COLFAX — Abbey McConeghey’s first high school cross country season was rather forgettable.
Battling an unknown illness, the Tigerhawk sophomore never really got on solid ground last season. With the Celiac disease now under control and properly cared for, McConeghey has put last year’s disappointing season in her rear view mirror.
One year after finishing 20th at the South Iowa Cedar League Cross Country Invitational, McConeghey is now a conference champion.
McConeghey turned in a personal-best time in winning the individual championship, and that effort set the tone for the rest of team as the Tigerhawks claimed their first SICL team championship.
Colfax-Mingo got a big boost from the bottom half of its lineup and edged Lynnville-Sully by a single point. The Tigerhawks scored 50 points and better a Hawk squad that put three runners in the top 10.
After two straight seasons in the runner-up position, the Colfax-Mingo girls are now on top of the SICL.
“We had lost to (Lynnville-Sully) every single meet this year, so we told the girls that everything had to break right for us to win,” Colfax-Mingo co-head coach Jacob Crouse said. “With it being one point, if just one of our kids doesn’t do what they did, we don’t win. I couldn’t be prouder of all of them. This was huge for us. This was a chance for us to show some hometown pride. We host this thing for awhile now so it’s good to win it at home.”
Belle Plaine, the defending SICL girls’ champion, was third but was 35 points back of Lynnville-Sully. Montezuma (99), Sigourney (115) and English Valleys (117) completed the field.
“The girls’ team knew that on their home course Colfax would give us their best shot,” Lynnville-Sully coach Darin Arkema said. “We had strong performances from all our girls, several of them significantly faster tonight than on this course in September. I give credit to the girls on Colfax-Mingo’s team and its coaches. They definitely had some people step up and perform their best of the season, and when it came down to it they were one point better than us.”
The top finisher on the boys’ side was Colfax-Mingo junior Cauy Fitch in 11th, and Lynnville-Sully senior Josh Dunsbergen in 12th. The Tigerhawks were fifth in the team race, and the Hawks placed sixth.
McConeghey won the girls’ 5K race in 20 minutes, 42.2 seconds, which was 30 seconds faster than any other race in her prep career. She got out front early and kept the pedal to medal against North Mahaska rival Cheyenne Shaw, who was 37 seconds back in second.
“It feels good. I thought it was going to be closer, but I guess I pushed myself harder tonight,” McConeghey said. “This year was much better than last year. What a difference a year makes.”
McConeghey was competing in her second race since returning from an injury. She left no doubt in her second SICL meet.
“We tried to get her to a mindset that none of the injury stuff can be an excuse,” Crouse said. “Her and Cheyenne have had some battles in cross country and track. Looking at her run today, there was never any doubt. She was focused, got out of the gates quick, didn’t let off the gas and closed the door early.”
Lynnville-Sully senior Mary Kate Shaver placed fourth to lead the Hawks. Shaver (22:10.6) joined McConeghey on the all-conference first team, which goes to runners in the top five. Teammates Abby Gruver (23:20.3) and Megan Van Zante (23:20.8) were both second-team all-conference runners, finishing seventh and eighth, respectively.
Shaver battled a hip injury throughout most of the race. She was still able to run in the top five.
“I tore my hip flexor last cross country season. It always hurts on hilly courses like this,” Shaver said. “I am really happy with fourth. It’s been a great season so far.”
Gruver, a sophomore, crossed the finish line in seventh for the second straight season.
Colfax-Mingo’s other two all-conference runners were both honorable mention selections, which are for the 11th- and 12th-place finishers.
Tigerhawk freshman Crystal Lincoln (23:58.6) was 11th, and junior Ilia Hostetter (24:08.5) finished 12th.
The difference for Colfax-Mingo came in the fourth and fifth runners. While the Hawks placed three in the top 10, the Tigerhawks were better in the back end.
Senior Danielle Decker (24:34.7) was 14th, and junior Delaney Underwood (25:03.4) had her best time of the season as the Tigerhawks’ final scoring runner.
Decker and Underwood were a smidge faster than Lynnville-Sully’s final two counting runners. Senior Christine Nikkel ended up 19th, and junior Emily Van Gorp was 22nd. Colfax-Mingo junior Colbee Cunningham finished 21st as the Tigerhawks’ sixth runner.
“Everyone has a role to play,” Crouse said. “Delaney ran her best time of the year, and that was huge for her. She hasn’t lived up to her expectations this year, but she was big tonight. We just rose to the occasion across the board.”
Arkema added, “It stings right now, knowing the opportunity was here, but in a week we get an opportunity to go up against them again, along with a lot of other good competition, so we’ll get focused on being ready for that race.”
The Belle Plaine boys placed three runners in the top six positions and won the team title by six points over Sigourney. Belle Plaine scored 46 to Sigourney’s 52. Montezuma was next with 73 followed by North Mahaska in fourth with 108.
“The conference was tough. A lot of teams showed up today in the boys’ race,” Crouse said.
“The boys’ team has been a work in progress the last couple of years. We keep getting better every year. We were last always for a while. We are getting over that hurdle and there is some optimism around that program.”
Belle Plaine’s Joe Eichhorn won the boys’ 5K race in 18:21.5.
Fitch and Dunsbergen claimed the two honorable mention all-conference spots. Fitch, who was 18th a year ago, finished 11th in 19:21.9. Dunsbergen was 29th last year but moved up 17 spots with a time of 19:22.9.
“The guys ran super tough led by our senior Josh who put himself in position early in the race to contend for an all-conference spot,” Arkema said.
Fitch had a goal of finishing in the top five, but he hasn’t practiced a lot in the last few weeks after joining the football team at the midpoint of the season.
“I think the lack of practice hurt me tonight,” Fitch said.
Dunsbergen knows he is improving. He came into the meet with the hopes of a top-10 finish though.
“Today was definitely my best time for a hilly course,” Dunsbergen said. “It was an improvement. Given the course, this time has to be close to my best time. I’d like to see myself in the top 10. I was close.”
South Iowa Cedar League Invitational
1. Abbey McConeghey, 20:42.2; 11. Crystal Lincoln, 23:58.6; 12. Ilia Hostetter, 24:08.5; 14. Danielle Decker, 24:34.7; 18. Delaney Underwood, 25:03.4; 21. Colbee Cunningham, 25:33.9; 27. Daytin Chadwick, 26:08.9.
4. Mary Kate Shaver, 22:10.6; 7. Abby Gruver, 23:20.3; 8. Megan Van Zante, 23:20.8; 19. Christine Nikkel, 25:20.8; 22. Emily Van Gorp, 25:38; 24. Abigail Davis, 25:52.3; 26. Haley Breeden, 26:01.8;
11. Cauy Fitch, 19:21.9; 23. Cyden Fitch, 20:54.6; 25. Michael Loney, 21:03.6; 30. Noah Strohmeyer, 21:30.7; 42. Jacob Frier, 22:53.2; 46. Nathan Evans, 23:16; 47. Jarod Nichols, 23:26.1.
12. Josh Dunsbergen, 19:22.9; 20. Joseph Anderson, 20:38.8; 21. Mason Jansen, 20:39.7; 35. Blaize Kuhlmann, 21:46.6; 50. Luke Kramer, 24:10.1.