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Fourth at state for Lady Spartans

FT. DODGE– Solon outran two teams it needed to beat but saw a couple new threats rise on their way to fourth place in the 2012 Class 3A girls’ cross country meet Oct. 27 at Fort Dodge.
Ranked fourth for much of the season, the Spartans matched that ranking, with senior Lauren Benzing taking individual runner-up honors among the 126 girls in the field.
At state, there are actually two races being contested. The top three schools and top 10 runners from each of five district meets are there. All girls run for individual honors. However, the 20 or so running as individuals are ‘displaced’– not counted– in team scoring.
Season-long front runner Decorah crowded all five of its scoring runners between 8th and 16th place to take the team trophy with 63 points. The surprise of the 2012 field, MOC Floyd Valley, claimed runner-up with 85 points. Assumption of Davenport was third with 93. Led by Benzing, who actually was counted first in the displacement scoring, Solon (151) nailed down fourth.
“We wanted to be in the top three,” acknowledged Solon coach Emy Williams. “But there were teams in the field we had not seen all year. To finish fourth with the teams running today? We really ran strong.”
Trailing Solon were Harlan (153), 2011 3A champ Dubuque Wahlert (168), Pella (194), which was third last year, Dallas Center-Grimes (210), Grinnell (2l2), Sioux City Heelan (223), then Fort Madison (233), Williamsburg (277), Shenandoah-Essex (328), Crestwood of Cresco (363) and Spencer (376).
Solon’s top five runners had been here before. Sophomore Alex Smith crossed in 14th place (15:29 over the 4 kilometer course) on her second tour of the Kennedy Park course. Following was senior Mallory Carr (15:51), 28th in her third run at state. She missed it her freshman year, with an injury. “Mallory ran a great race. She stayed strong throughout the race; great finish,” noted Williams.”
For junior Tayvia Hansen (39th, 16:02) it was her third lap around, too. “As a freshman, I was really scared. I didn’t know what to expect. Now, I know the course; how to accelerate on the hills; what goals to shoot for,” she said, noting that she usually runs a little more cautiously. “But I went out and gave it all I had early. I finished with nothing left; no regrets.”
She’s in position to make it four in a row next year. This year, senior Bailey Kelsay (69th, 16:29) notched that milestone. Sophomores Katie Folkerts (80th, 16:41) and Molly Walkner (83rd, 16:43) bulk up the Spartans’ 2013 chances.
The four returning state runners, and a strong junior varsity (JV) team that won nearly every meet, too, step in as 12 seniors move on. “All of them, on varsity and JV, are very positive leaders,” applauded Williams. “They all work hard and do what is asked without complaining. They respect the others on the team. They will be greatly missed next year.”