“Sometimes, teams go into the state meet just happy to be there, but hopefully our girls will be mentally prepared to leave it all out on the course. If everyone runs their absolute best, we could surprise some teams." - AC/GC head coach Colin Shawgo
You’d be hard pressed to find another school as experienced as AC/GC in Saturday’s 1A pool.
Not many can lay claim to an athlete making her third straight appearance at the state meet, and that’s before mentioning her 2016 state title.
The last two 1A state champions will be in action Saturday, as Springville-Central’s Emily Stall is back to defend her 2017 title. Hudson is ranked sixth as a team and is poised to make a run at defending their state championship. Last year’s runner-up, Panorama, is up in 2A this year but Kee (3rd) and Logan-Magnolia (4th) both return, bringing with them a slew of talented runners.
The girls’ 1A state action will get underway at 2 p.m. Saturday at Lakeside Golf Course outside of Fort Dodge, following the 2A boys’ race. The 1A boys’ race will follow at 2:30 p.m., the final competition of the day.
Crawford and the Chargers cemented their return to the state meet after a one-year hiatus by placing third at the Guthrie Center-hosted qualifying meet Oct. 18. They earned some state-wide notoriety by placing three in the top 25 last week, highlighted by Crawford’s bronze medal, with a time of 21:07.
Lauryn Embleton placed 18th with a time of 23:12 while Rylee Sloss came in 21st, running to a time of 23:30.
“A lot of it comes down to a lot of hard work,” AC/GC head coach Colin Shawgo said. “The girls have put in a lot of time the past year to get back to the state meet, and it has paid off. They work together, and for each other, and that has led to a lot of success for everybody on the team.”
The Chargers scored 108 points in a tightly-contested race for the top three, as Tri-Center edged AC/GC with 99 points while ninth-ranked Earlham captured the team title with 86 points. AC/GC’s Keely Vasey placed 40th while Alyson Embleton came in 43rd to give the Chargers four athletes inside the top 50.
Tri-Center’s Peyton Pogge, the top-ranked runner in 1A, cruised to the state qualifying meet title with a time of 19:56, the best qualifying time in the state and nearly a minute ahead of Bedford’s Emma Lucas, ranked fourth in 1A (20:41). Nodaway Valley’s Reagan Weinheimer came in fourth (21:30) while Riverside’s Alexis Post (ranked 15th), rounded out the top five with a time of 21:45. Lucas finished runner-up at state a year ago while Pogge was fourth. Post was 14th. The entire top four individuals from last year’s state meet return (Staal, Lucas, Crawford, and Pogge).
Shawgo envisions his Chargers making a strong push Saturday, with a couple caveats, of course. They have to begin the meet with the right focus.
“I believe that the girls team could be a top 10 team at the state meet, but that will require us to enter the meet healthy and mentally tough,” the coach said. “Sometimes, teams go into the state meet just happy to be there, but hopefully our girls will be mentally prepared to leave it all out on the course. If everyone runs their absolute best, we could surprise some teams.”
Crawford’s qualifying time was the 16th best among the 1A pool. The junior hopes to continue her streak of placing top three in the state and with an eye on returning to her 2016 championship form. To do that, she can’t rely solely on talent, she has to be clean in all facets of the meet. With that, her natural abilities typically give her a good chance at placing high, Shawgo said.
“Kate will need to make sure she has a solid strategy in place for this weekend, and a total buy in to that strategy, for her to win it,” the coach said. “We both believe she has the talent and fitness to do it, but she has to race a great strategy to get the championship again. The competition gets tougher year-to-year, but she will always have a shot at it since she is such a good natural runner.”
Fourteen of Saturday’s runners finished under 20 minutes during Thursday’s state-qualifying, which should pose a formidable test for the Chargers.
They’ll square off against Denver, who placed seventh a year ago, St. Edmond (8th), Marquette Catholic (12th), North Linn, East Marshall, Tri-Center, Earlham and Ridge View.