MARSHALLTOWN — Grace Coen stuck to her plan and it paid off for her. The Newton sophomore locked up her second straight trip to the Iowa Class 4A state cross country competition.
“It’s exciting,” Coen said about qualifying for the state meet for the second year in a row.
Coen said her strategy for Thursday 4A district meet race was to stay behind the race leader throughout the 4K distance. She said she did that pretty well. About halfway through the race, Coen was stride-for-stride with the leader.
“I have trouble getting a kick at the end. I just need to work on overcoming the pain and pushing it for the last 400 meters,” Coen said.
Coen finished third in the district race on the Marshalltown Community College cross country course. She ran the 4K in 14 minutes, 54 seconds. The top three runners in the district are all sophomores. Amber Decker of Linn-Mar won the individual district title, edging out Elvse Prescott of Urbandale — 14:48 and 14:49. Freshman Sierra Mitchell of Southeast Polk was fourth in 15:12.
The top three teams and top 10 individuals advance to the Class 4A state cross country meet Nov. 2 in Fort Dodge.
Urbandale won the district team championship with 38 points. Linn-Mar was second with 51 points and Iowa City City High takes the third spot with 96 points. Newton finished seventh among the nine teams. The Cardinals had 171 points.
“This race shaped up pretty well for our girls. We had Grace, who is going on to state, and Hailey (Coy) had a pretty great personal-record time,” said Rachelle Tipton, Newton girls’ head coach. “The other girls ran right around where they’ve been all season so considering the weather (cold and breezy) today, it was pretty good the way they finished up.”
Tipton said the Marshalltown course is a little bit tougher than others the team has run on this season. She pointed to a hill near the end of the course, “which is not very steep but it is definitely long. The competition here was very fast so that makes it quick.”
Junior Hailey Coy was Newton’s No. 2 finisher on the day, completing the race in a personal-best time of 16:11 for 22nd. Autumn Hunt, a junior, finished 42nd in 17:16, followed by junior Anna Barr in 17:50 for 50th. Freshman Ellie Horn came in at 54th in 18:02 and freshman Jordyn Soule was 56th in 18:24, just ahead of junior Amber Knight in 57th at 18:26.
Tipton said she’s already looking forward to next year. The Cardinals had just one senior on the team this season. All the girls who competed at district on Thursday are expected to come back next fall.
“It’s a really good course. There’s lot of activeness around it and that’s fun. My goal is to get in the top 10 because that would be all-state,” Coen said of her trip to state on Nov. 2. “Right now, rankings show I’m around that. So, I just need to get my kick at the end then hopefully, my goal will pan out.”
“Grace is ahead of where she was last year going into state. She didn’t break under 15 minutes until state last year and she’s been under 15 minutes several times this year,” Tipton said. “She’s looking at improving on her 25th-place from last year.”