OSKALOOSA — Grace Coen has only been enrolled at Newton Senior High School for a couple months, but she can already call herself a conference champion.
She earned that right Monday evening in Oskaloosa, where she cruised to a victory at the Little Hawkeye Conference meet. It was her eighth win of the season in nine races.
It led the Cardinal girls varsity to a third-place finish out of six teams in the final regular season meet of the season. Grinnell won the meet with 40 points, Pella was second with 50 and Newton was 28 points back with 68.
Coen had about a 50-yard lead on Pella senior a third of the way into the 2k race, and blew away the field from there. By the time Coen reached the home stretch, that lead was at 200 yards.
"I was going to stay with them the first mile, and then down the hill I was going to kick it in," said Coen, who won in 15 minutes and 18 seconds. "I tried to stay the same pace as my kick the rest of the race. I was happy with it."
The meet was held at Oskaloosa's Edmunson Park, which has a layout similar to Newton's Maytag Park. The course wound through a disc golf course, around trees on a breezy day with temperatures right around 60 degrees.
The only issue Coen had to deal with was a unique inconvenience caused by the wind. "She said the biggest problem in the race was that the wind blew the fumes from the Gator back in her face," Cardinals girls coach Mike Castings said. "She ran extremely well."
The meet was a bounce-back one for the Newton girls, who took a disappointing eighth out of 10 at Norwalk a week earlier when Coen was out with the flu. The host Warriors finished 20 points ahead of the Cards in that meet. On Tuesday, Newton beat Norwalk by 48.
Another highlight for the Newton girls was in senior Lexi DesPlanque, who improved on her eighth-place conference finish last year to take fifth in 16:07. She very nearly took fourth, but was passed in the final few yards. Nevertheless, she earned all-conference honors for a second-straight season.
Sophomore Hailey Coy's race also was a positive for Newton, as she took 19th in 17:41 to give the Cards three girls in the top 20.
"Hailey's been a great fill-in for us this year," Castings said. "We're going to need her next year. She's one of those kids that we'll build with."
Newton's other two varsity scorers weren't far behind, as sophomores Anna Barr and Amber Knight took 21st and 22nd in 17:48 and 17:49. Sophomore Autumn Hunt took 28th in 18:06 and freshman Sarah Cook was 39th in 19:50. On JV, senior Josie Thurmond took 10th place in an even 18 minutes.
Up next for Newton is the Class 4A district/state qualifying meet on Thursday, Oct. 18 in Marshalltown, where the top three teams and top 10 invididuals — whether they are on a top-3 team or not — qualify for the state meet.
As dominant of a season Coen has had, she'll still have her work cut out for her at Marshalltown. The district meet will include five of the current top-30 runners in 4A.
"Grace has a shot and Lexi has an outside shot," Castings said. "It'll be tough to get through that 4A district. The state wasn't kind by not separating cross country into a fifth class, or we'd be a lock. That's just the way it is."
DesPlanque placed 20th at districts last year.
Whereas Monday's meet was a bounce-back one for the Newton girls, it was a step-back meet for the boys.
The Cardinals entered the meet with aspirations of placing in the top 3, but ended up in fifth behind two teams — Knoxville and Oskaloosa — that they had defeated earlier this season. They finished only nine points behind third. Class 3A No. 3 Pella won the meet with 33 points, followed by Grinnell (66), Knoxville (87), Oskaloosa (96) and Newton (96).
"We didn't do as well as we would've liked," Cardinals boys coach John Bartello said. "We figured we'd be third because we've beaten Knoxville and Osky quite a bit. We just didn't do it."
Newton had been closing in on Grinnell all season, finishing just 11 points behind it last week at Norwalk. For the Tigers to beat the Cardinals by 30 points Monday was unexpected.
"Our goal was to beat Grinnell and be second in the conference," sophoore Christian Laube said. "We've been close to them. For some reason, today just wasn't our day."
While it may not have been Newton's day as a team, Laube and freshman teammate Cooper McDermott had strong individual performances. They finished at nearly the same exact time, with Laube taking seventh place and barely edging out McDermott by one second. McDermott trailed Laube by about 20 yards with 50 yards to go, and just about caught him at the finish. Laube finished in 17:04 and McDermott in 17:05. Both earned all-conference honors.
