CARROLL, Iowa — Western Iowa runners learned a few lessons. They got really muddy, too.
But when it came to securing a spot in next weekend's Class 4-A state cross country meet, Western Iowa representatives came away empty-handed.
West Des Moines Dowling, Johnston and Ames dominated Thursday's 4-A state-qualifying meet at Swan Lake State Park. Both their boys and girls squads earned the top three team spots and every top-10 individual finish required to advance to Fort Dodge.
On the girls side, Council Bluffs Lewis Central (137 points) finished a distant fourth behind Ames (51) but just ahead of Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln (144). Perhaps most encouraging for the Titans is that their four top runners — Kye Madsen (23rd), Denae Statzer (24th), Clarissa Scott (25th) and Nicole Simmons (27th) — are all freshmen.
“I told them I'm anxious for next fall to get here already,” Lewis Central coach Joe Ankenbauer said. “I thought we ran pretty good today considering the weather conditions.”
Participants battled temperatures in the mid-40s, a steady rain and wind gusts up to 30 mph. On the hilly course two miles south of Carroll, a muddy path forced many to slow down to avoid losing their footing.
Thomas Jefferson coach Doug Muehlig said the weather was an ideal equalizer at a meet that included Dowling — 4-A's defending boys and girls state champions — as well as ranked programs Johnston and Ames. But the Jackets (154 points) couldn't pull an upset on the boys side, taking fourth behind Ames (59).
“The main thing I hope we can get them to realize is what makes you what you are doesn't happen during cross country season,” Muehlig said. “It happens during other sports. And during the summer, I have to get them to run.”
Sioux City East's Colin Welk was the top WI boys finisher, taking 18th in 18 minutes, 18 seconds.
Thomas Jefferson junior Brian Collinson placed 20th in 18:20 to lead all Council Bluffs boys in the five-kilometer race. He opted not to run much last summer, instead focusing on other sports.
Still, Collinson said, he could have made time. And with a varsity team that will look similar next year, he's ready to make a commitment.
“We were actually hoping to finish third,” Collinson said. “Now we're hoping to do a lot of offseason running and next year hopefully qualify.”
Abraham Lincoln junior Emma Preston was the top area girls finisher, taking 19th, and Sioux City West's Alyssa Nash was 21st. Cassie Warner led Thomas Jefferson, crossing the finish line in 29th.
For the boys, Blake Willadsen (23rd, 18:30) set the pace for Abraham Lincoln and Dustin Werner (24th, 18:33) did the same for Carroll Kuemper. West (178) took fifth in the team race ahead of Sioux City East (179) and four other schools.
Even if a western Iowa school had turned in its best performance Thursday, a trip to state still would have been hard to come by in the loaded meet.
“We had a few other guys who I know can run better,” Muehlig said. “But it probably didn't make much difference today because there are some dominant teams.”
Team scoring: 1, West Des Moines Dowling 20; 2, Johnston 48; 3, Ames 59; 4, Thomas Jefferson 154; 5, Sioux City West 178; 6, Sioux City East 179; 7, Abraham Lincoln 194; 8, Carroll Kuemper 204.
State qualifiers: 1, Jason Thomas, Dowling, 16:40; 2, Spencer Clark, Dowling, 16:52; 3, Jeff DeRocher, Dowling, 16:53; 4, Tyson Wieland, Johnston, 17:03; 5, Lukas Steffensmeier, Dowling, 17:13; 6, Daniel Lee, Ames, 17:13; 7, Connor Westlake, Johnston, 17:16; 8, Ben Forney, Ames, 17:29; 9, Ian McKenzie, Dowling, 17:32; 10, Josh Borwick, Johnston, 17:46.
Team scoring: 1, West Des Moines Dowling 26; 2, Johnston 45; 3, Ames 51; 4, Lewis Central 137; 5, Abraham Lincoln 144; 6, Sioux City West 181; 7, Sioux City North 226; 8, Thomas Jefferson 235; 9, Sioux City East 251.
Individual state qualifiers (times not available): 1, Karissa Schweizer, Dowling; 2, Grace Gibbons, Dowling; 3, Bailey Eppard, Johnston; 4, Jordyn Kleve, Johnston; 5, Vanessa Miller, Dowling; 6, Hannah Thomas, Dowling; 7, Claire Dupuis, Ames; 8, Payton Boylston, Ames; 9, Caroline Marnin, Ames; 10, Kenzie Foldes, Johnston.