MARSHALLTOWN — Grace Coen was happy, but disappointed following Thursday’s Class 4A state qualifying cross country meet. The Newton High junior qualified for her third consecutive 4A state cross country meet.
“I’m happy to be going to state,” Coen said after finishing fourth in the girls’ 4K race. “I was a little disappointed in my race. I strayed from my original plan (on running the race), which I tend to do. I probably should have stuck with it.”
Coen, who was ranked 14th in Class 4A going into the race, ran in the lead pack of runners throughout the course at Marshalltown Community College. She posted a time of 15 minutes, 17 seconds.
“I have trouble going slow on hills. I sprint up them, then when I get to the top I realize that was a bad idea. I should have run the final two hills differently,” Coen said. “I didn’t have the energy at the end for a strong kick to the finish.”
Coen is the lone state qualifier from Newton. Senior Justin Thomas came up one place shy of going to his first state meet. The top 10 individuals and the top three teams in each regional meet qualify for state.
“I was close. I finished 11th,” Thomas said. “Today, I realized this was it for me. I compete in cross country because I want to and it is fun. I love running. I really wanted this. Since it is my senior year, I figured to go for it and not holding anything back.”
Thomas attacked the 5K course on the MCC campus and ran a personal-best time of 16:30. He stayed up front with six of the top 15 ranked 4A runners. How close was he to qualifying? One second. Tyler Combs of Indianola took 10th in 16:29.
“I had an on-and-off year. I started off well after all the work I did over the summer, then I allow anxiety to get the best of me sometimes. I would have a good race, then a not-so-good race,” Thomas said. “Today, I’m tired, but I felt great running and I felt like me out there.”
Coen led the Cardinal girls to a sixth-place finish as a team. The Newton girls scored 186 points. Waukee took the regional title with 38 points followed by Linn-Mar with 68 and Southeast Polk with 89 points.
Thomas paced the Cardinal boys to seventh place in their division, scoring 215 points. Linn-Mar was the boys’ regional champion with 29 points followed by Cedar Rapids Prairie with 50 points and Waukee with 72 points.
“I thought our girls did real well today. We came in looking to get sixth and that’s where we finished,” said Rachelle Tipton, NHS girls’ head coach. “Grace was looking to win, but came up short of that. Looking at the big picture, she’s in (the state meet) and we’ll see what she can do next week.”
Coen said her plan for the Class 4A state race on Nov. 1 in Fort Dodge, is to run well enough to earn all-state honors.
“That’s tough to do because everyone is going for the same there and we’ve all been training all season for that opportunity at state,” Coen said. “But, it is a good goal to have.”
Seniors Hailey Coy, Anna Barr and Autumn Hunt concluded their Newton High careers at Thursday’s regional meet. Coy was the No. 2 runner for the Cardinal girls, placing 15th in 16:14. Hunt was 52nd in 18:12 and Barr came in 61st at 19:10.
“This was my best season ever,” Coy said. “I was happy with how I ran today. Overall, I accomplished my goal at (Little Hawkeye) conference, which was to run well enough to place high and earn all-conference honors. We were rally close as a team this year and it was a great season.”
“I enjoyed my senior year,” Barr said. “It was a fun season and the team has been amazing.”
“This season went really well. It was a lot better than all my other seasons,” Hunt said. “I’m really sad to to be leaving these girls. I’m excited we did so well, but sad the season is over. I am coming back to be the assistant coach for the next two years.”
Sophomore Ellie Horn ran No. 4 for the Newton girls, taking 56th in 18:18. Freshman Tessa Keeton was 59th in 18:35 and sophomore Michaella Cope placed 60th in 19:00.
“I set 15th as the goal for Hailey and she did that, finishing a very good senior season,” Tipton said. “The rest of the team competed where they needed to today.”
Newton’s boys have been fueled all season by Thomas and some ever-improving freshmen. Four freshmen followed Thomas across the regional finish line Thursday to score for the Cardinals.
Mikey Bradley placed 40th in 18:14 followed by Jack Callaghan in 50th at 18:44, Tyler Dafflitto in 56th at 19:20 and Dylan Main in 58th in 19:27. Junior Zach Theis was 60th in 19:32.
“It’s been a fun crew to work with and we’re so young,” said Tom Bartello, Newton boys’ head coach. “We’ve had four freshmen scoring in the top five for us in the varsity race, which is not typical for a 4A team. We’ve had some learning curves this year.”
Bartello said the Newton boys have worked through a season of injuries and illness. He said one of the Newton boys did not finish the regional race because of shin splints and a varsity runner called in ill Thursday morning.
“We talked strategy with Jacob before the race. He came so close today. He was doing everything right during the race. It came down to the final sprint and that’s a tough one against a lot of tough kids. Overall, we had a great day with a lot of personal-best times on a course we ran a few weeks ago. It was a good note to end the season on and we see the potential for next year.”
Coen is scheduled to run at 11 a.m. in the Class 4A girls’ 4K race at the Iowa High School State Cross Country Championships on Nov. 1. The state meet is held at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge.
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at 641-792-3121 Eet. 6535 or email@example.com.