By John Burbridge firstname.lastname@example.org
CEDAR FALLS — The Rich Engel Cross Country Classic held annually at Birdsall Park is usually not the place to go for the Charles City Comets to find easy glory.
It’s one of the most competitive meets in the state attracting many of the top upper-class programs.
But the Comets have made their presence known on occasions.
In 2016, then Charles City senior McKayla Cole won the girls varsity race in a season where she eventually placed second at state.
Then last year, then freshman Kiki Connell finished in the Top 10 while helping Charles City’s girls place seventh as a team.
In this year’s race on Thursday, Connell unofficially placed in the Top 5 with a time under 20 minutes.
Due to several runners collapsing at the finish line disrupting the order of runners through the chute, the times and placings for the girls varsity were still being sort out during the post-meet awards ceremony.
The finish of the subsequent boys varsity race went a little more smoothly as meet hosts Cedar Falls was the team champions with 60 points ahead of runner-up Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
Senior Mason Deeter was the top finisher for the Comets, which also got some spirited performances from several underclassmen.
“We had some bright spots with (junior) Hayden Pleggenkuhle finally being healthy again and putting together a nice race,” Charles City boys coach Ryan Rahmiller said. “He bested his time last year by 16 seconds.”
Charles City freshman Jacob Vais had one of his better races of his budding high school career.
“(Vais) stepped up to cover Nick Litterer’s typical No. 2 spot while he recovers from a cold,” Rahmiller said. “And Phillip Bachman continues to shine, making up ground in the race. Owen Weber had a nice race on the JV side and I feel will be a serious contributor soon.”
Next up for the Comet boys and girls is an invitational at North Iowa Area Community College on Tuesday (Sept. 18).
“At this point, we need to be healthy as illness and allergies have taken a toll on the team this week,” Rahmiller said. “We’re really looking forward to the next three meets as a team.”