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Running in packs

By Joe Wilkinson
Special to the Economist
VAN HORNE– With four girls in the first seven finishers, Solon ran away with the team title at Saturday’s Benton Invitational. Lauren Benzing had already locked in the individual win by finishing the four kilometer course in 14:51, 46 seconds ahead of North Linn’s Nicole Miller, and teammates Leah Adams (16:01), Alex Smith (16:11), and Tayvia Hansen (16:13) came across fifth, sixth and seventh. Bailey Kelsay in 12th place (16:23) nailed down the scoring for the Spartans. Their 31 team point total was nearly half of Williamsburg’s runner-up finish at 61 points in the 11-school team competition.
“There was only five seconds between our number two runner and our seventh (Mallory Carr, 16:51, 21st place, with Abby Ashton, 19th place, 16:45). They are packing it together; helping each other, especially as high up as they are (in the field),” said Solon coach Emy Williams. “Even late in the race, Girls... they’re usually close as a pack at the beginning; even late in the race, we have a couple groups of two, pushing each other. You want to watch at the end, to see who is going to step up a bit more, changing the finish.”
In the junior varsity race, Solon’s girls were one point away from a 1-2-3-4-5 sweep; with Tarrah Wentzien (17:53), Carlyn Haas, Anna Kosek and Katie Folkerts claiming the first four spots. Corri Goldsmith was sixth, with Mileah Mesch eighth and Jaden Miller ninth for Solon, as the girls grabbed the eight-team JV title crown, with 16 points. Williamsburg was second with 64 points.

Boys second at Benton XC
VAN HORNE– Solon’s pack attack is sliding a little further up the pack, as the cross country season hits full stride. The Spartans took second at Saturday’s annual Run Through the Woods at the Benton Invitational. Their 80 points trailed only Mount Vernon’s 49 in the 10-team meet. No one else was within 75 points of the leader.
Turner Wentzien again led Solon’s attack, finishing 11th among the crowd of 71 varsity runners in 18:11 over the 5 kilometers. Closing in behind, though, were multiple Spartans. “Zach Slushier had a really good race; leading the pack of Solon runners (behind Wentzien). He did a good job of moving them along with him,” reviewed coach Emy Williams. Slusher was 13th overall, closing in at just two seconds behind Wentzien. “They are getting out and moving up better than the first few meets; figuring out how to get their races going.”
Close behind were Omar Longou (16th, 18:37), Chase Gross (19th, 18:41) and Brent Kennicott (21st, 18:43). Backing them were the sixth and seventh Solon runners; Patrick McGill (22nd, 18:45) and Taylor Walkner (28th, 19:07).
And they’re being pushed by the JV boys, who claimed the team title in their division. Michael Rundell was the overall winner (in 19:06)….with Matt Reiland (19:34), Andrew Barenz (19:42), Drew Schulz (20:32) and Jake Singkofer (20:33) going 3-4-9-11 to cement the win. “(Schulz) ran a very good race. He’s really dropping his times now,” noted Williams.
Solon was scheduled to run Tuesday, in Iowa City, in a rescheduled Regina meet.