"I didn't know it was him (McDermott)," Laube said. "I thought it was Spencer (DeJong) from Oskaloosa because I kept hearing people saying his name. "I didn't know it was Cooper until he passed me right after I finished. We feel pretty good about that."
For Laube, seventh place was a significant improvement from taking 16th at last year's conference meet.
The rest of Newton's underclassmen-led scoring varsity included sophomore Justin Simms taking 22nd in 18:28, sophomore Jacob Thomas taking 28th in 18:42 and freshman Chase Dykstra finishing 31st in 19:01. Seniors Tom Miller and Tanner Hull took 32nd and 39th in 19:03 and 19:56.
At districts next Thursday, Laube looks to improve upon his 35th-place showing last year. He and McDermott both figure to have an outside chance of grabbing one of the 10 state qualfying spots. "I hope to be in the top 20 this year," Laube said. "I want to be up there. I feel like I'm a lot faster this year than last year."
Newton boys coach John Bartello is even more optimistic.
"I think they both have the potential to be in the top 10," he said.
Monday's middle school meet was a big success for the Cardinal boys, who claimed the Little Hawkeye Conference championship. They won with 53 points — six ahead of Norwalk.
Newton was led by dominant race by eighth-grader Brennan Dodd, who won the meet in 11:14 — a 30-second margin. Seventh-grader Mikey Bradley placed ninth as the Cards had eight runners finish in the top 25.
Team scores 1, Pella 33; 2, Grinnell 66; 3, Knoxville 87; 4, Oskaloosa 95; 5, Newton 96; 6, Norwalk 162; 7, Pella Christian 185.
Newton varsity (Out of 47 runners. Top 15 medal) 7, Christian Laube 17:04; 8, Cooper McDermott 17:05; 22, Justin Simms 18:28; 28, Jacob Thomas 18:42; 31, Chase Dykstra 19:01; 32, Tom Miller 19:03; 39, Tanner Hull 19:56.
Newton JV 40, Grant Osborn 20:21; 41, Alex Osborn 20:24; 48, Jarret Horn, 20:38; 89, Zach Theis, 22:26.
Newton middle school 1, Brennan Dodd 11:14; 9, Mikey Bradley 12:30; 12, Justin Fischer 12:33; 15, Gage Bakalar 12:41; 16, Grant Dunsbergen 12:41; 22, Joe Stammeyer 13:10; 23, Josh Ventling 13:13; 25, Spencer Elbert 13:16, 27, Hunter Hartgrave 13:19; 36, Clay Trotter 13:40; 40, Keith Steinbach 13:49; 48, Chad Nolin 14:15; 55, Dylan Easley 14:30; 57, Nate Vanzee 14:38; 66, Tyler Dafflitto 15:11; 82, Preston Sherwood 16:45; 86, Nick Versteeg 17:51; 89, Reid Miller 19:25; 90, Jesse Sinclair 20:05.
Team scores 1, Grinnell 40; 2,Pella 50, 3, Newton 68; 4, Norwalk 116; 5, Oskaloosa 120; 6, Knoxville 142. Newton varsity results (Out of 44 runners. Top 15 medal) 1, Grace Coen 15:18; 5, Lexi DesPlanque 16:07; 19, Hailey Coy 17:41; 21, Anna Barr 17:48; 22, Amber Knight 17:49; 28, Autumn Hunt 18:06; 39, Sara Cook 19:50.
Newton JV 10, Josie Thurmond 18:00; 11, Amanda Laube 18:15; 32, Taylor Moon 19:36; 33, Haley Doland 19:38; 36, Katelyn McCarey 19:43; 43, Marisa Modlin 20:03.
Newton middle school 12, Ellie Horn 13:47; 20, Michaella Cope 14:10; 27, Megan Van Dalen 14:37; 34, Lane Dethrow 14:52; 38, Madison Mann 15:02; 39, Jordyn Soule 15:05; 48, Marcelina Marvelli 16:10; 57, Jensen Pauley 16:46; 71, Sarah Prendergast 17:58; 79, Abbey Hunt 19:09; 80, Tory Church 19:09.