Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – There is no easing into the season for the Solon cross country teams.
The Spartans opened at the rugged Cedar Rapids Prairie Invite last Saturday where nearly half of the 21-team field was comprised of 4A teams.
Solon coach Emy Williams describes the tough season-opening meet as a trial by fire.
Freshman Kiersten Conway used a different word to describe the first varsity meet of her career.
“It was pretty intimidating,” Conway said of the Prairie meet. “Definitely, an intimidating race to start with.”
The experience from a challenging start is already paying dividends for Conway.
Conway placed third in 21:12.72 at the Bob Brown Classic at Kicker Soccer Park in Iowa City on Thursday helping Solon to a third-place team finish.
“I was really nervous the first one and I wasn’t nearly as nervous today,” Conway said. “It felt good. I was a lot more comfortable today.”
The time for Conway was less than a second off runner-up Hallie Kephart of Marion.
Monticello senior Paige Holub cruised to the individual title in 20:39.28 to help the Class 2A second-ranked Panthers win the team title with 42 points.
Class 3A No. 15 Marion was second with 73 points while Solon was third with 98.
I like that trial by fire,” Williams said of the season-opening meet at Prairie. “You are going go out and compete and see what you are made of and then coming into tonight I really liked how we ran.”
No Spartan benefitted more from a tough test at Prairie more than Conway.
The freshman led Solon in the season-opening meet placing 36th in a field of better than 160 runners in her first varsity experience.
“I told her it’s the biggest, the hardest meet we are going to run the entire season, if you can go compete at that you can compete anywhere,” Williams said. “I think just getting those nerves out the way was important.”
Conway didn’t run like a freshman on Thursday.
She built a lead on the pack running behind Holub at the two-mile mark and held off Emma Duncan of Anamosa and Aubrey Frey of Mount Vernon-Lisbon down the stretch.
“I want to get my time lower by the end of the season but I am happy with where I am at today,” Conway said. “I thought I ran much better today.”
Conway finished in front of eight runners on Thursday that all ran at least 15 seconds faster than her in the season-opener at Prairie including both Duncan and Frey.
Duncan was 41 seconds faster than Conway at Prairie. Frey finished 34 seconds in front of the Solon freshman.
On Thursday Conway finished more than three seconds in front of both runners.
“I told her those girls were way ahead of you on Saturday at Prairie so that is fun for her to see,” Williams said. “That’s just coming in as a freshman and not knowing where you should be and now she’s kind of seeing that.”
Conway led the way as Solon put five runners in the top 26.
Erin Kerkhoff was 22nd, Sophie Nicol 23rd, Ella Duster 24th and Nicole Shafer 26th for the Spartans.
“I think that has been a strength of ours the last couple years is they run together, they practice together,” Williams said. “It just makes it so much easier when you can see one of your teammates right there with you.”
Regina senior Mary Crompton led the host Regals, finishing 20th in her cross country debut.
An all-state basketball player and Illinois State recruit, Crompton finished in 22:52.77 while Molly Vittetoe was 30th in 23:47.21 as Regina placed seventh with 186 points.
“I think there are a lot of positives to take away,” Regina coach Chris Murdock said. “Mary Crompton ran great, Lauren Gaarde another basketball kid coming here having no idea what she is doing but she wanted to give it a shot and she ran fifth for us today and that just shows they are here to battle and they don’t care that they are new to this. They are ready to race.”
Liberty High freshman McKenzie Logan was seventh in 21:30.44 and Clear Creek Amana junior Kaylie Barker was 12th in 21:55.7.
Team Results – 1. Monticello 42; 2. Marion 73; 3. Solon 98; 4. Anamosa 103; 5. Mount Vernon-Lisbon 135; 6. North Cedar 163; 7. Regina 186; 8. Liberty 239; 9. Tipton 259; 10. Clear Creek Amana 261; 11. Wilton 270; 12. Columbus 361.
Individual Results – 1. Paige Holub (MON) 20:30.28; 2. Hallie Kephart (MAR) 21:11.31; 3. Kiersten Conway (SOL) 21:12.72; 4. Emma Duncan (ANA) 21:15.95; 5. Aubrey Frey (MVL) 21:16.72; 6. Taylor McDonald (MON) 21:29.83; 7. McKenzie Logan (ICL) 21:30.44; 8. Corrina Dittmer (MAR) 21:31.74; 9. Jordyn Patterson (MON) 21:46.15; 10. Gabrielle Steiner (MON) 21:48.96.
Solon – 3. Kiersten Conway 21:12.72; 22. Erin Kerkhoff 22:57.09; 23. Sophie Nicol 22:57.72; 24. Ella Duster 23:11.08; 26. Nicole Shafer 23:17.48; 47. Piper Radcliffe 24:22.23; 52. Saige Hauer 24:34.6.
Regina – 20. Mary Crompton 22:52.77; 30. Molly Vittetoe 23:47.21; 42. Anna Stimmel 24:11.86; 46. Nourah Abusada 24:17.73; 48. Lauren Gaarde 24:23.55; 49. Kennedy Scott 24:24.99; 51. Natalie Sueppel 24:29.17.
Liberty High – 7. McKenzie Logan 21:30.44; 14. Camille Mac 22:28.96; 65. Avery Clark 27:32.32; 76. Emma Hansen 30:11.22; 77. Samantha Schildroth 31:29.47; 78. Tessa Miller 31:36.29.
Clear Creek Amana – 12. Kaylie Barker 21:55.7; 59. Madeline Fox 25:29; 60. Olivia Fairholm 25:31.89; 64. Ally Loren 26:59.16; 66. Alexis Ponce 27:39.8; 67. Ellen Austin 27:44.33; 70. Lauren Lasswell 28:14.28.