Denver cross country teams start their season in Oelwein
Relieved to get the official start of the 2020 season underway, the Denver Cyclone cross country runners laced up their spikes and took to the starting line at the Annual Oelwein Cross Country meet Tuesday, September 1.

Most likely to reduce the number of people at the meet for COVID safety, the middle school runners were sent to Veterans Baseball and Softball Complex for their one-mile course, while the high school competed at the same time at Hickory Grove Golf Course. Avery Trunkhil and Sophie Sanderson got their first taste of the sport of cross country starting the meet with the 7th grade girls’ race. Trunkhill covered the course in 7:53 for 12th, with Sanderson a step behind in 13th and 7:55. Joe and Josh Rabenhorst also stepped foot on a course for the first time and finished the 7th grade boys’ mile in 7:01 (19th) and 7:10 (21st). Hailey Homan and Reeve Ristau moved up from 7th and 8th place last year to take 1st and 2nd on the new terrain. Homan won the 8th grade girls’ race in 6:16 with Ristau shortly behind in 6:23. Anna Mulert crossed for 10th place in 6:57, Lily Cooper took 20th with a time of 7:32, and Haley Lalk, in her first race, was 35th in 8:06.

Repeating as middle school champion, Talen Lafrentz secured the gold for the 8th grade boys in 5:35. Gabe Swales took a minute off of last year’s time and broke the 6-minute barrier for the first time to place 6th in 5:59. Trevor Baas bettered his 1-mile split by a minute to finish 16th in 6:26, Conner Wurzer improved by almost two minutes placing 20th in 6:42 and Xander Peterson covered his first course in 8:11 to take 37th.

“What a great way for our middle schoolers to start their season,” praised Coach Sandy Sabelka. “They all bettered their 1-mile time trial we had the week earlier and now should have confidence in themselves to improve on that even more! To place four runners in the top ten at this meet with teams like Decorah and Waverly-Shell Rock is always a noteworthy accomplishment, as is the improvements in all of their splits.”

The junior varsity girls started the high school portion on the Hickory Grove course. Another first-timer to the cross country program, sophomore Paige Westbrook led all efforts to place 51st amongst 179 runners. She crossed with a time of 24:16. Kendall Cortelyou was steps behind to place 52nd in 24:22. Senior Hannah Even ran a strong race in her last appearance at Oelwein to place 74th in 24:59. Malea Gonnerman finished her first cross country race to place 175th in 34:58. With only four runners competing for Denver, the JV girls fell one runner short of the requirement to total a team score.

Denver’s JV boys represented themselves well being the top 1A/2A team placing 3rd behind 3A’s Decorah and West Delaware. Freshman Logan Rathbun broke into the top 10 with a 6th place finish in 18:14. Cole Miller and Max Swandt cracked the top 20 with 13th (18:25), 16th (18:29). Grant Pautsch, Carson Haase and Ethan Larson took 33rd, 36th and 37th (19:22, 19:30 and 19:33). They were followed closely by Jacob Steege and Neal Pinter in 19:52 and 19:56 for 41st and 42nd. Ashton Gonnerman was 83rd (21:39), Nate Rabenhorst 101st (22:15), Jarett Clayton 111th (22:41) and Kale Lyons 112th (22:49) Darwin Shollenbarger crossed in 27:48 for 137th.

Decorah slipped by Jesup in the varsity girls’ race 87 - 94, led by individual champ Rebecca Anderson in 17:59. Denver took 3rd for the second year in a row with 111.

Sophomore Chloe Ristau broke into the top 5 in the strong field of 94 with 4th in 19:10. The Cyclone’s next three runners packed it in well and took 17th, 19th and 21st. Laci Even led the trio in 20:24, Aubrey Decker was steps behind in 19th (20:29) and Emily Herbst a short time later in 21st (20:41). Ava Dunkin moved into Denver’s 5th spot to place 52nd in 22:11. Kira Cortelyou rounded out the varsity performance to place 82nd in 24:20.

Sabelka was more than pleased with the girls’ finish. “We don’t have big numbers this year (12 total) and ran without two of them, but it proved that this group is pretty dedicated to their teammates and proving they’re a team to watch out for no matter what the challenge.”

Decorah also took the varsity boys’ title unchallenged with 32 points. West Delaware took 2nd with 72. Denver and Waverly-Shell Rock tied for 3rd with 101, but it was Denver winning the tie with the placing of it’s 6th runner.

Alex Krabbenhoft crossed as Denver’s top performer and earned their only top 15 medal with 12th place in 16:39. Aidan Dolan had what Sabelka called his strongest performance of his career to place one spot out of medal range for 16th in 16:48. Kyler Matthias was 20th and Alex Larson 22nd in 16:54 and 16:56, with Josh Terrill 31st in 17:10. Jack Mulert was Denver’s 6th runner that sealed their 3rd place team finish with 34th, well ahead of WSR’s 6th runner in 52nd, and teammate Layne Fober followed close behind for 35th in 17:26. Brody Hogan of Decorah was the individual winner in a time of 15:14.

“It’s always a good feeling when you do come down to a tie-breaker and finish on the top side of it,” noted Sabelka. “It proves the value of your 6th and even our 7th runner. They are critical in overall scoring, rather it be to break a tie or as ‘pushers’ to get ahead of other teams’ 5th scoring runner. Great lessons learned.”

“Times were incredibly fast for all our runners and we’re predicting the course was short,” added Sabelka, “but when you look overall at our places and where our teams finished at this caliber of a meet, we couldn’t have asked for a better start.”

Denver’s season schedule had them competing in Waverly on Sept. 8 and Starmont on Sept. 15. They host their third annual Denver Invitational at Willow Run Country Club Monday, Sept. 21. Middle school girls begin the event at 4 pm with high school competition starting at 5 pm.
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