Cross country teams ready for Rich Engel Invite after recent successes

Sept 7, 2023. The Tigers made history. The men’s and women’s teams traveled to Marshalltown where they raced the 50th annual Bobcat Invitational, one of Iowa’s premier regular season meets, featuring all of the top 5 ranked teams. On the men’s side, this featured Dowling Catholic, out of Des Moines, who are the 2-time defending state champions. 

On the men’s side, they made history. On Sept. 9., 2010, Cedar Falls won the Bobcat invitational over Dowling Catholic. After 13 years, the drought is finally over. The team was led by sophomore Jaden Merrick, who finished 2nd overall with a time of 15:10.5, which takes down Sam Schillingers school record. This is also the 2nd fastest time this year for the class of 2026 in the United States. He was followed by a strong pack of Tigers. Senior Ahmed Aldamak finished in 6th place, with a time of 15:40.0, his second fastest time this year. He was followed by senior Luke Hartman, who finished in 8th place, with a time of 15:43.0, which is a lifetime best. Junior Connor Martin followed, breaking 16 for his first time, finishing at 15:59.5, which earned him 18th place. Junior John Ferguson was close behind, in 26th (16:08), junior Kieran DeGroote in 38th (16:18), and sophomore Charlie Wiering in 45th (16:26). This earned the Tigers the team championship, winning with 60 points over Dowling Catholic, who finished in 2nd with 116 points. It’s not over there, as the Tigers also have a team average of 15:44, which puts them as a top 10 team nationally, as they prepare for the Iowa state championship, on October 27.

At the fresh/soph, and junior varsity levels, the Tigers also performed, winning both races as a team. This gave the Tigers the clean sweep on the men’s side, as they won every division; freshman/sophomore, junior varsity and varsity races.

Marshalltown was an incredible night of performances. One of the keys to the night was the performance of the fresh/soph team. Our sole focus is always to compete, and we put three individuals in the top 7 along with six in the top 30 to run away with the team win. Additionally, Brennan Hoyer had a breakthrough race to win individually. Seeing the success in the 9/10 race, the JV and varsity teams seemed to take the challenge of topping the performance of the previous race. In the JV race, Jack Considine and Brayden Frey went 1-2, and they were part of five seniors in the top 10, which is unbelievable for a meet with the best teams in the state. Our JV team averaged less than 17 minutes. The varsity squad put together one of the best team performances in program history. Jaden Merrick broke the school record for 5k, and we had a team average of 15:44 for our top 5 runners,” head coach Brett Egan said. “The coaches set goals that match the talent and work ethic for individual and team goals. The coaches rely on individual progress through the season to drive team success. We are always striving to be at our best at the 9/10 and JV levels as that will improve our varsity performance. The goals for the end of the season are to be team champions at the Super-Meet and Divisional meet at all levels. As for varsity, there is no limit to what can be accomplished,” he said.

On the women’s side, they also did not disappoint. Coming off of being ranked 15th as a team, they finished 12th as a team, which is their highest place finish at Marshalltown in the last few years. They were led by senior Anna Becker, who finished in 31st place, with a lifetime best time and her first sub 20, clocking in at 19:58.4. She was followed by junior Josee Simonson, who finished in 40th with a time of 20:03. Junior Zoe Zylstra was behind them, finishing in 79th (21:31). Junior Emily Meyer finished in 80th (21:31), and freshman June Cousin rounded out the scoring five, with another personal best of 21:48, almost 2 minutes faster than her first race this season. They finished in 12th place as a team, scoring 315 points. 

“I thought the meet went well. We had a lot of PRs and season bests. A few girls had their first race of the season as well. It was a fun meet with a lot of good competition,” head coach Leah Jennings said. “My goals are for the team to continue to pack up and work together to help reach individual goals as well as improve team placement. One of our goals is to get back to the State meet as a team as well. I am proud that the team is creating individual team goals, working hard together to reach those goals and creating a positive team environment including everyone. Also, I am excited to continue to see times drop, the girls to find their rhythm in races and work hard together while having some fun.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams will tackle their home meet next, as they prepare for the Rich Engel classic, which will be held at Birdsall Park in Cedar Falls, on Sept. 14. This is normally a headline meet for the Tigers, as they get to perform in front of the home crowd.

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