Women place ninth at State meet, men send two

Saturday Oct. 28, 1,057 athletes ran at the Iowa Cross Country State meet at the Lakeside Golf Course in Fort Dodge. Temperatures were cold, but the clouds that were supposed to snow parted and sun beamed down on the participants.

Johnston took first place, and the CFHS women’s cross country team placed ninth. For women’s cross country coach Don Williams, it was a mixed result for Cedar Falls.

“We knew there were top three teams that were out of reach, but were only 16 points out of where we were ranked sixth.  We beat a very good Dowling team who was ranked ahead of us, but several teams upset us by a couple runners, which was unexpected. This was a very tight field this year,” Williams said.

When it was time for the Cedar Falls women’s team to step up to the line, nerves settled for senior Caroline Ross as the last race of her high school career started.

“Once the gun goes off, your adrenaline carries you to the end of the first straight away at State because of how many people are there, and then you are kind of like ‘OK. I’m running. This is it. This is my last race. Let’s do it,’” she said.

Sophomore Mackenzie Michaels finished in 14th place to lead Cedar Falls in the state meet.

“I felt nervous because it was State. It is what we have been working up to for the whole season. A lot of competition and really good runners were there, but at the same time I wanted to beat my time and finish in top 15, which I was able to do,” Michaels said.

Although the women’s cross country team did not get to stand on the winner’s podium in Fort Dodge, the team had many other achievements that made the season memorable.

“Overall, I am pleased with our season. We competed against 109 teams this season and beat 90 of them, finishing first in three meets,” Williams said. “Mackenzie Michaels was named first team all conference. Anna Hertz and Caroline Ross were second team, and Meg Schmitz and Madison Larson named honorable mention. Looking back over the past 25 years, we have the third best record of state finishes. That is something I believe our girls should be proud of,” Williams said.

New goals have already been set by Michaels for next year.

“Next season I really want to come back, improve my time and be ranked even higher throughout the state,” she said.

The two men’s cross country individual runners, Brandon Conrad and Caleb Burjes represented Cedar Falls in the Men’s 4A State meet.

Conrad placed 42nd and Burjes at 104th. As Individuals, they passed many team members from other 4A schools.

“They competed hard. Brandon was coming off of an illness, so he wasn’t able to run his best race, but he has some great experience. I think he could be first team All State next year. Caleb went down there and improved his position from last year. It was great to have him there as a senior,” men’s cross country coach Troy Becker said.

Becker has high hopes for the men’s cross country next year as a more experienced team returns.

“This season we were really young, so we had a big learning curve. I feel like the experience we learned this year is really going to help us next year. It has been a growing year for us. Getting back in the top 10 for the varsity and place in top three in every race we run in, in all three divisions, varsity, junior varsity and frosh-soph is our overall goal,” Becker said.

The state meet brought an end to the high school cross country careers of many of the team members. It also marked the end of a great 28 years of coaching the women’s cross country team for Don Williams.

“This is going to be difficult. I am not ready to give up coaching but know that it is time. I am blessed to have had all of these years of joy in living my passion and have so many friends and memories to hang onto. I will be this team’s biggest fan for years to come. This group of girls helped me make my last season of coaching very special, and I appreciate them very much,” Williams said.

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