As the Prairie City-Monroe girls’ cross country team prepares to run in its first-ever state meet, the Mustangs are comfortable with who they are.
PCM coach Eric Karr doesn’t sugarcoat it. The Mustangs will not win the Class 2A state title on Saturday at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge. They may not even be a top 10 team when it’s all said and done.
That’s OK with Karr, who didn’t even have enough runners for a team score five years ago.
“We know we are not the best team in the state,” Karr said. “We aren’t going there thinking we’re going to win it. That’s just reality. I just ask my runners to do the best they can on that day. If we all run PRs, we could be better than 10th.”
The Mustangs enter the Iowa High School State Cross Country Championships as the 14th-ranked girls’ team in 2A. It’s the third time PCM has been ranked this season.
PCM spent two weeks in the rankings but dropped out when junior Paytan Schut was not available to run due to a rib injury.
Schut is back now though, and the Mustangs are running at their best at the most important time of the season. They proved that at the state qualifier last week when they finished third ahead of 14th-ranked GCGR.
“I honestly don’t think the girls are nervous at all,” Karr said. “We are comfortable with who we are and what we are capable of.”
Schut is the only Mustang who has experienced the state meet. She qualified as a freshman in 2015. But junior Kirstin Ives was better than a handful of ranked runners at the state qualifier and is now ranked 27th, senior Baylee Smith provides the team with experience and plenty of drive and juniors Klaire Jungling and Megan Townley are as consistent as they come.
“It’s a huge advantage for us that Paytan has run the course before,” Karr said. “Kirstin is not scared of anyone. She’s not intimidated. And Baylee has puked three times on the course this season and still managed to finish the race in a great position. So I don’t think any of the runners are worried about the stage they will run on.”
The Mustangs, who will start in the middle of the course in Box 9, qualified for the state meet with just six runners competing on the course at the state qualifier.
Senior Ellie Steenhoek missed the event because of an illness. She’ll be back in action Saturday and junior Morgan Uhlenhopp completes the seven-member roster.
Top-ranked Mid-Prairie won the state qualifier over No. 7 Williamsburg and PCM in Pella. The Golden Hawks’ roster includes top-ranked Marie Hostetler, fifth-ranked Anna Hostetler and 11th-ranked Anna Fleming. Mid-Prairie is the favorite to win the team title one year after finishing third in 2016.
Second-ranked Monticello returns after winning the 2016 title. Fifth-ranked Cascade is back after placing seventh last year, and No. 13 Emmetsburg, No. 9 Okoboji, No. 12 Unity Christian, No. 15 Aplington-Parkersburg and No. 8 Shenandoah all return for another shot at the team title.
Karr feels like the Mustangs can challenge some of the lower ranked teams for a top-10 finish. He thinks all of his runners can finish in under 22 minutes even though Ives was the only PCM runner to do that in the state qualifier.
“I think running in the 21s is possible,” Karr said. “I have us finishing 10th based solely on times at the state qualifiers. Those courses aren’t all the same though.”
If the Mustangs want to finish in the top 10, getting their times into the 21s will certainly help. Last year, PCM’s conference rival, Collins-Maxwell/Baxter, finished fifth in 2A at state and all five scoring runners crossed the finish line in less than 22 minutes.
The top three teams at state earn trophies and the top 15 individual finishers win medals. In the last two seasons in the girls’ 2A race, every runner who earned a medal completed the 5K course in less than 20 minutes. The first 16 runners both seasons were under that mark.
Schut finished 78th as a freshman in her first appearance at the state meet. Her time was clocked at 21:29.9.
“There will be some runners who panic, and we just don’t do that,” Karr said. “I think that will help us. We just need to run our race and see how it shakes out.”
The 2A girls begin their trek around Lakeside Municipal Golf Course at 1 p.m. The awards ceremony is scheduled to start at 2:20 p.m.
Contact Troy Hyde at 641-792-3121 ext. 6536 or email@example.com