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On to state! Solon girls win XC regional

It’s on to State for Solon’s cross country girls team. Celebrating their Oct. 24 win, are coach Michelle Lyons, coach Zanette Hoehle, Kiersten Conway, Ella Duster, Mary Fiala, Aira Foster, Mara Duster, Emma Bock, Meghan O’Neill, Kaia Holtkamp, Nicole Shafer, coach Emy Williams and Coach Brian Fitzpatrick. (photos by Joe Wilkinson)

SOLON– It was a tight finish.
However, with all five scoring runners in the top 20, Solon’s girls punched their ticket to state. Next stop? The starting line, Kennedy Park, Fort Dodge; noon, Saturday, at the Class 3A state cross country meet.
With the meet low of 68 points, the sixth-ranked Lady Spartans outran No. 14 Center Point-Urbana (78 points), No. 10 Grinnell (81) and 12 other schools at the Oct. 24 regional qualifier at the Solon Recreation and Nature Area. The top three schools in each of the five 3A qualifiers will be at the state meet. Any individuals in the top 15, whose team did not qualify, also go to state. The 13-point margin between Solon and third-place Grinnell was the tightest among the five 3A qualifying meets.
“The girls ran a great race!” applauded head coach Emy Williams. “They didn't get out as strong as they normally do and made their coaches a little nervous. However, they moved well during the second and third miles. It was awesome to have our top five all in the top 20.”
Adriana Katcher, Center Point-Urbana’s ace, was the regional winner at 18:46; 15 seconds ahead of Mount Pleasant’s Abby Ryon.
For Solon, once again, Kiersten Conway led the way. The junior’s 19:53 5K was seventh in the 80-girl field. Sophomore teammate Emma Bock (20:18) was 10th. “A couple times, I’d drop back to 11th, 13th. But I felt good about the ground I made up. Especially in the last 400 or so,” reviewed Bock. She goes back to Fort Dodge as one of six veterans for Solon, qualifying last year as a freshman. So, is she ready for the sea of fans and flags, cheering and chasing the pack across the course? “Oh, yeah. (Last year) I didn’t know how overwhelming it actually is; all the people that are there,” admitted Bock. “I’ll be prepared this time.”
But the team score depends on five girls. Freshman Mary Fiala (20:29, 14th) joined Conway and Bock among the medalists. Solon’s next two across–sophomores Meghan O'Neill (20:58, 18th) and Kaia Holtkamp (21:00, 19th)–cemented the title. Backing them were seniors Aira Foster (21:38, 33rd) and Nicole Shafer (22:01, 39th).
Still, two more teammates have roles in the state lineup. Sisters Ella and Mara Düster each rotated between varsity and junior varsity this year. “Yeah, most of the season; back n forth,” reviewed Ella, a senior. “It’s been kind of fun with my sister; sort of a rivalry.” Still, it came down to the clock. And just two ticks separated the No. 7 state meet runner– and Ella– as the No.1 alternate. Mara was just a couple seconds behind her. They will be there; but as alternates. “It’s mostly just about the team; what’s best for the team,” reasoned Ella, with a smile. “The people who run the fastest times are the ones to get us to where we need to be. So, it’s kind of alright.”
Solon finished 11th at state last year. The tiebreaker rule, in which the better sixth runner breaks a team tie, was invoked. That bumped Charles City to 12th. Charles City is back this weekend. So is 2018 3A champion Dubuque Wahlert and runner-up Dallas Center-Grimes. The 3A girls race begins at noon, Nov. 2.
“The gaps between our packs are closing. They are ready to run in Fort Dodge!” forecasted Williams. “Thank you to all of the Solon Supporters who came out cheered on the cross country team. A special thank you to all the BASP students who came over, made signs and cheered the girls and boys on!