For Creston, it’s been 25 years. For Harlan, 30.
Both boys cross country programs have had talented individuals, but those are the respective dry spells in the team competition that will end on Saturday at the state meet.
The 15th-rated Panthers and No. 12 Cyclones will join the No. 13 Sioux City Heelan girls as western Iowa team representatives in Class 3-A when the starter’s gun goes off at the Lakeside Municipal Golf Course north of Fort Dodge.
This is Harlan’s third boys team appearance, following showings in 1980 and 1983. The Cyclones won the 3-A state-qualifying meet in Winterset last week. The scorers were seniors Chris Brace and Philip Sciranko, juniors Preston Burris and Brad Jones, and sophomore Michael Sciranko. The other team members are sophomore Caleb Brace and junior Andrew Mumm.
“This group has slowly been increasing their success since middle school,” Harlan coach Doug Renkly said. “They all really push each other during practice. This year especially I’ve noticed a little bit of a difference, where everybody’s just kind of taking it up to another level.”
The seniors also qualified individually, with Brace finishing sixth at Winterset and Sciranko 10th. Renkly said he’d like to see them both around the mid-20s early in the race and see where they can finish from there. He said the team’s goal should be to finish in the top half of the 15-team field. He doesn’t think a top-five placing is out of the question.
Creston had a four-year run of boys state appearances from 1985 to 1988, but hadn’t taken a team to Fort Dodge since. This year’s group broke through with a third-place effort at Winterset. The scorers were sophomore Cooper McDermott, junior Jay Wolfe, freshman Ben Irr and seniors Garret Taylor and Kruz Adamson. The other members are junior Brant Hudson and senior Zack Peppmeier. McDermott (fourth), a transfer from Newton who qualified there last year, and Wolfe (seventh) also qualified individually.
“This team success has been building and growing for a while, and things have just gotten on a roll,” Creston coach Pat Schlapia said. “They have gotten a taste of success as a team and they want more.”
McDermott has won a school-record six meets this year, and the Panthers won three team titles.
Also from Creston, junior Maria Mostek became the first three-time girls qualifier from her school. The other western Iowa girls individual qualifiers in 3-A are Tiffany Williams of Atlantic and Megan Hart of Shenandoah/Essex.
The other WI boys individual qualifiers are No. 24 Alec Pavone of Sioux City Heelan and Josef Rogers of Denison-Schleswig.
Shenandoah/Essex makes 22nd appearance in 2-A
The fifth-rated Shenandoah/Essex boys will make their 22nd state appearance in the Class 2-A portion of Saturday’s state meet in Fort Dodge.
It’s also the third team appearance in four years for the Mustangs, who will join No. 14 OA-BCIG in the 2-A boys team competition.
Shenandoah/Essex coach Andy Campbell knows about his school’s tradition. He ran on Class 2-A state championship teams in 1988 and 1989 under hall of fame coach Ray Graves.
“Coach Graves left a lot on the table when I came in,” Campbell said. “I’m just trying not to mess things up. But yes, that tradition is huge. The kids expect that if they do what they’re expected in the workouts, they’ll succeed.”
Shenandoah will be led by Nate Hoyt, who also qualified individually in eighth place. He joins fellow WI qualifiers Josh Sunberg and Logan LeRette of Red Oak. The girls individual qualifiers from western Iowa are 13th-rated Alexis Cook of Missouri Valley and Bailey Hare of OA-BCIG.