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XC girls 4th at home, in duel of ranked teams

Nicole Shafer and Ella Düster negotiate a slippery trail through the woods, on the Lady Spartans’ home course this week at the Solon Recreation and Nature Area. (photos by Joe Wilkinson)

SOLON– With four ranked schools and 11 ranked runners on the course in each race, Solon’s Sept. 23 home cross country meet had almost a postseason feel to it. And it is not long before the postseason arrives. Solon hosts one of five Class 3A state qualifying meets, Oct. 24.
This time around, the Lady Spartans, ranked 11th in 3A, settled for fourth place in a mix of 12 2A, 3A and 4A schools, at the Solon Recreation and Nature Area. “It’s a good measuring stick; some good competition, that we don’t always see,” emphasized head coach Emy Williams. “To be able to run with it on our course provides extra opportunity to know how to race our course, when we come back here in late October.”
And with weekend mud instead of late season frost or snow, it took a ton of work to get the course into presentable shape. Williams and her coaching staff applauded City of Solon Public Works Director Scott Kleppe, Iowa Department of Natural Resources park manager Ron Puettmann, school employees and cross country parents for getting the course ready for 690 runners clocked in the varsity, junior varsity and middle school girls and boys races.
Bettendorf, 13th-ranked in Class 4A, had the second and fourth runners across the finish line, and pushed all five scoring runners into the top 18 to win the meet with 49 points. Top ranked in 2A, Mid-Prairie had the meet winner– senior Marie Hostetler, in 18:24– and all its scoring runners in the top 24, to take runner-up (65 points). Hanna Bientema of Bettendorf was the individual runner-up in 20:21.
Williamsburg, No. 2 in 2A, had three top-10 runners on its way to third place (84 points). Solon’s 100 points was good for fourth. Following were North Scott (149), Mount Vernon-Lisbon (150), Central DeWitt (164), Clear Creek Amana (209), Tipton (228) and Davenport North (253). Iowa City Liberty (junior varsity) and West Liberty fielded incomplete teams.
Sophomore Emma Bock (20:42, fifth) and junior Kiersten Conway (20:59, 11th) in the team scoring, paced Solon. Less than a second separated sophomore Meg O’Neill (21:52 26th) and freshman Mary Fiala (21:53, 27th). At 22:23, sophomore Kaia Holtkamp notched the fifth scoring spot for Solon among 72 varsity girls running.
Nicole Shafer was two seconds back, over the soft, muddy course. A senior, Shafer and seven or eight teammates have been rotating meet to meet this year between the three-through-seven varsity positions. That means varsity caliber runners are shoring up the junior varsity (JV) roster, too, in each meet. “It is really competitive. The lineup switches with every meet,” noted Shafer. “There is not a set seven running varsity.” So, is that good for pushing each other? “Definitely,” agreed Shafer. “But Coach Williams reminds us, we are not racing against each other in a meet. That is when we need to be going after other teams.”
But how competitive is it? Running in separate races at the Solon Invitational, sisters Ella (the seventh varsity finisher) and younger sister Mara Düster (Solon’s top JV runner), each ran 22:33, separated by just two-10ths of a second. Pushing all of them was senior Aira Foster, who has rotated on both teams over the last two years. She was 10th (23:27) in the 147-girl JV race. Sophomore Rayna Manternach was 21st (24:13).
Solon was third in a field of nine complete teams in that JV race. The Lady Spartans race in Anamosa this Saturday.