Taking on all challenges

Golden Hawk junior Kaden Meader manages dual fall sports schedules

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 10/13/21

The days can begin really early if you’re a cross country runner at Mid-Prairie High School.

Preseason workouts are at 7 a.m. before the summer heat sets up for the day.

Road trips for …

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Taking on all challenges

Golden Hawk junior Kaden Meader manages dual fall sports schedules

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The days can begin really early if you’re a cross country runner at Mid-Prairie High School.

Preseason workouts are at 7 a.m. before the summer heat sets up for the day.

Road trips for Saturday out-of-town meets require early risers.

And still, Mid-Prairie football player and wrestler Kaden Meader hit the running paths this fall with his high school friends. He just couldn’t pass it up.

“I’ve got a lot of buddies in cross country and it’s got a really good atmosphere. So does football. I didn’t want to have to pick, so I decided to do both,” Meader said.

There aren’t many football players at any level who also compete in cross country, which makes Meader’s relationship with both sports truly special. After preseason two-a-day workouts in football, learning new game plans every week, playing on Friday nights and waking up with sores and bruises Saturday morning, it’s easy to see why waking up early for a 5,000-meter run on a junior varsity squad might not be such fun.

But it is for Meader, a 6-foot-2 185-pound junior who says he ran cross country for a couple of years in middle school. This is his first year on the high school cross country squad, joining a group of friends that includes Blake Creed, Andrew Stultz and Nathan Wallington, a younger brother of 2021 Mid-Prairie graduate and former football player Josh Wallington.

And without hesitation, he’d do it again.

“Oh, yeah. It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s fun to push yourself mentally like that, I mean, just to show yourself that you can do it. I wrestle, too, so carrying this into wrestling season will be great. Hopefully, more kids will do it after me.

Pete Cavanagh, the head football coach at Mid-Prairie, can’t ever remember a football player running cross country. 

So when Meader approached him, it was a shocker.

“I was surprised,” Cavanagh said. “First of all. I was, ‘Yeah, it’s fine. As long as it doesn’t ruin your legs for Friday night.’ ”

The thing is, Meader’s legs are probably stronger.

“He runs on his own, which I know is tough,” Cavanagh said. “And then the grind of football. That’s the way he’s built mentally. He’s just a worker. If anybody can do it, it would be Kaden.”

Meader has received positive support from both the football and the cross country coaching staffs.

“Really understanding. They’ve been great,” Meader said. “Mark [Hostetler, cross country head coach] is really lenient about me not being at practice. I have football up here. They’ve been great. They’re really motivating and just really helpful.”

Meader has delivered solid results in both sports. In last Friday’s 42-21 football victory against Centerville, Meader had 4.5 tackles and a crushing sack of Centerville quarterback Sawyer Wardlow. He is tied for the team lead in sacks and fifth in total tackles. On October 4, he had a personal-best time of 20 minutes, 41 seconds, in the Dan Huston-Steve Johnson Invitational at Wartburg College. The race came the day after the football team played one of its biggest games of the year in Williamsburg.

“Kaden’s race is remarkable since he was coming off a varsity football game the night before,” said Aaron Fleming, Mid-Prairie cross country assistant coach. 

“He’s a big muscular guy who looks like he belongs on the football field, but he loves running, too, and brings a fun and hard-working attitude to the cross country team. He manages to combine a relaxed mental attitude with great physical toughness and is just a great addition to the team.”

And on that day, Kaden says, he got to sleep late. Well, sort of.

“It was nice,” he said. “I got to sleep in. We only had to be here at 8:30, 8:45, so that was nice. Usually it’s 6 o’clock in the morning. That can be rough.”

The River Valley Conference championship meet was held Tuesday, which may have been Meader’s final race of the fall. The Golden Hawks boys and girls varsity teams are both focused on making it back to the state championships, which will be held October 30 in Fort Dodge. The girls are four-time defending state champions. The boys entered the season as the sixth-ranked team in Class 1A.

“Some of the varsity cross country runners this year are just studs,” Meader said. “We’ve got three freshmen on there that are just crazy.”

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