ANAMOSA– For Solon’s Patrick McGill, it was a matter of a couple steps.
At the Oct. 18 district cross country meet, five runners already had finished. Only the first 10 automatically qualify for the state meet. Heading into the finish line chute, McGill was knotted up in a group of six, fighting for the next five spots. “It was close over the last 800 (meters). I passed him (Jack Murray of Clear Creek-Amana) about 30 feet before he passed me,” recalled McGill minutes after the race. “We were neck and neck. It was a pretty solid race.”
Solid enough that each runner clocked 17:57 at the finish line. Murray, though, had the edge for 10th, and punched his ticket to the state meet, Oct. 27 at Fort Dodge.
There was still a chance McGill and his teammates might advance with a third place or better team finish. As the rest of the field wrapped up their run over the muddy, rainy 5-kilometer course at Central Park Lake near Anamosa, it was not to be.
Mount Vernon-Lisbon (59 points), Cedar Rapids Xavier (68) and Fort Madison (69) claimed the three team places. Marion (121), and Solon (142) made a run for it, but were left looking with 10 other schools.
Solon’s No. 2 through No. 5 runners were packed close, just 17 seconds apart, with Keegan Paisley 25th (18:27), Matt Reiland 30th (18:34), Ty Appleget 34th (18:41) and Nik Rehnke 40th (18:44). “The boys ran a strong race and really went for it on Thursday (as shown by) Patrick McGill’s great race; just short of qualifying for State,” said coach Emy Williams. “We had a great group of seven seniors this year. They were strong leaders and will be greatly missed next year. Many of them had their fastest season this year.”
The Central Park course has a little bit of everything; wet hills, woods, a slippery wooden bridge and what seems like a perennial rain cloud overhead. But Solon runs a regular season meet on it every year….and it has hosted a district meet the last two years. Next year? “I’m confident now on this course; very familiar with it,” said McGill, a junior, looking ahead. “I used to hate it. I like it now. (You) use the hills. Adapt and conquer.”