Wikipedia describes a mustang as a “free-roaming horse that is very hardy and a living symbol of the pioneer spirit of the West.” The Prairie City-Monroe cross country team will certainly attempt to channel its inner-mustang when the season begins this August.
The Mustangs were well represented at the state track championships in May, and they are hoping that success on the track will translate to some longer distance races this Fall. The success of some of the athletes on the track will no doubt translate to the distance events, but what is probably most remarkable about the program is its growth. The year prior to head coach Eric Karr taking over the program, there were seven distance runners for the Mustangs. Last year, that number grew to 17, and this year Karr is expecting around 30.
“That's been the biggest thing as far as I'm concerned,” Karr said of the program's growth. “The time I've spent at the middle school teaching has allowed me to build some interest in the program. It's all about having fun and interacting with the kids, and with the athletes PCM has, there's no reason we can't turn an appearance at state a yearly tradition.”
That state tradition is something Karr hopes to start this season. Among the strongest returning runners for the Mustangs is junior Rachel Peter. Peter was one of the best 4,000-meter runners in the Heart of Iowa Conference last season, and her year was capped off by a 37th-place finish at the HOI championships. Her time of 18 minutes, 28.91 seconds in the 4,000 was tops on the team, more than three minutes ahead of teammate Jenna Little and more than four minutes faster than Hannanh Vignovich, both seniors last year.
“Rachel is one of my strongest runners,” Karr said of Peter. “She had a lot of success in the spring on the track, and she's come in running very well.”
For the boys, senior Matt Chizek may be one of the runners who benefited from a strong spring season on the track, running in the Class 2A district championships in May. Chizek is the fastest returning runner for the team, and he was less than 20 seconds behind last year’s senior runner Rhett Gainey in the 5,000-meter run at the North Polk Invitational. Gainey and Chizek finished 15th and 25th at the HOI championships, respectively.
“He probably going to be my number one runner,” Karr said of Chizek. “He put in a lot of time this summer working, and I'm expecting him to do very well for us this fall.”
The Mustangs will kick off their season on Sept. 7 at Central College in Pella.