NORWALK — Monday was the final tune-up for the Newton boys and girls cross country teams before next week's Little Hawkeye Conference meet, as the Cardinal squads took part in an invitational on the fields of Norwalk's McAninch Sports Complex.
Newton had polarizing results. The Cardinal boys continued a very successful season by placing third out of nine teams, while a depleted girls team finished eighth out of 10.
The only teams to finish ahead of the Newton boys are two of the best in the state, as first-place Pella is ranked third in Class 3A and runner-up Grinnell is sixth. The Dutch won the meet with 44 points and the Tigers had 65, while the Cardinals had 76. Newton's in-season progression was apparent once again. It finished a full 100 points behind Grinnell at the Tigers' home invite back on Sept. 4, was 21 points behind it at the Cardinal Invite on Sept. 18, and closed that gap to 11 points Monday.
"We're all doing well and pushing ourselves, and it's paying off," said freshman Cooper McDermott, who finished fourth individually in 17 minutes, 46 seconds. "We're moving up from where we were at the beginning of the season."
Newton has been led all season by the potent 1-2 combo of sophomore Christian Laube and freshman Cooper McDermott, and never has the duo raced better than it did at Norwalk. Laube took second place individually in the 63-runner field in 17 minutes, 39 seconds, and McDermott was seven seconds back at fourth place in 17:46.
Pella senior Keegan Fitzsimmons — ranked 14th in 3A — won the meet in 17:06.
Laube quickly established himself in third place for the early portion of the race, moved up into second by the halfway point and put comfortable distance between him and third from there on. McDermott, meanwhile, was in 12th about one-fourth the way in before passing eight runners one-by-one to claim fourth.
"He's a second-half runner," Newton boys coach John Bartello said of McDermott. "We're trying to improve his start so that he can improve his time. We were shooting for placing today more than time. Next week we'll be looking more at time."
McDermott said having a teammate in Laube in his sights ahead has helped motivate him during races this season.
"It definitely pushes me," he said. "Him being up there makes me want to go faster and be up there with him."
The Cardinals also got a solid race from sophomore Justin Simms, who took 13th in 18:18 on a course that, for the most part, zig-zags back and forth across several soccer fields. Sophomore Jacob Thomas took 21st in 18:41 and senior Tom Miller was the fifth varsity scorer at 36th in 19:18. Miller, freshman Chase Dykstra and senior Tanner Hull finished in succession, with Dykstra and Hull taking 37th and 38th in 19:20 and 19:21.
The boys JV team also had a nice meet, taking third. It placed all six of its runners in the top 26 out of a field of 132. It was led by a ninth-place showing by senior Cody Maxwell in 19:36. Senior Daniel Maurer (13th, 20:02) and sophomore Grant Osborn (15th, 20:42) weren't far behind.
The Newton girls team knew it had to expect a less-than-spectacular meet even before it got off the bus. Freshman Grace Coen — who has won seven of the eight meets the Cards have run in this season — didn't run Monday due to the flu. Senior Josie Morris was gone on a college visit, and sophomore Autumn Hunt also had to miss the meet. That meant Newton had to compete without three of its regular varsity members.
"With all of that, it was like, 'Wow,' Cardinals girls coach Mike Castings said. "And we didn't know about it until we got on the bus. Three varsity kids didn't run today, and we don't have the depth to cover that."
As a result, Newton's eighth-place finish was atypical of the success it's had this season. It took third at the Cardinal Invite and second at Knoxville last Tuesday.
"Weird meet," Castings said. "You have one every year, and today was our day to have an unusual meet."
Southeast Polk won the meet with 69 points, followed by Grinnell (74) and Winterset (82). Ballard freshman Abby Kohut-Jackson — ranked fifth in 3A — topped the field of 70 in a time of 15:55. Castings said a typical performance from Coen likely would have won the meet.
Newton was highlighted by yet another top 10 finish from senior Lexi DesPlanque, who finished seventh in 16:44. Sophomore Anna Barr was the Cards' next finisher at 35th in 18:18. Sophomores Amber Knight and Hailey Coy took 46th and 48th in 18:59 and 19:11, and freshman Amanda Laube was the team's fifth scorer at 57th in 20:02. Freshman Taylor Moon and senior Amanda Knight were 60th and 64th in 20:09 and 20:42.
With having low numbers Monday, the Cardinals had only three JV runners. Freshman Sara Cook placed 36th in 20 minutes flat, while junior Hailey Doland and sophomore Marisa Modlin finished in 20:23 and 20:52.
The Newton boys and girls are off until Monday's conference meet at Oskaloosa's Edmunson Park. It's onto the Class 4A state qualifying meet after that, which is held in Marshalltown on Oct. 18.
1, Pella 44; 2, Grinnell 65; 3, Newton 76; 4, Ballard 88; 5, Des Moines Lincoln 141; 6, Norwalk 167; 7, Carlisle 177; 8, Winterset 201; 9, Earlham 223.
2, Christian Laube 17:39; 4, Cooper McDermott 17:46; 13, Justin Simms 18:18; 21, Jacob Thomas 18:41; 36, Tom Miller 19:18; 37, Chase Dykstra 19:20; 38, Tanner Hull 19:21.
9, Cody Maxwell 19:36; 13, Daniel Maurer, 20:02; 15, Grant Osborn 20:42; 16, Jarret Horn, 20:48; 25, Alex Osborn 21:23; 26, Zach Theis, 21:29.
1, Southeast Polk 69; 2, Grinnell 74; 3, Winterset 82; 4, Pella 101; 5, Ballard 108; 6, Earlham 126; 7, Norwalk 173; 8, Newton 193; 9, Carlisle 254; 10, Des Moines North 294.
Newton results (out of 70 runners)
7, Lexi DesPlanque 16:44; 35, Anna Barr 18:18; 46, Amber Knight 18:59; 48, Hailey Coy 19:11; 57, Amanda Laube 20:02; 60, Taylor Moon 20:09; 64, Amanda Knight 20:42.
36, Sara Cook 20:00; 45, Haley Doland 20:23; 60, Marisa Modlin 20:52.