Mustangs seek comprehensive pack mentality

TOLEDO – East Marshall’s top tandem is right where Erik Niggemeyer wants it to be.

Now he’d like the rest of his varsity girls to take a page from the Mustang boys playbook, and carry the same pack mentality into competition.

“We just have to get that same pack mentality as the boys,” said Niggemeyer. “We need to develop that a little bit more in practice and keep closing the gap.”

Eleventh-ranked Haley Fye propelled the Class 2A No. 6 Mustangs with a seventh-place time of 16:50, while Kristen Amendt was three spots back in 17:03.

“(Haley and Kristen) are usually running within 10 seconds of each other and now we’d like everyone else to close the gap between each other,” said Niggemeyer. “We’re not trying to put it on one person. We just want the whole team to keep moving up.”

North Tama junior Abi Watson, rated sixth in 1A, took it upon herself to lead her team to a third place finish with a score of 104. Watson finished runner-up to Vinton-Shellsburg’s Lily Horst (15:49) and 17 spots ahead of her next teammate – Jami Huntley (18:06).

“Abi ran well and came in knowing where she needed to be,” said North Tama coach Vonna Watson. “She improved her time here over last year so she has to be happy with that. The girls are moving up in places and that’s something we were looking to do.”

Class 3A No. 7 Grinnell placed all five scoring runners in the top-12 for a score of 39 – edging Vinton-Shellsburg by three points. Janesville was fifth with a tally of 134, while South Tama County (147), West Marshall (171) and Belle Plaine (217) wrapped up the field of eight.

Taylor Ellenbecker sparked the host Trojans, taking ninth in 17:03. Regina Balderas was the next STC finisher in 24th at 18:36.

The Trojans were coming off their season debut at the Marshalltown Community College course last week and despite a more challenging course – the team achieved the time drops it was looking for.

“We challenged everyone to run faster,” said South Tama County coach George Kuhter. “This is a lot harder course – we’ve got our hills in the front rather than in the back or the middle like Marshalltown does, Kuhter looks for that trend to continue in their next race.

“Maybe everyone can run close to 30 seconds faster on Saturday at BCLUW. That’s going to be the goal.”

Freshman Allison Hilleman paced West Marshall with a 22nd place performance of 18:10.

“Allison did a great job and she’s going to continue to lead us,” said West Marshall coach Brian Weig. “The girls are steadily improving, but we still have to work on the team dynamic quite a bit. We’ve got to come up with a pack mentality, but once we figure that out, we’ll start improving little by little.”

GMG’s Natalie Smith competed in the JV field and placed 10th with a clocking of 19:41, which would have finished 30th in the varsity race. Meskwaki’s Kailee Pushetonequa (20:48) was six spots behind Smith to lead the Warriors.