XC Girls, Benzing win at Tipton
TIPTON– Crowding all seven runners in the top 20, Solon’s girls won their half of the big Tipton Invitational cross country meet Sept. 6. Winding back and forth across City Park, the Spartans placed first, eighth, ninth, 10th and 14th with their five scoring runners logging a low of 42 points. Davenport Assumption was runner-up with 54 points in the meet, which featured 14 full (five to seven runners) teams and seven partial teams.
Lauren Benzing crossed the 4-kilometer finish line in first place at 14:50; 27 seconds ahead of Clinton’s Kate Caster. Benzing had a strong supporting cast, with freshman Alex Smith moving up as Solon’s second finisher in 16:22 (eighth place overall). Right behind her was senior Leah Adams (ninth, 16:24). Sophomore Tayvia Hanson grabbed 10th (16:30) with Bailey Kelsay 14th (16:45).
The Spartans’ sixth and seventh finishers, Mallory Carr (17th, 16:55) and Abby Ashton (18th, 16:57 ) joined them in the overall top 20. “That was the best race we have run as a team in a long time. They all got out strong and moved up the entire race,” observed coach Emy Williams. “Alex is figuring out how to run her race and is getting stronger each meet. Lauren was 21 seconds faster than last year at this meet.”
Those sixth and seventh team finishes, while not scoring directly, help in close races, with each pushing each opposing runner behind them down by one point/place.
In the varsity scoring, Mount Vernon-Lisbon was third (109 points), followed by North Linn (122), Regina of Iowa City (135), Clear Creek Amana (138), and then Northeast-Goose Lake, Clinton, Anamosa, Central DeWitt, Marion, Wilton, East Buchanan and Durant. Seven teams, including the host school, did not field full teams.
There was a similar look in the junior varsity race over the same course, with Solon holding on for a narrow team victory over Assumption (40 points to 46), with Regina third (54 points). From there, the scoring dropped off with Mount Vernon-Lisbon fourth (120), followed by North Linn (147), Anamosa (152) and Central DeWitt (175). Seven more teams were entered as partial JV squads.
All seven of Solon’s JV runners were lodged in the top 18 places, led by Tarrah Wentzien in fourth (17:26). Right behind her were Corri Goldsmith (seventh, 17:55), Jaden Miller (eighth, 17:57), Carlyn Haas (10th, 18:00), Katie Folkerts (11th, 18:07), Anna Kosek (12th, 18:09) and Mileah Mesch (18th, 18:54). While one can’t draw a direct comparison, since their race was run against a different field of runners, a straight comparison of Solon’s JV times would have landed them in eighth place in the crowded varsity field.

Boys varsity fourth at Tipton
TIPTON– A tight team finish at the 18-team Tipton Invitational Sept. 6, brought Solon’s boys a fourth-place finish in the varsity run. On the junior varsity side, Solon won the 13-team competition.
“The boys ran a much stronger race than at Prairie (their season opener),” assessed coach Emy Williams. “Turner Wentzien got out fast and led the team (18:07) with a 15th place finish. As a first-year runner, he, too, is learning how to run his race; that there is a lot more than just going out and running. Brent Kennicott had a fantastic race at Tipton (18:29, 29th overall), dropping 1:40 from his 2010 race on the same (5 kilometer) course. He was our third runner.”
Between them was Omar Longou, a second ahead of Kennicott in 28th, then Chase Gross, (40th, 18:53), Patrick McGill (41st, also in 18:53), Taylor Walkner (54th, 19:15) and Michael Rundell (56th, 19:16). Among the 126 runners, Lukas Mees of Marion (16:18) was the overall winner on the 5K course in Tipton’s City Park.
Mount Vernon-Lisbon claimed the team trophy with 75 points; with their top five runners in the first 27 places. After that, it was a tossup for second. Marion claimed it with 148 points, tying with Tipton at the finish line, but getting the push, courtesy of a better finish from its sixth runner. Solon was on their heels (153), followed by Iowa City Regina (159), Northeast Goose Lake (172), Central DeWitt (174) and Clinton (182).
After Clinton, it fell off with Durant, Davenport Assumption, Cascade, Center Point-Urbana, Clear Creek Amana, West Liberty, Anamosa, Wilton, North Cedar and East Buchanan in the 18-team field, which ranged from Class 4A to Class 1A in school size. Also, there were three schools with partial teams.
The race was just as tight on the junior varsity side, with Solon squeezing out a two-point margin of victory, undercutting Marion 54-56 in the team scoring. There were 13 full teams, and seven partials in the JV race. Zach Slusher led the Spartans, finishing third overall in 18:49. Right behind him were Matt Reiland (fifth, 19:29), Keegan Paisley (ninth, 19:56), Andrew Barenz (12th, 20:06) and Josh Prybil (25th, 20:30). A second behind him (26th), Kylan Patterson grabbed Solon’s sixth spot. Austin Hunt was numbered 28th (20:34) among the 171 runners in the JV field.
“I was proud of all the runners on the team, (especially as the) JV Girls and JV boys also won,” said Williams. “We had a very strong showing; very impressive as 73 runners in orange and black get off the Solon bus at a meet!” That depth shows up on the JV sides, where a team can enter as many able-bodied runners as it has. Besides those ‘top seven,’ there were runners like Conner Fitzpatrick (31st), Jake Singkofer (32nd), Blake Steffens (38th), Ryan Kunkel (47th), Quinn Bailey (49th) and Jack Adolphson (50th) in the front half of the field, all within nine to 35 seconds of those first seven; challenging for their spots.