AMES — One race is the length of Newton High Grace Coen’s senior cross country season. A leg injury had kept the three-time state meet qualifier on the sidelines watching the Cardinal girls throughout the 2015 regular season.
Coen tried to run in two late-season races, but could not finish the events. She didn’t even defend her Little Hawkeye Conference championship because during warmups her leg still bothered her.
Not so Thursday at the 2015 Class 3A state qualifying cross country meet. Coen ran her first 5K distance over the Iowa State cross country course and became a four-time state qualifier. Coen ran the race in 20 minutes, 26 seconds for sixth place.
Coen goes to state with a teammate for the first time as freshman Rachel Rhoads ran seventh in the qualifier. Rhoads, who has been leading the Newton girls all season, posted a time of 20:33.
Newton’s boys did not have a state qualifier. Their top finisher was sophomore Jack Callaghan in 29th place, running the 5K race in 18:10. 06.
It is the first time Newton has qualified two individuals to state in the same year. According to NHS girls’ head coach Rachelle Tipton, Newton had qualified one girl a season or as a team in 2005.
“It’s nice to be going to state for the fourth straight year, but I wish I had a good season to back this up,” Coen said. “I’m happy to have had the opportunity to run today and have the chance to go back to state. I’m excited to be going to state with Rachel. It will be nice to run with her there.”
For Rhoads, her first high school cross country season will end with a state meet run. She said she didn’t expect the type of season she had.
“I was excited to make the varsity. It has been a great season, and it’s exciting to be able to go to state,” Rhoads said. “Today’s race was harder than some of the others this season. It was a really nice course and we had a great day to run. Our whole team did well.”
Newton came within an eyelash of qualifying the entire girls team Thursday. The Cardinal girls tied for third with Ballard with 109 points. The top three teams advance to the 3A state meet. To break the tie, meet officials go to the teams’ No. 6 runner to see who placed higher.
“Ballard’s girl was 34th and ours was 49th. Any one of our girls beating just one more runner gets is a lower score,” Tipton said. “I wasn’t at the finish line, but I had people from our team and other coaches telling me Grace was really fifth. If that was right, we would have had a lower score. I had to go to the meet officials and try to sort it out.”
Tipton said reports were Coen had fallen to the ground right after crossing the finish line, and a Carlisle girl finished and went on up the chute ahead of Coen. Runners did not run with electronic chips nor was there a finish-line video camera at the state qualifier.
“With no proof, there wasn’t anything the meet officials could do,” Tipton said following a length post-race meeting with officials. “It’s tough because the girls did exactly what I asked them to do. We knew we could be a third-place team if we executed well during the race, which meant to beat as many of the Ballard and Grinnell runners as possible.”
Pella won both the girls’ and the boys’ state qualifier team titles.
The fourth-ranked Pella boys scored 53 points to defeat No. 2 Grinnell (57 points) and No. 7 Gilbert (95). Newton was 11th as a team with 289 points. The No. 7 Pella girls had 58 points for the team win followed by No. 3 Gilbert with 80, and then 10th-ranked Ballard and Newton at 109 each.
Top-ranked Abby Kohut-Jackson of Ballard won the 3A girls’ qualifier championship in a time of 19:27. Pella’s Adam Sievers, who was ranked No. 5, won the boys’ race in 16:50.
Rhoads went into the meet ranked 28th in Class 3A. Coen was edged out of fifth place by fifth-ranked Megan Sievers of Carlisle in 20:25.
Newton’s freshman Caelyn Briley finished 27th in 21:59 followed by sophomore Tessa Keeton in 31st at 22:16. Freshman Abbie Barr placed 38th in 22:42. Juniors Ellie Horn and Katherine Thorpe finished 49th and 74th, respectively, in 23:25 and 24:54.
The Newton boys had two seniors conclude their careers at the state qualifying meet. Zach Theis was 84th in 21:22.57 and Chase Dykstra finished 89th in 22:06.28.
“I had a pretty good final race. As a team and as individuals today, we got some personal-best times,” Theis said. “I had a good season, running varsity most of the season. The best part of the season was I was able to make new friends and we had a pretty good team bond.”
Dykstra sat on the ground with an ice pack on his right knee following Thursday’s race.
“It was a lot of fun this season, even with all the struggle I’ve had to go through to be able to come out and run. Running with Zach was nice to have another senior and a good friend on the course with me,” Dykstra said. “It was all worth it, even if I ended up hurting myself today.”
Junior Noah Sander was 60th in 19:33. Sophomore Dylan Main and freshman Adam Hunter were 65th and 66th, respectively, in 19:39.45 and 19:40.02. Sophomore Brad Portner placed 69th in 19:54.16.
NHS boys’ head coach Steve Weeks concluded his first season coaching the Cardinals. He said the team almost doubled in size from the beginning of practices to the end of the season.
“We had a great season. We were able to drop times though out the year. It’s tough to end the season on a tough course like this. The rolling hills on the back side of the course eat up a chunk of time and might have been discouraging to the boys,” Weeks said. “I’m proud of the boys and how they competed all season.”
Coen and Rhoads will run in the Class 3A girls’ race at noon Oct. 31 in the Iowa State Cross Country Championship meet. The state meet is held at the Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge.
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at 641-792-3121 ext. 6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org