Just like the undulating course it ran Thursday, the Marshalltown girls' cross country team has faced a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs this season.
From injury to illness, the journey has been challenging and though the final standings didn't show it, the Bobcats put together one of their better outings of the season at the inaugural Central Iowa Conference Championships at Marshalltown Community College.
Led by strong performances by Rachel Blagg and Michaela Huey, Marshalltown placed ninth out of 11 teams with 267 points in an elite field littered with six ranked teams.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
Marshalltown’s Michaela Huey, left, keeps pace en route to a 52nd place finish at the CIC Championship Thursday at Marshalltown Community College. Huey was the second finisher for the Bobcats coming through in a time of 16 minutes, 44 seconds.
Reigning state champion Dowling Catholic, rated No. 2 in Class 4A, cruised to the team title with a score of 35 by placing all five scoring runners in the top 14. Unranked Johnston rose to the occasion for second (73), while No. 9 West Des Moines Valley (90), No. 8 Waukee and No. 5 Urbandale (104) represented the rest of the top five. No. 13 Ames (121) and No. 14 Ankeny (154) placed sixth and seventh, respectively.
Reflecting on the season's challenges, Marshalltown coach Doug Bacon commended his girls on pushing through the barriers.
"Unfortunately we've had some injuries in the middle of the season. It's been a struggle for the girls to put it all back together. It's been a little bit frustrating for all of us, but to the girls' credit, they've continued to work through the whole thing," said Bacon.
Team Standings - 1. Dowling Catholic 35, 2. Johnston 73, 3. WDM Valley 90, 4. Waukee 99, 5. Urbandale 104, 6. Ames 121, 7. Ankeny 154, 8. SE Polk 242, 9. Marshalltown 267, 10. Mason City 301, 11. Fort Dodge 353
Individual (top 10) - 1. Karissa Schweizer, DC, 14:37; 2. Lydia Saggau, VAL, 14:43; 3. Grace Gibbons, DC, 14:48; 4. Jordyn Kleve, JHN, 15:06; 5. Kayla Sabotin, WAU, 15:10; 6. Vanessa Miller, DC, 15:12; 7. Nicki Bruett, URB, 15:14; 8. Bailey Eppard, JHN, 15:15; 9. Payton Boylston, AMES, 15:16; 10. Claire Dupuis, AMES, 15:23
Marshalltown (267) - 31. Rachel Blagg, 15:55; 52. Michaela Huey, 16:44; 58. Wynn Tan, 17:02; 61. Victoria Jones, 17:43; 65. Abby Snyder, 17:48; 67. Ellyn Boland, 18:08; 69. Kari Smith, 18:17.
Blagg, who battled back from an appendectomy early in the season, set the tone Thursday placing 31st in a time of 15 minutes, 55 seconds, while Huey was 52nd in 16:44. The Maroons' No. 12 ranked Karissa Schweizer outran the competition in 14:37 and was one of nine top-30 runners in the field.
"The front end of our varsity lineup raced pretty well and we seem to be coming together there a bit. Rachel ran vary well today and seems to be getting out faster and maintaining that pace longer into the race," said Bacon.
"Michaela had a great run. We've been waiting for her to drop in the 16's on this course. Running in the 16's on this course, she would take that to Fort Dodge and probably run 16:00. There will be a lot of girls at state that won't be able to run 16:00. Whether she makes it there or not, she's putting in the hard work and it's paying off."
Wynn Tan finished 58th, while Victoria Jones (61st) and Abby Snyder (65th) completed the Bobcats' final tally. Ellyn Boland (67th) and Kari Smith (69th) were in striking distance of the rest of the pack for Marshalltown.
Though the Bobcats return to their home course for the state qualifier Thursday, Oct. 18, at 3:30 p.m., a tough field awaits them including a trio of ranked foes in No. 4 Linn-Mar, No. 11 Cedar Falls and No. 14 Ankeny.
Blagg, who just missed a state meet berth by seven spots last season, should be in contention for a ticket Thursday.
Overcoming adversity throughout the year, Bacon believes his squad will cap things on a high note and perhaps extend the season.
"They understand that it's not how you start, or how you run in the middle - it's how you finish," said Bacon.
Propelled by a 41st place finish from Thalia Chavarria, the Marshalltown girls JV finished 10th tallying a score of 259. Waukee dominated with a winning total of 32.
Becky Schwartzenburg led the Bobcats' freshmen/sophomore squad to a ninth place performance finishing 48th. Johnston put together a perfect score of 15 for the title.