It was a windy day of good competition at the Mason City cross country meet, but it was all in good company.
Charles City girls kicked off the varsity competition with a 1-2-3 sweep. Freshman Kiki Connell finished at the top with a time of 20:38.2, junior Whitney Martin and sophomore Mackenzy Bilharz took the second and third spots with times of 20:39.8 and 21:41.5.
“I ran here over the summer,” Connell said. “I came to the NIACC distance academy. I kind of know this a little bit, I kind of knew the straightaways and stuff and it helped having Whitney because we’re so used to running together that it helps when the other person.”
“Just knowing that I have someone beside me and whenever I get down she pushes me and I push her and we just work together,” Martin said.
Besides each other, Connell, Martin and Bilharz express they have added motivation to run this year. It’s written on their calves, “Luft Tuff,” in honor of 15-year-old Logan Luft, who passed away after an ATV accident this summer.
“He ran up at NIACC distance academy, too,” Connell said. “So this really means a lot, ribbons, green hair ties.”
The Charles City girls placed first overall with five top-10 finishers.
“They work hard every day in practice and we set realistic goals, but aim high as well so it’s fun to see our hard work get noticed,” Head coach Amanda Rahmiller said.
On the heels of Bilharz was Mason City sophomore Hannah Thomas in fourth with a time of 21:46.8. She contributed her top finish to training on hills, making the flat course seem easier despite the wind.
“I felt like I was running a lot faster than I was, but it is what it is,” Thomas said. “Our team worked really well together, we each pushed each other, kind of at the same level, so I’m really proud of how we did today.”
The Mason City girls would claim second overall as a team behind Charles City, claiming three top-10 finishers.
“I was really pleased to see Hannah step up and be our top finisher like that,” head coach Tyler Ketelsen said. “She’s been coming along nicely all season and she’s looking a lot stronger, running a lot stronger and nice to see her hard work pay off tonight as the first finisher for Mason City.”
The Mason City boys edged out Charles City for second overall in the team standings behind Waverly-Shell Rock.
Junior Mason Deeter surprised the crowd with a third-place finish at 17:49.4, the top placing for the Comets.
“We’re a young team still kind of learning the 5K distance,” Charles City coach Ryan Rahmiller said. “I thought Mason Deeter had a gutsy race today. He’s kind of pushing his limits and seeing what he can do.”
Deeter edged out Mason City junior Michael Rowe and senior teammate Gavin Connell.
“I think I just had a mentally tough race,” Deeter said. “Came in hoping to stick with a fellow teammate and hoping to get a couple of Waverly kids…It was good, we’ve got some friendly competitiveness on the team between our top three, it was fun, we push each other.”
The comradery crossed team lines on the boys’ side as Mason City junior Michael Rowe edged out Charles City senior Gavin Connell for the fourth and fifth placings.
“I’ve been battling with Gavin every meet this year and it’s been fun,” Rowe said. “He’s a really nice guy, good to get him this time.”
Connell and Rowe met this summer at the Charles City Firecracker 5K through mutual friend and senior Mohawks runner Jack Phillips, whom took eighth overall. Rowe made it one of his goals going into the meet to beat Connell.
“Michael and I have been talking a lot and I’m like, ‘Hey you’ve got to beat me dude, you’ve got to beat me one of these races,’” Connell said. “This race he looked good throughout the whole thing and he really got me about the 2 mile and then took off. I knew he was going to get up there, so I thought it was cool to see.”
Connell has accepted the team aspect of cross country more over the years, as a senior, it’s now his main focus.
“Mason Deeter, honestly today, if I were talking a year ago I’d probably be disappointed,” Connell said. “But today I’m really happy he got me, good to see two underclassmen to step up and place high…why dwell on what I did when I can be excited for what my teammates have done? I really want to get my whole team to state, the past two years it’s been me along on the line and I’d like to see some underclassmen experience that state meet in Fort Dodge.”