MHS girls chase their mirror image to eighth

The Marshalltown girls cross country team has gotten a really good look at Southeast Polk’s roster already this season.

Having raced against them for the third time on Thursday, Bobcat coach Doug Bacon can compare his squad with the Rams when seeing where improvements are taking place.

And even though Marshalltown fiinished behind the Rams at the 40th Annual Bobcat Invitational at Marshalltown Community College, Bacon saw positives with the effort.

“We set our sights on Southeast Polk and kind of wanted to beat them again tonight,” Bacon said. “We beat them at Central in our last meet, but I don’t think we quite got out and got going like we wanted to tonight. I think we could have done a little better tonight, but we are starting to find out who will be part of the varsity roster this season.”

The Bobcats ended in eighth place Thursday, scoring 283 points in all. Southeast Polk came in seventh but was 29 points better in the standings.

Class 4A No. 7 Dowling Catholic earned the team title with 57 points as three Maroons were in the top 10 and all seven runners crossed in the first 28 spots. Second-ranked Pleasant Valley ended up second with 75 points, No. 8 Waukee was third with 80 and Des Moines Roosevelt (104) and No. 11 Ankeny Centennial (129) rounded out the top five with 15th-ranked Urbandale (135) in sixth.

Other area schools competing in the 20-team field included Class 2A No. 6 East Marshall (15th), North Tama (16th), BCLUW (17th), Grundy Center (18th) and South Tama (20th).

“I was happy with their effort,” East Marshall coach Erik Niggemeyer said. “They stuck to the plan. We didn’t want to get stuck with the big schools early and run out of juice late. They gave a good effort throughout the race and were consistent. That is what we are shooting for at this point in the season.”

Marshalltown was led by senior Michaela Huey’s 33rd place finish. She hit the line in 16 minutes, 10 seconds, which was seven seconds ahead of junior Rachel Blagg.

Bacon thought Blagg got out too slow, but was not surprised by the effort of Huey.

“Rachel has had a bad habit of getting out too slow, and she will have to fix that,” Bacon said. “But that doesn’t take away from the way Michaela Huey ran. That girl just goes out and hammers away and hammers away. It is just amazing. It is not a surprise to me that she could be our top runner this year.”

Blagg finished 36th overall, which was one spot behind North Tama junior Abi Watson, who crossed in 16:16 and took 35th overall.

The other counting runners for Marshalltown included senior Wynn Tan in 53rd, sophomore Elly Boland in 74th and senior Abby Snyder in 87th. Freshman Ashley Macbeth was 99th as well.

“Wynn was agressive, which I liked,” Bacon said. “When she gets in better and better racing shape, she’ll finish it off better. The other girls dropped times but not as much as we would have liked. We are still searching for our No. 5 right now. The top four are pretty much set. We just need to find that fifth runner.”

Bacon expects his Bobcat squad to be in the mix for a state berth by the end of the season. They have experience and some depth. If they can lock up that fifth runner and get a more consistent effort, Bacon thinks his team can be very tough by the end of the season.

“If we can tighten things up, get that five spot up there and move closer in the 1-4 spots, we can be pretty tough by the end of the year,” Bacon said. “The good news is that we are healthy right now. Hopefully that continues. We have had some injury-riddled years the past few seasons.”

East Marshall’s top finisher was sophomore Haley Fye, who crossed the line in 59th in a time of 16:58. Senior Kristen Amendt was 66th in 17:07, while freshman Bobbi Amendt hit the line in 78th with a time of 17:27.

“This is a tough meet with a lot of bigger schools,” Niggemeyer said. “We just let them know that this gives us something to strive for. We want them to be confident in their abilites and it gives them a chance to run with some strong runners.”

North Tama’s 16th place finish was due in large part to Watson’s 35th place finish. The 2012 state qualifier was nearly 60 positions ahead of the Redhawks’ next best runner. Senior Jaime Huntley ended up 93rd with a time of 18:09.

BCLUW also ran with just five varsity runners. The Comets’ top two finishers were junior Becca Steckelberg and sophomore Amelia Tonner, who were 60th and 62nd, respectively. Steckelberg crossed in 16:59, while Tonner hit the line in 17:03.

“We definitely looked better and felt better,” BCLUW coach Donna Fiscus said. “I am pretty happy with how they ran considering the competition. There is still more in them though. They looked good with how they tried to compete. It was a faster start, and we aren’t ready for that. This is just a tougher meet to run at for the smaller schools.”

Grundy Center’s 18th place finish was highlighted by freshman Tiana Saak’s 80th place tally. She hit the line in 17:29, while senior teammate Hannah Stumberg was 86th in 17:57.

South Tama ran in its first meet of the season after the Trojans saw their first two get cancelled due to extreme heat.

Senior Taylor Ellenbecker was the only Trojan to cross in the first 100 places as she took 71st overall with a time of 17:13.

GMG did not have enough runners for a team score but freshman Natalie Smith came across in 111th with a time of 19:11.

Sophomore McKenzie Yanek of Pleasant Valley won the race in 14:06. She was followed by Dowling Catholic senior Karissa Schweizer, who crossed in 14:35. Yanek is ranked second in Class 4A, while Schweizer is rated third.

Notebook

Marshalltown had a better team score than West Des Moines Valley, Cedar Falls, Ankeny, Boone and Iowa Falls as well as all of the small schools. Valley was missing three runners due to illness. … Blagg missed qualifying for the state cross country meet last season by one position. … Marshalltown will next run at the South Tama Invitational at Otter Creek Lake Park on Monday. East Marshall, GMG and North Tama also will be competing along with Meskwaki Settlement School and West Marshall. Action begins at 4:30 p.m.