Hillcrest hosts second home cross-country meet

By Giovanni Coronel
Posted 10/4/23


Fall is here and in addition to the leaves changing color and Halloween decorations popping up like nobody’s business, Hillcrest welcomed schools from all around to compete in …

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Hillcrest hosts second home cross-country meet



Fall is here and in addition to the leaves changing color and Halloween decorations popping up like nobody’s business, Hillcrest welcomed schools from all around to compete in their cross-country invitational on Oct. 2. 

With Hillcrest hosting an early-bird cross-country meet at the tail end of August, this autumn invitational marks the second time this season runners converged at the Hillcrest campus to tackle its course. 

Welcoming 15 high school teams and 13 junior high teams, this is one of if not the largest annual athletic event hosted by Hillcrest Academy. 

Six races took place, with two being junior high races and four being high school races. Out of the six races 423 runners completed the course. 

 Pella, ranked number one in Iowa in 3A for girls and ranked number two in 3A for boys, was the big winner on the day. They claimed both the varsity boys and girls team titles.

Winning the boys varsity race for Pella was sophomore Canaan Dunham in 16:21 and sophomore Marissa Ferebee won the girls varsity race for Pella in 20:20.

Hillcrest Results 

Warm weather accompanied this meet and while this was Hillcrest’s home course it can still prove challenging to the Raven runners. 

“It’s been pretty hot, and this is a harder course than some of the ones we’ve run more recently,” Hillcrest coach Martin Gingerich said about the Hillcrest Invitational. 

Despite the heat it was freshman Marie Yoder who gave Hillcrest its best finish of the day. 

  Completing the course 34 seconds faster than her early-bird time on the same course, Yoder continues to impress in her first year of cross-country as she crossed the finish line in 21:01 to claim fifth place. 

“I thought Marie competed really well the whole race,” coach Gingerich said. “And she was right in the midst of the Pella group.”

Between the Pella Green and Pella White teams, Pella had runners take 11 of the top 12 spots in the girls race. Yoder, with her fifth-place finish, was the only runner in the top 12 not representing Pella. 

Hillcrest’s next top performance came from a runner coming off an injury, sophomore Rya Scott. Scott did well in only her third meet of the season, placing 28th in 25:09. 

“Rya had another good race,” coach Gingerich said, “It’s her third race back from an ankle sprain, and Delaney and Brynna also did well.”

Junior Delaney Shaw and freshman Brynna O’Rourke were the next finishers for Hillcrest. 

Ending the race over 90 seconds faster than her early-bird time, Shaw placed 44th in 26:35. O’Rourke also crossed the finish line quicker than her early-bird time, taking almost two minutes off her time, and placed 57th in 33:52. 

Finishing the race to give the Hillcrest girls their first team score of the season was sophomore Niva Helmuth. 

Helmuth, who has been playing volleyball for Hillcrest this fall sports season, competed in her first cross-country race, and placed 70th in 33:52. 

“We had a newcomer, Niva Hellmuth,” coach Gingerich said. “She ran tonight, finished the race. That was the main goal.”

On the boys side junior Micah Gerber gave Hillcrest its top finish. Gerber ended the race with a time of 19:41 to place 28th. His time was 30 seconds faster than his early-bird time. 

Completing the course nearly one minute faster than his early bird time was Hillcrest junior Jesse Blossom. Blossom crossed the finish line in 20:20 to place 42nd. 

In what was his first cross-country race, Hillcrest senior Mason Swartzendruber placed 67th in 23:06. 

“We also had a newcomer on the boys team,” coach Gingerich said about Mason Swartzendruber. “He ran smart and had a strong finish and hopefully a good experience.”

Freshmen Isaac Beachy and Braden Hartsock round out the Raven runners who completed the course. Beachy, taking 44 seconds off his early-bird time, placed 64th in 22:43 and Hartsock, taking over a minute off his early-bird time, placed 72nd in 24:49. 

“Everyone seems to be more fit,” coach Gingerich said about the difference between this meet and the early-bird meet. “We do have some injuries that are bothering some, but it is good to measure our fitness against how we were, previously on the same course and everyone looks like they are running faster than they did the first go round.”

Lone Tree Results 

Five weeks ago, Lone Tree began its cross-country season at Hillcrest’s early-bird meet, making the Hillcrest Academy Invitational the second time this year the Lions have traversed Hillcrest’s challenging course. 

Improving her time from her first go-around, junior Vivian Zaruba was the top performer for Lone Tree at this meet. 

Crossing the finish line nearly two minutes faster than her early-bird time, Vivian placed 36th in 25:44. 

The next Lady Lions to complete the course was junior Jazmine Nino. Nino, who ended the early bird meet with a time of 28:06, placed 51st in 27:04. 

Rounding out the trio of Lady Lions who competed in this meet, freshman Abby Zaruba placed 67th in 32:05.08 Her time is nearly identical to her early-bird time, a race she finished in 32:05.78.

Finishing as the top performer for the Lone Tree boys team was freshman Brock Nebergal. Shortening his time from the early bird by nearly two minutes, Nebergal placed 44th in 20:35. 

The Lions remaining two runners to complete the course also improved upon their times from the early bird. 

Junior Taylor Alberhasky ended the race about a minute faster to place 59th in 22:15 and senior Joey Birtcher crossed the finish line nearly two minutes faster to place 73rd in 24:50.

Girls Varsity Results

1. Marissa Ferebee, Pella Green, 20.20

5. Marie Yoder, Hillcrest, 21:01

28. Rya Scott, Hillcrest, 25:09

36. Vivian Zaruba, Lone Tree, 25:44

44. Delaney Shaw, Hillcrest, 26:35

51. Jazmine Nino, Lone Tree, 27:04

57. Brynna O’Rourke, Hillcrest, 27:58

67. Abby Zaruba, Lone Tree, 32:05

70. Niva Helmuth, Hillcrest, 33:52

Boys Varsity Results

1. Canaan Dunham, Pella Green, 16:21

28. Micah Gerber, Hillcrest, 19:41

43. Jesse Blossom, Hillcrest, 20:30

44. Brock Nebergal, Lone Tree, 20:35 

59. Taylor Alberhasky, Lone Tree, 22:15

64. Isaac Beachy, Hillcrest, 22:43

67. Mason Swartzendruber, Hillcrest, 22:15

72. Braden Hartsock, Hillcrest, 24:49

73. Joey Birtcher, Lone Tree, 24:50