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A big change for Clipper cross country this year

2020 CCA high school cross country preview
CCA XC coaching staff (provided by CCAXC)

TIFFIN– In 2015, the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) High School cross country program split with then-assistant coach Ben Robison taking the helm of the boys program, while head coach Jane Astor led the girls teams.
Now, everything old is new again as the programs have recombined with Robison leading the way for both the boys’ and girls’ programs.
Robison, in his 12th year of coaching at CCA, has Megan Miller and Paige O’Brien as assistant coaches, and the legendary Jim White as an assistant and the program’s mental performance coach.
In a media guide released earlier this summer, it stated, “Both squads will be moved under one training umbrella and an updated and improved meet schedule. We are excited about these changes and the realignment and additions of the coaching staff. The roster size is growing, and we are ready to get to work.”
The Clipper boys are back-to-back Class 3A state runner-ups (2018 and 2019) and reigning WaMaC champions. Despite losing Nick O’Connor (four-time individual state qualifier and state medalist), Jack Sexton (three-time individual state qualifier and state medalist), and Brandon McCarty (ran on two state qualifying teams), the team looks to retool and return to compete among the top 3A teams.
“We’ve definitely lost some major pieces from our 2018 and 2019 squads,” the media guide said, “But we return four of the eight varsity kids from last year.”
Seniors Brandon Barker and Caleb Alcorn are back on the boys’ side, along with junior Gavin Zillyette and sophomores Peyton Stadler and Cameron Kimm.
Barker finished 13th in last year’s state meet, was second in the WaMaC conference meet, was an individual state qualifier in 2018, and part of the 2017 state qualifying team.
In addition to being an integral part of last year’s team, Alcorn was also an individual qualifier in 2018 and part of the 2017 squad, as well.
Zillyette was an individual qualifier last year for state and part of the 2018 squad, too, while Stadler ran varsity in seven meets last year.
New to the Creek Boys’ roster are freshmen Noah Yost and Fred Schultz.
According to the media guide, “2020 will be the most peculiar start to the season, possibly ever. Coming off a cancelled track season, and abbreviated summer training season, we’ve relied quite heavily on digital training. Many of our kids have done a great job of training individually, and that will definitely show when we get underway.”
Underclassmen and newcomers will be called upon to fill the holes and the guide stated, “Many of these kids have been monsters through the off-season, and they are ready for the challenge. Expectations are still high, and we aren’t going to shy away from that.”
A battle for the WaMaC Championship is expected between Center Point-Urbana and CCA, although the program is not counting out Mount Vernon-Lisbon’s combined team, Williamsburg or Marion, noting each could be state qualifiers, depending on district assignments.
The Clipper girls finished seventh in team points at the 2019 WaMaC Conference Meet and sent one runner, Haidyn Barker, to the state meet. A key loss for the program (to graduation) is Karsyn Stratton, who gave cross-country a try for the first time last fall and provided leadership for the team.
“We are excited to see how the girls respond to the changes in coaching and training,” the guide said. “We return a pretty close-knit group of girls who have been putting in some solid off-season work. Like with the boys, the challenges (and the response to the challenges) due to COVID-19 will definitely play a part in the success we have this fall. We are hopeful to see some underclassmen challenge the upperclassmen in training and competing for varsity spots.”
Barker, a 2019 individual state meet qualifier and 3rd-place finisher in last year’s WaMaC Conference Meet returns as a sophomore. Also back is senior Kayla Jiras, juniors Emily Coleman and Allie Kounkel and sophomore Avery Allan. Freshmen Eva Plathe and Ava Oldman join the ranks this season.
“We’ll be looking for the girls to take a step forward in competing in the very competitive WaMaC. Solon is returning a very tough squad, and Williamsburg, Center Point-Urbana and Marion could all make things interesting. I’d love to see our girls be in the mix for a top-five spot. Individually, Haidyn Barker is conference’s top-returner this fall.”
The sibling duo of the Barkers has definitely established themselves in Clipperland, and in Eastern Iowa, the guide said. “The pair easily do more training, from a volume standpoint, than any other athletes in the program. Brandon is looking to cap his high school cross country career with a medal at (the) state championships, and Haidyn should continue to improve position this fall.”
Robison and his staff have made some schedule adjustments for the 2020 season in an effort to move toward a more balanced competition slate in regards to field size, meet difficulty and a more consistent competition day. “These changes, coupled with the coaching changes, and our program’s philosophy should yield some great results this fall,” the media guide noted.
The Clippers hit the course on Thursday, Sept. 3, at the Kickers Soccer Complex in Iowa City for Iowa City Regina’s Bob Brown Invitational, the first of eight regular season meets, including the Clipper Cross Country Classic on Sept. 28 at Kickers, and the WaMaC Championships on Oct. 8 in Williamsburg. The state qualifier meet is set for Thursday, Oct. 22, at a site to be determined while the state meet is slated for Saturday, Oct. 31, in Fort Dodge.

2020 CCA Cross Country Schedule (subject to change)
Thursday, Sept. 3 Bob Brown Invitational, Kickers Soccer Park, Iowa City
Thursday, Sept. 10 Fairfield Invitational, Waterworks Park, Fairfield
Thursday, Sept. 17 Cascade Invitational, Filmore Fairways, Cascade
Thursday, Sept. 24 Eastern Iowa Classic, Noelridge Park, Cedar Rapids
Monday, Sept. 28 Clipper XC Classic, Kickers Soccer Park, Iowa City
Thursday, Oct. 1 Bud Williams Invitational, Kickers Soccer Park,
Thursday, Oct. 8 Jim Hetrick Invitational, DeWitt Grace Camp
Thursday, Oct. 15 WaMaC Championships, Williamsburg Rec Center
Thursday, Oct. 22 State Qualifying Meet (location TBD)
Saturday, Oct. 31 2020 IGHSAU/IHSAA State Championships, Fort Dodge