SHENANDOAH, Iowa — Because of the sheer nature of the sport, cross country runners rarely receive their proper due.
But for one day at least, senior Sean Skillern soaked in a heartfelt and fitting tribute for all the sacrifices he’s made in his career.
Shenandoah’s student-body president raced down the final hill and into the finish chute with scores of family and friends wildly cheering him on from both sides. Skillern won his first Hawkeye Ten Conference individual title on his home course Thursday, clocking 17 minutes, 8 seconds over the 5,000-meter course, 20 seconds ahead of runner-up Philip Sciranko of Harlan.
“He knows his craft. He’s studied how to be a great runner,” Shenandoah coach Andy Campbell said. “He works harder than anybody on our team, and any of the kids that I’ve ever had, and we’ve had some really good ones over the years. He’s one of the better leaders I’ve had.”
Skillern, who is rated 15th in Class 3-A, also led seventh-rated Shenandoah/Essex to the team title by a 38-58 margin over runner-up Glenwood, ending the Rams’ four-year reign.
Harlan senior Jessica Feldman won her first Hawk-10 individual title, finishing in 14:58 over the 4,000-meter course to better junior teammate Bailey Kuhl by 22 seconds. The Cyclones claimed team honors with a 33-52 win over second-place Shenandoah/Essex.
But Skillern’s victory was clearly the most popular, given the location of the meet. Several minutes after the race, maroon-clad members of the community were still approaching him for handshakes and pats on the back.
“We’re fortunate here in Shenandoah that cross country is a big deal,” Campbell said. “It’s not like that in every community, but our community gives us great support. It had to be huge for him to get it done, finally, on his home course.”
Skillern, whose mother, Liz, coaches the girls team, said there was some confusion last year as to where this year’s conference meet would be held. When the venue became official, he knew it had the makings of a special day. It was up to him to make good on that.
“Basically, half the town of Shenandoah came here to support our team,” he said. “It was a feeling like no other.”
Campbell also praised the work of sophomores Nate Hoyt and Joe Blake, who finished sixth and seventh, respectively.
“Nate might have been our fifth man at Atlantic last week,” he said. “He had a tremendous race. He’s a quiet kid. You don’t know what he’s thinking ever, but what a competitor.”
The other Mustang scorers were seniors Zac McCoy (10th) and Kyle Hiser (14th), with senior Kyle Fischer (15th) and junior Bradley Young (20th) just behind.
Tenth-rated Glenwood’s chances were dealt a blow when 19th-rated sophomore James Fuller was unable to compete due to an injury they haven’t been able to pinpoint.
The Rams’ five scorers all finished in the top 17: Jeff Reeve (third), Baker Cambridge (ninth), Cuentin Gray (13th), Nick Maestas (16th) and Brady Wheeler (17th).
“It’s been an exciting year,” Glenwood coach Todd Peverill said. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but the guys are coming on. Shenandoah’s a good team. We still performed very well with them, despite being one guy short.”
After winning her race, Harlan’s Feldman stayed at the exit of the chute and slapped hands with nearly everyone who finished.
“I try to do that unless I’m really, really dead,” she said.
The fourteenth-rated Feldman said the Cyclones, who are ninth in 3-A as a team, were intent on regaining the crown won by Shenandoah/Essex last year.
“We just wanted to go in with a positive attitude and do our best,” she said.
Harlan coach Doug Renkly was thrilled to see Feldman and Kuhl finish 1-2.
“Jess Feldman’s a senior and has always had some big runner in front of her,” he said. “Now it’s her year, and it’s been nice to see.
“And Bailey is a tough kid mentally. Just a sweetheart; she’ll be the first person to shake your hand and give you a hug after a race. But during the race, she is a fierce, fierce competitor.”
The other scorers for Harlan were sophomore Marissa Klindt (fifth), senior Dru Beach (12th) and freshman Mercedee Mayberry (13th).
Runner-up Shenandoah/Essex ran as a pack, with its five scorers finishing between eighth and 14th. The Fillies’ top four — seniors Mariah Johnson and Jasmine Glasgo, junior Megan Hart and senior Alexis Saner — finished within six seconds of one another.
Boys team scoring: 1, Shenandoah/Essex 38; 2, Glenwood 58; 3, Harlan 88; 4, Creston 133; 5, Carroll Kuemper 137; 6, CB Lewis Central 152; 7, Red Oak 157; 8, Denison-Schleswig 192; 9, Atlantic 208; 10, Clarinda 245.
Girls top 10 finishers: 1, Sean Skillern, Shen, 17:08; 2, Philip Sciranko, Har, 17:28; 3, Jeff Reeve, Glen, 17:29; 4, Dustin Werner, Kuem, 17:30; 5, Chris Brace, Har, 17:31; 6, Nate Hoyt, Shen, 17:33; 7, Joe Blake, Shen, 17:40; 8, Jay Wolfe, Cres, 17:40; 9, Baker Cambridge, Glen, 17:42; 10, Zac McCoy, Shen, 17:51.
Girls team scoring: 1, Harlan 33; 2, Shenandoah/Essex 52; 3, Creston 78; 4, CB Lewis Central 110; 5, Atlantic 122; 6, Glenwood 152; 7, Denison-Schleswig 195; 8, Carroll Kuemper 207.
Girls top 10 finishers: 1, Jessica Feldman, Har, 14:58; 2, Bailey Kuhl, Har, 15:20; 3, Maria Mostek, Cres, 15:24; 4, Tiffany Williams, Atl, 15:31; 5, Marissa Klindt, Har, 15:39; 6, Meghan Plambeck, Atl, 15:43; 7, Emily Wignall, Cres, 15:49; 8, Mariah Johnson, Shen, 15:59; 9, Jasmine Glasgo, Shen, 16:01; 10, Megan Hart, Shen, 16:02.
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