side, as the Tigers return six runners from last year’s conference champion squad.
Though fairly young in 2015 (Gilbert leaned on just one senior), the Tigers rode their talent to seventh overall at state and enter this fall as one of the Heart of Iowa Conference’s most experienced squads.
No one was in Gilbert’s stratosphere at the conference meet last October as the Tigers essentially lapped the field, winning by 53 points over second place North Polk (83).
Greene County came in ninth at the ISU Cross Country course with 256 points. Junior Nick Killion was the Rams’ top finisher, coming in 55th overall with a time of 21:07.9.
Sophomore Ben Wilkens is the only other returning Ram who cracked the top 100 (97).
Eight of the conference’s top 10 runners return this fall, including junior Jason Taylor, who came in 41st overall at state with a time of (17:16.9).
Saydel’s David Parker, senior, was the HOIC’s lone other runner to crack the top 50 at state (50th).
Gilbert returns three other runners who placed in the top 100 – Ethan Mesenbrink (71st), Stephen Shuka (72nd) and John Ockey (83rd).
North Polk bounced back from the conference meet beatdown and finished sixth at the Class 2A state meet. The Comets are led by junior Jacob Wilcox, who came in 42nd overall at state and return five of their top seven runners.
Greene County boys and girls open the cross country season Thursday, Aug. 25 at the Gilbert Invite in Ames.
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