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Creston, Baker secure titles at Lake Icaria

Lenox, EU have strong placings on treacherous course

Creston girls cross country holding the Southwest Valley Invitational plaque after winning as the lowest scoring girls team. Pictured, from left to right: Angelina Chuong, Braelyn Baker, Paige Davis, Morgan Buxton, Molly Sickels, Tristen Rice and head coach Pat Schlapia.
Creston girls cross country holding the Southwest Valley Invitational plaque after winning as the lowest scoring girls team. Pictured, from left to right: Angelina Chuong, Braelyn Baker, Paige Davis, Morgan Buxton, Molly Sickels, Tristen Rice and head coach Pat Schlapia.

CORNING — Lake Icaria was the location for Southwest Valley’s cross country invitational Thursday night as several area schools ran the hilly and winding course through Timber Ridge Campground and rec area.

Both boys and girls ran in the event with the Creston girls winning by with 51 points and the Central Decatur boys winning with 36 points. The Creston boys placed fifth in team standings with 121 points.

The individual winners of the event were Creston’s Braelyn Baker, running a 22:06.0 that clocked as a full minute faster than second place for the girls, and Sidney’s Noah Jorgenson who ran an 18:00.8 for the lead in the boys race.

The individual win for Baker is her first on varsity, according to Creston head coach Pat Schlapia.

A meet that the Panthers were not originally supposed to participate in, Schlapia feels the results from Thursday are a huge confidence and mental boost for the team as a whole.

The confidence boost comes off Creston’s success from the top down in its program. The Panthers not only took team and individual titles, but had four varsity girls medal and one varsity boy medal. On top of the varsity efforts, the entire girls JV team medaled and one boy on the JV team medaled.

After having two meets the week prior get postponed or cancelled, Schlapia is very gracious to the hosts for allowing the Panthers to run on short notice.

“Hats off to Allen Naugle, the athletic director at Southwest Valley, for letting us into the meet because this wasn’t on our regular schedule. Having Winterset cancelled and Greene County cancelled, we needed a meet and it was nice to be able to get into this,” said Schlapia.

A hilly course at Corning’s Lake Icaria, Schlapia said the hills were something that Creston has trained for before.

“The course itself was hilly, calling it hilly was an understatement, but we worked the hills. It was the same course for everybody. ... We are a good hill team, that’s what we stress in our program. We love our hills and we kill the hills. The hills are our friend.”

The Panthers did well on the course as Paige Davis added a top-5 finish to her resume — placing third with a time of 23:52.

The Panther girls had Morgan Buxton finish 12th, running a 26:24 and Angelina Chuong place 15th with a 26:38. Both Buxton and Chuong medaled along with Baker and Davis.

“To me, I was pleasantly surprised (of the results),” said Schlapia. “But I know we’re capable of doing this. We just need to keep believing in ourselves in that.”

Clayton Stafford medaled on the boys side, running a 19:47 for fifth place. Jared Moreland (21:19) and Levi Hitz (21:32) placed 22nd and 23rd, respectively.

Schlapia had been preaching to his boys the need for consistency in placing in the top half of the field. Thursday night the boys followed through on their goal.

“It was something we needed to improve on. It was nice for the top six boys to get into the top half (of the field),” said Schlapia. “... That was something we worked toward.”

Schlapia added the competition Thursday was good and will get better entering its next meet at home.

Creston will host a plethora of area schools, hosting Nodaway Valley, Orient-Macksburg, Monut Ayr, Lenox, East Union and Diagonal among others in its home meet at Southwestern Community College. ‘Crowd the Course Day’ will start at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Southwestern.

“With this being a good confidence booster, it’s going to help us going into (Tuesday),” said Schlapia.

SWV take on home course

Host Southwest Valley had its own course get the best of them, with the girls placing sixth (134 points) and the boys placing 12th (296 points).

The Timberwolf boys had strong finishes from Adam Harris, placing 31st with a time of 21:57.9.

SWV’s Blake Venteicher finished 54th (23:50.4) and Garret Marn finished 69th (26:11.9), both crossing the line after a tough and difficult course got the best of the local runners.

“We knew it was going to be difficult and challenging course,” said Southwest Valley head coach Jason Hults. “We’ve got to start challenging these kids, we can’t keep running on flat golf courses all the time, so I was hoping our kids would come out and run some times that were comparable to what we’ve run before.”

Hults was pleased with how the girls team ran, clocking a time that was within a minute of what the girls ran earlier in the week at Red Oak.

“Sydney Davies really gutted it out and Halle Pearson came in (third) for us,” said Hults. “(Pearson) has really improved. She started out as our four and is now our No. 2 runner. I’m really impressed with her.”

The Timberwolves’ top three girls were in consecutive order of each other, placing 21st, 22nd and 23rd. Davies posed a time of 28:03.0, Aubrey Boswell ran a 28:15.5 and Pearson ran a 28:21.2

Hults also had high praise for his younger runners for gutting it out on a tough course, noting their potential to be quality runners for the program in the future.

Hogan, Gomez lone Lenox runners

Lenox’s McKinna Hogan took eighth as the Tigers’ leading running for the girls. Her time was 25:45.0.

The course layout was not the most enticing for Hogan, despite a top-10 finish.

“She said this was her toughest course that she’s ran,” said Lenox head coach Curtis Fisher. “She’s a pretty experienced runner. ... She was kind of dogging it toward the end, but every girl was kind of struggling there toward the end a little bit. I think the biggest thing for her, she’s been bothered a little bit by an issue with her shin, so we just wanted to see her go out there and compete.”

Hogan was the only girls varsity runner to start for Lenox Thursday. The girls team did not register a score. Makynna Gomez, Lenox’s second runner, did not start.

“She finished pretty well for a tough course,” added Fisher.

The Lenox boys were equally as undermanned, running Mizael Gomez. He placed 61st, running a 25:08.7.

“Mizael ran well. He had been out a little bit and he ran about 25 minutes, one of his better times for a tough course,” said Fisher. “Pretty happy with it, but we know he can get better.”

The Lenox boys also did not register a team score. Adrien Minter did not run for the Lenox boys also.

Eagles soaring toward progress

East Union placed seventh on the girls side, scoring 168 points and the boys placed ninth with 228 points.

The Eagles were familiar with running hills, something that comes as part of its usual workouts at Lakeshore Country Club in Afton.

“Once I got here and saw how hilly it was, I told them that we see it all the time, compared to how some schools might run the hills like what you see here. We see it at Lakeshore,” said East Union head coach Rich Bryson.

The EU girls had a sixth-place finish from Gabrielle Valencia, running a 24:50.3. Molly McNeill ran a 30:21.6 for 35th place.

“Our team is improving,” said Bryson. We’re starting to get over some illnesses and injuries. Plus, I think our psyche is getting better. We were getting tired of practicing. We just wanted to run meets.”

Bryson said his kids are excited to get on the course after losing a meet last week, noting a positive feeling coming from his team which paired with a strong running performance Thursday afternoon.

“With the hills, you’d think it might wipe them out, but I thought they did really strong today,” said Bryson.

East Union was led on the boys side by Damon Hayes, running a 20:28.1 for 15th place. Cole Nelson ran the 33rd fastest time (22:13) and DJ Islas ran a 23.09.7 for 51st.

Diagonal runs two

Diagonal ran its two boys Thursday night, running Alex Baker and Skyler Stamps.

Baker placed 77th, running a 27:06.2. Stamps ran a 30:48.4.

The Maroons did not run any girls and did not register a team score.

Complete results for the Southwest Valley Invitational can be found online at

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