Look around North Iowa and there was no doubt who the best girls cross country runners were. They piled up a few wins along the way and showed out at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge.
This year's Globe Gazette all-area girls cross country team has a couple of medalists from the state meet, standout underclassmen, a couple of juniors and a trifecta of seniors that paved the way for the runners behind them.
And it is, top to bottom, one of the deepest teams the Globe has put together.
Katelyn Johnston, Osage, junior
Johnston's running career was hindered by no track season her freshman year due to COVID-19 and that made her play catch up as a sophomore. Her talent was on full display this fall.
She garnered her first career state medal, placing third in the Class 2A field in 18 minutes, 51.04 seconds. She also was the Top of Iowa Conference champion and won the state qualifier in Dike.
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Johnston ended her year with seven victories.
Addison Doughan, Clear Lake, freshman
Doughan was one to keep an eye from the middle school ranks and her first year running 5,000-meter races was filled with top-five finishes.
She was consistently in the front pack in every race up until she won the North Central Conference meet and the Class 2A state qualifier at Southeast Valley that preluded a fourth place finish at Fort Dodge in the 2A state meet.
Doughan broke the school record at the Steve Johnson/Dan Huston Invitational on Oct. 2 at Wartburg. She proceeded to reset her record a couple more times after that.
Lili Nelson, Forest City, junior
A back-to-back state qualifier, Nelson improved on her 81st place performance in 2020 with a 46th place time of 20:48.20. She was in 15th at the mile marker.
Still, it was a memorable year for the Indians top runner. Nelson won twice – at the Belmond Invite in September and her home meet in October – as well finishing inside the top-5 at the Top of Iowa Conference meet and crossing the line in eighth at the 2A state qualifier.
Nelson has one more season to aim for her first career state medal.
Katelyn Knoll, Garner-Hayfield-Ventura, sophomore
Needing to replace top runner Abby Christians, Knoll stepped right in and didn't miss a beat. She returned to the 2A state meet and despite finishing nine places higher than last year, her time dropped by 34 seconds.
She had to squeak her way into Fort Dodge by placing 14th at the state qualifier in Dike, but that was one of the few close calls she experienced this season.
Knoll ran sixth at the Top of Iowa Conference meet for her second straight first team all-conference season. Outside of her last two meets, she finished worse than 10th just once.
Maggie McBride, Newman Catholic, senior
McBride has been a staple in the Knights varsity lineup since her sophomore year. Over the last two years, she has been their top runner on back-to-back state qualifying seasons.
She departs with a pair of top-65 finishes in the Class 1A state meet, two straight first team all-conference performances and back-to-back state qualifiers where she finished top-10.
McBride ran her best time at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in October, a 21:52.59 is a seven second PR from 2020.
Janae Hansen, Mason City, freshman
Talk about a late-bloomer. Hansen was not viewed as a state meet qualifier until the last three weeks of the season when she exploded out of the gate and re-wrote the Mason City record books.
At the CIML-Iowa meet in Ankeny, Hansen ran a new lifetime best of 20:07-flat to set the new school record and nab all-conference honors. The following weeks at the 4A state qualifier in Marshalltown, she placed 12th in 20:10.6.
Hansen was the lone Mason City runner in the 4A state field, where she ran a time of 20:34 to finish 75th. She passed 23 runners in the final 1.1 miles.
Reese Brownlee, Clear Lake, freshman
The Lions had the best 1-2 duo in North Iowa with Doughan and Brownlee this season and the latter got some hardware to start her high school collection.
Brownlee put together a first-team all-conference season in which she rarely finished below 25th place and ran her best at the end of the campaign with finishes of sixth, fifth and 23rd in her final three races of the season.
In the final 1.1 miles of the 2A state meet, Brownlee worked her way up to the top-25 by passing 26 runners to close in 20:19.84. She is second behind her classmate and friend in fastest times recorded by a Clear Lake girls runner.
Kenna Hemann, Newman Catholic, sophomore
When the midway point of the season hits, Hemann shines her brightest. It was that way as a freshman, it was repeated in 2021.
The Knights found their No. 2 runner in Hemann as the season progressed as she began to rack up respectable finishes, culminating in a ninth-place showing at the Top of Iowa Conference meet and a 10th-place performance at the Class 1A state qualifier.
She ran neck-and-neck with McBride at the state meet and finished just two places and two seconds behind her teammate. Hemann is expected to take on the No. 1 role for Newman Catholic next fall.
Kacie Eisentrager, West Fork, senior
A stalwart in the Warhawks lineup in her four years, Eisentrager ended her career as a four-time first team all-conference runner and a three-time state qualifier as an individual.
She finished inside the top-100 in each trip to the Class 1A state meet, her highest finish being 77th in 2020, which also was her fastest time in each trip at 22:15
Eisentrager won her home meet this season.
Lydia Staudt, Charles City, senior
Staudt played second fiddle behind star Kiki Connell for three years, but took on the responsibility of the Comets top runner and thrived.
She ended her prep career as a four time first-team all-Northeast Iowa Conference member, a three-time state qualifier and each time she ran at Fort Dodge, she finished 60th or higher.
Staudt beat several state qualifiers this season and snared the last spot in the 3A state meet by beating Iowa track and field recruit Audrey Biermann from Western Dubuque.
Zach Martin is a sports reporter for the Globe Gazette. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @zach_martin95.