The path toward a fourth consecutive state championship begins Thursday for the Mid-Prairie girls cross country team.
State qualifying will be held Thursday at multiple sites. For the Mid-Prairie girls and boys teams, that means traveling to Williamsburg for the 4 p.m. meet.
The top three teams and top 15 individuals in the girls and boys race will qualify for the Class 2A state championship meet on Oct. 31 in Fort Dodge.
Danielle Hostetler, a freshman who has not lost a race this fall, leads the Mid-Prairie girls team. She’ll be joined by twin sisters Jaden and Sydney Yoder, Mitzi Evans, sisters Abby and Ana Fleming, and Phoebe Shetler.
Runners from Highland, Lone Tree and Hillcrest Academy will have a tougher road to Fort Dodge. In order to decrease the number of runners and spectators at each qualifying site due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of qualifying sites were increased to eight. As a result, only the top 10 individual runners and top two teams will qualify for the state championship.
Among those leading Hillcrest in the state qualifying meet at Pekin in Leah Bontrager, a junior who finished eighth in the Southeast Iowa Super Conference championship meet.
Highland and Lone Tree will compete in the state qualifier at Cascade. Among the contenders are Highland’s Madison Thomann and Taylor Sublette in the girls race, and Lone Tree’s Nick Saltzman and Alberto Cortez in the boys race.
FOURTH FOR BONTRAGER: Hillcrest junior Leah Bontrager finished fourth in the Mediapolis Invitational last week, missing third place by just 24 seconds. She finished with a time of 22:17.
Bontrager has multiple top-10 finishes this fall, and made all-conference for the third consecutive year.
Julia Boller of Hillcrest was 24th in Mediapolis, followed by Highland’s Katelyn Waters and Fiona Mahler in 26th and 27th places, respectively.
Alberto Cortez of Lone Tree placed 16th in the boys race with a time of 20:28. Others in the top 30 included No. 23 Bryce Thompson of Highland, No. 24 Nick Saltzman of Lone Tree and No. 28 Carlos Valenzuela of Highland. Hillcrest’s Collin Miller finished 35th.
JUNIOR HIGH MEDAL: Erika Thomann of Highland won third place in the junior high girls race in the Mike Jay Invitational at Columbus Junction on Oct. 13.
She finished with a time of 13:57.
PUSHING THROUGH: Fighting off a strained calf muscle, Mid-Prairie senior Luke Albright was still able to complete his final race at the River Valley Conference championships with a time of 21 minutes.
“Luke’s senior year was plagued with injuries and it’s really tough to see such a fine young man finish his season in a way that was a lot less than what he hoped for,” said Mid-Prairie assistant coach Aaron Fleming. “But Luke will be remembered for years for his dedication, his humor, his perseverance through adversity and the way he never failed to be a team runner.”