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Kiki Connell medalist again, Comet girls 13th at state

Kiki Connell medalist again, Comet girls 13th at state
Press photo by John Burbridge
Charles City junior Kiki Connell, right, receives her medal for placing eighth in the Class 3A girls race as Waverly-Shell Rock’s Emma Hoins, who placed ninth, looks on.

By John Burbridge

FORT DODGE — If you’re a baseball player, you want to play into October.

If you’re a pro golfer, you want to play on Sunday.

If you’re a cross country runner competing at the State Championships, you want to end up on the balcony of the Lakeside Golf Course clubhouse.

That’s where they honor the top three teams and top 15 individual placers after every race.

Charles City’s Kiki Connell had the distinction of getting to the balcony her freshman season after placing sixth in the Class 3A Girls 5K race.

Though Connell qualified as an individual and as a member of the Comets last season, she wasn’t invited again after placing out of medal range.

But on Saturday, the junior made her second balcony appearance after placing eighth with a time of 18 minutes, 57.4 seconds.

“After the disappointment from last season, it was great to see Kiki get back up there again,” said Charles City girls cross country coach Amanda Rahmiller.

Connell’s medalist time was nearly 7 seconds faster than her sixth-place time two years ago.

It was also the third time this season that Connell got under 19 minutes.

One of the times was a 18:30 first-place performance at the Northeast Iowa Conference Meet at Wildwood Golf Course. It broke the Charles City school record set by McKayla Cole when she placed second in the Class 3A girls race at the 2016 State XC Championships.

Finishing ahead of Cole back then was Center Point Urbana’s Andrianna Katcher running as a freshman. Katcher repeated as the Class 3A girls champ in 2017, but was denied a “three-peat” last year when she finished runner-up to Janette Schraft of Glenwood.

With Schraft now running for Iowa State, Katcher was able to seize the elusive third title on Saturday with a first-place time of 18:29 — nearly 50 yards ahead of runner-up Shewaye Johnson of Ballard.

Ballard was the Class 3A team champion with 57 team points ahead of Dallas Center-Grimes (80) and Wahlert, Dubuque (125).

The Comets, who made their fourth-straight state appearance as a team, finished 13th with 269 team points. Last year, Charles City placed 12th. In 2016, the Comets made it to the balcony as a team with a school-best third-place showing.

“I thought if we had a good day today that maybe we could place in the top 7 or top 10,” Rahmiller said. “We were hoping that Mackenzy’s (Bilharz) knee would be a little better today, but she put in a real heroic effort in helping us get down here.”

The Comets also had to shake up their state-qualifying lineup due to an illness as junior Brianna Ross replaced junior Monika Kacprzak.

“And Brianna came out and ran a personal-best,” Rahmiller said.

Finishing behind Connell for the Comets were sophomore Lydia Staudt (20:16.6), senior Mindi Neve (20:49.4), Ross (22:10.0), junior Libbie McKeag (22:17.3), junior Lydia Thompson (22:21.2) and senior Bilharz (22:48.0).

“I’m very pleased at what our girls accomplished this season,” Rahmiller said. “Lydia (Thompson) improved her PR by two minutes … Mindi improve hers by a minute.”

Though Bilharz, Neve and Thompson ran their final high school cross country, the Comets are due return four from their state cross country lineup — or five when including Kacprzak.

“We’ve got a lot of good pieces coming back,” Rahmiller said, “and you never know you who you might pick up.”

* Nashua-Plainfield had two state qualifiers in the subsequent Class 1A girls race.
Junior Chloe Matthews, making her second-straight appearance at Fort Dodge, placed 56th with a time of 21:13.6.

Sophomore Jennah Carpenter, competing in her first state race, placed 103rd with a time of 22:23.3.

State Cross Country Championships
NOV. 2
Class 3A Girls 5K Race

1. Ballard 57, 2. Dallas Center-Grimes 80, 3. Wahlert, Dubuque 125, 4. Harlan 168, 5. Bishop Heelan 193, 6. Center Point-Urbana 198, 7. Solon 227, 8. Pella 236, 9. Decorah 240, 10. Grinnell 240, 11. Spencer 245, 12. Norwalk 255, 13. Charles City 269, 14. Glenwood 308, 15. Adm, Adel 321
1. Adrianna Katcher (CPU) 18:29.4, 2. Shewaye Johnson (B) 18:40.3, 3. Paityn Noe (B) 18:44.4, 4. Megan Sterbenz (DCG) 18:45.7, 5. Norah Pearson (Knoxville) 18:46.1, 6. Amber Aesoph (BH) 18:49.9, 7. Abby Ryon (Mount Pleasant) 18:55.3, 8. Kiki Connell (CC) 18:57.4, 9. Emma Hoins (Waverly-Shell Rock) 19:07.3, 10. Ellie Meyer (Iowa Falls-Alden) 19:10.7, 11. Mary Blanchard (G) 19:14.8, 12. Alix Oliver (WD) 19:15.3, 13. Ellie Twedt (B) 19:15.6, 14. Braelyn Baker (Creston) 19:16.9, 15. Kay Fett (CPU) 19:19.2
CHARLES CITY (TEAM POINT PLACING) — 6. Connell, 37. Lydia Staudt 20:16.6, 49. Mindi Neve 20:49.4, 87. Brianna Ross 22:10.0, 90. Libbie McKeag 22:17.3, 95. Lydia Thompson 22:21.2, 100. Mackenzy Bilharz 22:48.0
Class 1A Girls 5K Race

1. Logan-Magnolia 112, 2. Hudson 133, 3. Ahstw, Avoca 142, 4. Aplington-Parkersburg 146, 5. Regina, Iowa City 150, 6. Kee, Lansing 164, 7. Denver 183, 8. Nodaway Valley 198, 9. Pekin 211, 10. Van Meter 215, 11.Manson Northwest Webs 233, 12. Madrid 241, 13. Sumner-Fredericksburg 270, 14. St. Edmond 277, 15. Prince of Peace 289
1. Peyton Pogge (Tri-Center) 18:45.4, 2. Haley Meyer (K) 18:51.4, 3. Jalyssa Blazek (Turkey Valley) 18:54.0, 4. Sophia Jungling (AP) 18:54.3, 5. Billie Wagner (South Winneshiek) 19:02.6, 6. Grace Beck (D) 19:39.3, 7. Rylee Dunkin (Twin Cedars) 19:43.1, 8. Ryann Portch (AA) 19:47.7, 9. Maddie Moline (MNW) 19:48.2, 10. Greenlee Smock (Lynnville-Sully) 19:49.2, 11. Hunter Jones (North Cedar) 19:50.1, 12. Annalee Bartels (R) 19:50.4, 13. Taylor Sporrer (LM) 19:52.3, 14. Sophia Broers (NV) 19:56.7, 15. Kylie Morrison (LM) 20:01.4.
NASHUA-PLAINFIELD — 56. Chloe Matthews 21:13.6, 103. Jennah Carpenter 22:23.3.