Runners on the Baxter cross country team will be competing at the Iowa High School State Cross Country Championships for the first time as Bolts on Saturday.
But the 5K course at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge won’t be foreign to many of the runners.
Four runners from last year’s Collins-Maxwell/Baxter’s girls’ team which placed fifth in Class 2A are back for an encore performance. Junior Ian Thomson and sophomore Logan Berg also return in 2017 one year after representing the Raiders at last year’s state meet.
“I think with most of our runners having competed there last year, we could have an advantage,” Baxter coach Dennis Vaughn said. “They have run the course. They know the hype and anticipation that goes in it. It can definitely be overwhelming.”
The girls’ team welcomes back senior Ashlee Johnson, juniors Brenna Thomson and Lauren Ratliff and sophomore Holly Jessen from last year’s CMB state team.
The rest of the Baxter roster includes freshman Kailee Conradi, sophomore Bryn Schultheis and junior Piper Larson.
Expectations at the start of the season for the Bolts were to walk out onto the podium with a top-three finish. They started the season ranked sixth but slowly fell out of the rankings partly because of injuries. The Bolts jumped back into the rankings at No. 14 this week.
Because of the unfortunate injuries that plagued a few members of his team, Vaughn is unsure where his team sits among the rest of the field heading into this weekend.
“We haven’t talked about goals yet,” Vaughn said. “Lauren is healthy, but she’s only been back a few weeks and is still working on her conditioning. Kailee is battling shin splints right now, too. I look for the girls to still do well. My gut says somewhere between five and 10, but I hope we can still crack the top three. It’s just hard for me to expect a lot with so many unknowns.”
The top three teams at state earn trophies. The top 15 individual finishers bring home medals. The Baxter girls will start out of Box 1, and then Ian Thomson and Berg will begi their race in Box 2.
Individually, Brenna Thomson comes into the state meet ranked 28th. She was 29th at state a year ago in 2A with a time of 20:28.7. That time would have placed her 14th in 1A.
Ratliff wasn’t too far behind Thomson, placing 39th at state a year ago. Her time of 20:42.6 would have placed her 21st in 1A.
Brenna Thomson’s twin brother Ian also should be in the mix for an individual medal. He was 38th in 2A last year with a time of 17:32.2. That time would have been good enough for 29th in 1A.
“Brenna has a chance to medal for sure,” Vaughn said. “She should be in the mix for it. Ian and Logan should both be ranked in my opinion. All three runners and the others who ran there last year know what to expect. There is no replacement for being there and running the course with the other runners.”
Berg was 85th in 2A in his first state meet last year as a freshman. He finished in 18:15.6, which would have placed him 75th in 1A. His time in the state qualifier last week was much better at 17:48.
Vaughn believes getting out to fast starts will help all of his runners Saturday in a meet that includes more than 100 runners in each race.
“The boys were already talking about not going out too slow the other day,” Vaughn said. “You can’t go around people very well, and if you don’t get out well, you could get boxed in.”
In the girls’ team race, Baxter will have to jump four teams to get into the top 10. Defending champion Central Elkader comes in at No. 2 in the rankings. Hudson is the top-ranked school after losing to Central Elkader by 47 points at last year’s state meet.
Pekin was third at state last year but dropped to 12th in the final rankings. Kee is ranked third after not making the field a year ago.
Vaughn said he was very impressed with fourth-ranked Panorama at the Bolts’ state qualifier in Mount Ayr. The Panthers placed all five of their scoring runners in the first 11 positions and bested runner-up Baxter by 68 points. Panorama was 10th at state in 1A last year.
The Baxter girls hit the 5K course at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course at 2 p.m. Ian Thomson and Berg begin their trek at 2:30 p.m. The 1A awards kick off at 3 p.m.
Contact Troy Hyde at 641-792-3121 ext. 6536 or email@example.com