FORT DODGE — Prairie City-Monroe senior Ellie Steenhoek thanked her teammates after the Class 2A girls’ 5K race was completed at the Iowa High School State Cross Country Championships at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course on Saturday.
Steenhoek was under the weather for last week’s state qualifier and was not able to help her team qualify for their first-ever state meet.
She was definitely appreciative, but not surprised, her teammates came through in the clutch.
“It was an amazing experience. I can’t explain it,” Steenhoek said. “If it weren’t for my teammates, I wouldn’t even have had the chance to run here in my senior year. It’s incredible.”
It wasn’t the best day for the Mustangs as far as the team standings go, but PCM’s five underclassmen gained valuable experience for 2018 and the team enjoyed one final race together.
PCM came in ranked 14th in 2A and finished 15th overall in the 15-team field.
Led by junior Kirstin Ives’ 62nd-place finish, the Mustangs scored 356 points. They trailed 14th place and 15th-ranked Aplington-Parkersburg by 38 points.
“I thought we looked good physically. They ran well and stayed in the pack,” PCM coach Eric Karr said. “They did what I wanted them to do, believed in themselves and didn’t worry about the weather. They just went and ran how they should.”
Top-ranked Mid-Prairie won its first state team title with 65 points, edging second-ranked Monticello by seven points.
Mid-Prairie sophomore and top-ranked Marie Hostetler won the individual title with an Iowa girls all-time best 5K time of 17 minutes, 51.2 seconds. Hostetler was the runner-up last year. Her older sister, senior and fifth-ranked Anna Hostetler won the title a year ago and was second on Saturday with a time of 18:06. The Golden Hawks had three finishers in the top 10.
Ives was the top finisher for PCM. Her 62nd place finish was clocked at 21:33.4.
“I think we ran really well. Baylee (Smith) and Paytan (Schut) were ahead of me for a while, and then Baylee didn’t fall too far back,” Ives said. “So I think the girls all ran well. It’s just a tough race.”
Smith was the next finisher for the Mustangs. She ended up 85th with a time of 22:00.4. Smith ran as a Mustang cross country runner for the final time on Saturday.
“It was a very surreal experience. This was my last race. I can’t believe that,” Smith said.
Schut was the only Mustang runner who had ran at the state meet prior to Saturday. She qualified as a freshman in 2015. Her second state meet ended with a 112th place finish.
Sophomore Klaire Jungling was one position better in 111th, but both runners finished with the same exact time of 22:50.7.
“It was definitely better to be here with my team because I basically ran with Klaire the whole time,” Schut said. “It felt really nice to not be alone this time. It was mentally better.”
Jungling felt satisfied with the Mustangs’ season that included a strong finish at the conference meet, three team titles and their first-ever state meet appearance.
“It feels really good. We went into the season with this goal,” Jungling said. ‘It wasn’t easy, but we kept the mindset and was able to get here.”
The fifth and final counting runner for the Mustangs was junior Megan Townley, who placed 117th with a time of 23:09.2
Steenhoek ran a personal-best time of 24:35.5 and finished 127th. Junior Morgan Uhlenhopp was five positions back in 132nd, and she finished with a time of 25:14.8.
“It was a fast race. I got a PR, and I was still very far back in the pack,” Steenhoek said.
The overall experience running with more than 150 runners at one time was difficult at times for the Mustangs. Ives was able to stick her normal routine but was too close for comfort a few times, too.
“It was crazy. There are so many girls here.” Ives said. “I have never experienced this before. It was scary. I was getting elbowed a lot. But once we got to the hills, I was able to pass several runners. I like that part of the courses.”
Third-ranked Woodbury Central-KP was behind Mid-Prairie and Monticello in the team standings with 103 points. Fourth-ranked Crestwood placed fourth with 131 points, and fifth-ranked Cascade finished fifth with 165 points.