Cross country teams finish season at State
It was a beautiful day for anything outdoors last Saturday, and that included the Iowa High School State Cross Country Championships. Kennedy Park in Ft. Dodge played host to 1077 runners and 120 teams that qualified as one of the state’s best in distance running, and that included both the girls’ and boys’ Denver cross country teams.

Qualifying for the state meet for the third year in a row, the girls moved up two spots from last year to finish 5th.

“We were very pleased with how the girls placed,” praised Coach Sandy Sabelka. “It was a little heartbreaking when we realized we missed a top-three finish by 11 points, which would have meant receiving a trophy and a chance to walk out on the deck to accept it, but being the top five in the state is a pretty big deal regardless.”

One Cyclone runner did earn the right to step out on the clubhouse deck and receive her well-earned hardware. Junior Grace Beck finished 10th among the state’s best runners, breaking into the medal range for the first time in three trips to state.

“Grace has just been an entirely different runner this season - more focused, more confident, and more competitive,” Coach Sabelka said. “She put herself in that top 15 medal-range right from the gun and only looked forward from there. She deserves that honor more than anyone by the attitude and efforts she put forth all season, and we couldn’t be more proud of her!”

Beck’s time was 20:12. Emma Lucas of Bedford won the meet in 18:41 with Logan-Magnolia taking the team title.

In her first appearance at Ft. Dodge, freshman Chloe Ristau missed the deck by just three spots taking 18th but ran her personal best time 20:37. Natalie Even ran her last cross country performance and moved up three spots from last year to place 34th in 21:08. Emily Herbst was 66th in 22:09, 20 spots better than last year. Leah Ristau took 111th overall in 23:29. Tiffany Schindler was 114th and Sarah Steege 115th in 23:35 and 23:36 to complete the girls’ team efforts.

Cross Country Boys

On the boys’ end, Denver put in a tough battle in a very strong 1A field to place 14th. Again, Sabelka was proud of her team’s efforts.

“The boys have accomplished so much looking back at this entire season and that includes earning a right to run at state,” Coach Sabelka said. “Yes, we (the coaches) agree that, with their talent, they are a top-ten team at the least, but their finish on Saturday still ranks them in the top 10% of all 1A teams in the State!”

Alex Larson, a sophomore in his second state appearance, led the Cyclones and moved up 33 places and 22 seconds from last year’s performance to take 85th in 18:19. Alex Gebel laced his cross country spikes for the final time, placing 103rd in 18:43. Connor Sheridan, Alex Krabbenhoft and Luke Bloker crossed neck-and-neck in 108th, 109th and 110th in 18:49, 18:50 and 18:53. In his first season running cross country, Isaac Schimmels was 113th in 18:57. Josh Terrill rounded out the 7-man team in 128th and 19:29.
Madrid took the 1A team title for the third year in a row with 63 points. Sean McDermott grabbed the individual title in 16:16.

Coach Sabelka, Coach Gielau and Coach Pickett would like to thank all the parents and fans that made the trip to Fort Dodge to support the team.

“We couldn’t ask for a more dedicated and supportive group of parents and fans that organize the best tailgate party,” said Coach Sabelka. “It is an honor for us to coach such an amazing and talented group of athletes, and we are so fortunate for the support and dedication of their parents and this community as well.”
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