CLASS 1A CROSS COUNTRY

Bontrager posts personal-best 39th place in 1A state championship

Hillcrest senior cross country runner competes in state meet 4th straight year

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 11/3/21

FORT DODGE

One mile into her final high school race, Hillcrest Academy senior Leah Bontrager decided it was go time.

The timing was perfect.

Competing in her fourth consecutive Class 1A …

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CLASS 1A CROSS COUNTRY

Bontrager posts personal-best 39th place in 1A state championship

Hillcrest senior cross country runner competes in state meet 4th straight year

Posted

FORT DODGE

One mile into her final high school race, Hillcrest Academy senior Leah Bontrager decided it was go time.

The timing was perfect.

Competing in her fourth consecutive Class 1A state championship meet last Saturday at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge, Bontrager passed 26 runners in the second mile alone to move out of a sea of runners. The result was a 39th-place finish in the race, her best finish in the state championships.

The state meet finished off an impressive four-year run for Bontrager, which featured four All-Conference finishes in the Southeast Iowa Super Conference championship meet and two first-place finishes this year.

“It’s been a really great four years,” she said. “I’m really thankful that I learned that I loved running and that I joined cross country to be part of a lot of great teams and have good teammates and amazing coach that I learned a lot of things from.”

Bontrager was joined in the road trip to Fort Dodge by several Hillcrest teammates and her coach, Marty Gingerich. It was an important day for a runner who ran on a stress fracture last year at the state meet, and recovered from three stress fractures and mononucleosis prior to the 2021 season.

“It is an exciting day. I woke up this morning and I was ready to run,” she said.

The race, which was won by Calamus-Wheatland freshman Noelle Steines, featured a group of tightly-packed runners, some of them running four wide, behind the leaders.

“Our strategy is even pace, which put her in like 110th place at a half mile, and maybe 100th at the mile,” Gingerich said.

After passing the 1-mile mark in 72nd place, Bontrager made her move to escape the brutal trap of all the runners in front of her going elbow to elbow.

“I just have to be smart and think about when I pass the big group,” Bontrager said. “It’s kind of harder when there’s constantly people everywhere.”

And then Bontrager left them behind. She passed 26 runners in the second mile, moving up to 46th. Only one other runner in the entire field of 152 was able to pass that many. Bontrager moved up another seven spots in the final segment of the race.

She finished with a time of 21:23.89, which was 20 seconds faster than her 52nd-place showing a year ago but not as fast as her sophomore time.

After it was over, the time had arrived for reflection.

“She makes it fun. She’s been a joy to coach. I’ll miss her,” Gingerich said. “Definitely. It’s been a real good four years.”

 

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