Turkey Valley freshman Jalyssa Blazek notched a sixth place finish in the state Class 1A girls’ race Saturday in Fort Dodge. (Photo by Becky Walz)
Turkey Valley freshman Jalyssa Blazek notched a sixth place finish in the state Class 1A girls’ race Saturday in Fort Dodge. (Photo by Becky Walz)

The best of the best raced in near-perfect conditions at the Co-ed State Cross Country Meet at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course near Fort Dodge Saturday. Among them were numerous local athletes from the Decorah, South Winn and Turkey Valley cross country teams.

While none of the teams posted top-three finishes to make it on the deck, the harriers turned in season-best times. A trio of individuals notched top-15 honors to earn medals.

“I am pleased with the season overall. The girls had a lot of growth both mentally and physically during the season,” said Decorah girls’ coach Cristy Nimrod. “The girls who ran at the state meet saved their best meet for the end of the season. Most ran season personal records and ran good mental races. I am proud of this whole team. What a great bunch of young women. I appreciate the support from students, parents, school personnel and the community – our fan base is second to none.”

“It was a great effort today as we were in the thick of the fight for the entire race,” said Viking boys’ coach Brad Johansen. “I am very proud of the entire team this season. Being crowned conference and district champions are a testament to their hard work and dedication. We are anticipating another great season in 2019 with the vast majority of the varsity and the top of the JV returning.”


Team races

In the Class 3A boys’ race, Decorah concluded the day in eighth place with 207 points. The Vikings had an average time of 17:24.1 with a spread of 1:20.7. Gilbert was crowned the team champion with 64 points, ahead of Clear Creek-Amana with 80. Marion rounded out the top three with 102 points. Mount Pleasant senior Mount Pleasant broke the tape in 16:03.1.

The Lady Vikes tallied an average time of 21:05.4 with a spread of 47.4 seconds en route to its 13th place team finish with 245 points. The Class 3A girls’ champion Dubuque Wahlert squad posted a score of 56 points with Dallas Center-Grimes as runner-up with 85 points. With 171 points, Glenwood squeezed in at third place. Sprinting to victory in 18:22.5 was Glenwood senior Janette Schraft.

Also competing as a team was the South Winn boys, finishing 10th overall with 234 points in Class 1A. The Warriors had an average of 18:19.8 and a spread of 1:28.0 at the end of the 5K race. No. 1 Madrid ran away with the team title with 63 points. Runner-up went to Calamus-Wheatland with 111, followed by South Hamilton with 121. Sean McDermott, of Madrid was victorious in the race, posting a time of 16:16.4.


Medalists

Two Viking boys and Turkey Valley freshman Jalyssa Blazek turned in top-15 performances to reach the deck Saturday. 

In the boys’ Class 3A race sophomore Brady Hogan and Gus Hayes raced with the lead pack for the entire 5K, to finish on the deck in 12th and 13th place overall. Hogan, a sophomore in his first season in cross country stopped the clock at 16:38.8. 

Hayes finished his stellar high school career with his third stand on the deck with a 13th place finish in 16:42.8. The senior was 15th as a sophomore and seventh a year ago.

Turkey Valley freshman Jalyssa Blazek made her way to the front pack early and never fell back as she blazed the trail to a sixth place finish overall in 19:59.3 in the Class 1A girls race. In a time of 18:41.7, Emma Lucas, a senior from Bedford won gold.

“For Jalyssa to be just a freshman and become an all-state athlete is a great accomplishment,” said Trojan Coach Sarah Bakula. “Both her and Jaycie (Byrne) competed well and have worked hard all year long so to finish off at the state meet is a wonderful way to cap off a season.”


Vikings

Aside from Hogan and Hayes, the Vikings had five additional harriers on the course turning in solid times. Competing in his second state meet, Brayden Krivachek finished in 17:40.3, good for 66th place overall. Junior Willem Hawley wrapped up the season in 91st place in a time of 17:58.7, while Noah Lovelace posted a time of 17:59.5, good for 93rd place. Crossing the finish line close behind was Spencer Peterson. It was also the junior’s second race at state where he finished in 18:00.8, in 97th place. Joseph Seo was the final Viking harrier in 118th place. He had a time of 18:33.5.

The young Decorah girls’ squad was led to the finish line by sophomore Leila Johnson in 20:36.8, good for 48th place. Racing close behind was Shayla Betts in 20:45.2, good for 56th place for the junior. Fiona Buresh raced her way into 87th place overall in 21:18.7. Clocking in at 21:22.1 was Brooke Courtney in 92nd place overall. Meg Sessions finished the 5K race in 21:24.2, good for 96th place overall. Also on the courses was Annette Leschensky, who finished in 21:31.2 in 102nd place overall and Britta Swanson in 21:34.5 in 107th place overall.


Finishing 10th

“We thought we were probably somewhere in the 8th-12th place range and that is exactly where we finished,” said South Winn Coach Kevin Kearney. “Looking at the results afterward, we might have been able to sneak up one more place to ninth, but the top eight were probably out of our reach.”

Following the graduation of a senior-laden squad, the talented South Winn boys’ cross country returned to the state meet with a younger squad in 2018. The Warriors, with just two seniors running, finished 10th led by Paul Hageman. In this third year on the course, Hageman stopped the clock at 17:32.9, good for 45th place. Sophomore Jamison Meyer shaved 26 seconds off his 2017 time to finish 72nd overall in 18:01.9. 

Also competing for third season was Emmett Schwartzhoff. The junior toured the course in 18:10.0, good for 76th place overall. Getting his feet wet in the big race was freshman Chance Adam, racing to the finish line in 18:53.4, garnering 111th place overall. Wrapping up the team scoring was Toby Conway in 115th place overall. Conway posted a time of 19:00.8. Jacob Michels and Gabe Sadler were also competing for the Warriors. Michels, a junior, sprinted home in 19:15.8, in 124th place while Sadler went 19:56.4, in 137th place.

“Paul (Hageman) kept himself in range of a top 15-20 performance for two and a half miles. The heat and early effort caught up with him at the end,” explained Kearney. “Our other guys all got some great experience. With a young team, we will return some good runners. If they are willing to put in the work and effort in the off-season, they will give themselves a chance to be a pretty good team again next fall.”


Individuals

Turkey Valley had a second individual qualifier —Jaycie Byrne — in the Class 1A girls’ race. The sophomore toured the course in 21:21.1 to finish 40th overall in her first state cross country meet. 

“For Jaycie to place 40th in her first state meet and be is the top one-third of the competitors was great to see,” noted TV Coach Bakula. “I think running at the state meet has fueled both Jaycie and Jalyssa to want more next year.”

In her third state meet, Ashley Kriener was the sole representative of the South Winn girls’ cross country team. The senior crossed the finish line in 21:30.7 to earn 48th place overall, in a career-best time at the state event.

“Ashley competed ran the best cross country race of her career,” said Warrior Coach Kearney. “She ran with a great deal of confidence and it was fun to see her finish her career with such an outstanding effort.”