DENISON – The final meet of the cross country season before state-qualifying went as planned for the Creston Panthers, with the Panthers going home with an individual title, a modest girls team finish and positive results from the boys side.
The Panthers put three on all-conference with top-20 finishes. Braelyn Baker, Paige Davis and Clayton Stafford all reprised their roles as all-conference level runners. The course layout for the meet was “odd” and hilly, but was something the Panthers had no issue working with.
“There was a couple steep hills, but after we’ve gone to Southwest Valley, our meet and Knoxville, our kids handled it fine,” said Creston head coach Pat Schlapia.
Braelyn Baker was the winner for the girls, clocking a time of 19;51.75. It’s Baker’s second Hawkeye 10 title, and makes her the first Creston runner to repeat as a conference champion since Cooper McDermott completed a three-peat in 2015.
Baker continued to make history, becoming the first girl to go back-to-back in Creston school history.
“She added a new chapter to her book,” said Schlapia. “... When you throw in the boys, she’s right up there with them, but as far girls she’s writing a new book. ... Her goal was to win it, point blank. ... She had her game plan and she followed it out. To the ‘T,’ that’s how she goes.”
Also on the girls side was Paige Davis, who finished 11th with a time of 20:31.29. Davis, a state-qualifier with Baker from last fall, is on pace to repeat the feat.
Finishing in the top half of the field was Riley DeGonia (35th, 23:13.42) and Morgan Buxton (23:15.00).
The goal, as Schlapia often says, is for the girls to finish in the top half of the field. He was happy with the results they posted in the front half of the field.
“Paige was within 40 seconds of Braelyn, and that’s the closest she’s been to Braelyn,” said Schlapia. “They’re all shooting for each other. Riley and Morgan were there in the top half, and that’s what we keep shooting for ... get our five scorers in the top half.”
In the boys race, Clayton Stafford was the leader for the Creston boys with a time of 17:39.80. He placed 11th.
“He maintained that 11th-place from last year,” said Schlapia. “He had a good time. All our kids ran good times. ... He’s still working and he’s got goals he’s shooting for and some still to be met. ... He wants to get at least two meets in, which it’s doable.”
Behind Stafford was Riley Wiperman in 52nd, clocking a time of 19:39.29. Anthony Eblen was in 55th at 19:46.17 and Carson Smith was 72nd at 22:07.43.
“[Wipperman and Eblen] both got under 20 minutes, and that’s (personal records) for both of them,” said Schlapia. “... That’s nice to see.”
Schlapia feels running with ranked competition in a prestigious meet has prepped the Panthers for the state-qualifying meet Wednesday in Winterset.
With familiar competition, Schlapia feels good about where his team is at and thinks there is a good chance for his top runners to continue their season past Wednesday.
“A lot can happen. We’ve been stressing its just as much mental as physical, and you’ve got to be positive,” Said Schlapia. “... We’ve talked about leaving it all out on the course, and that’s what we’re going to have to do Wednesday.”
Boys teams – 1. Glenwood 63; 2. Lewis Central 70; 3. Atlantic 77; 4. Harlan 122; 5. Kuemper Catholic 137; 6. Clarinda 147; 7. St. Albert 161; 8. Denison-Schleswig 192; 9. Red Oak 196; 10. Shenandoah 238.
Girls teams – 1. Glenwood 42; 2. Harlan 57; 3. Atlantic 75; 4. Creston 114; 5. Lewis Central 120; 6. Shenandoah 159; 7. Red Oak 185; 8. Kuemper Catholic 221; 9. Denison-Schleswig 233.
Boys top-10 – Craig Alan Becker, Atlantic, 16:25.18; 2. Trey Gross, Harlan, 16:32.69; 3. Ethan Eichhorn, Lewis Central, 16:45.04; 4. Nathan Sell, Lewis Centrall, 17:05.66; 5. Baylor Bergren, Red Oak, 17:07.88; 6. Andrew Smith, Glenwood, 17:09.17; 7. Michael Pottebaum, Kuemper Catholic, 17:23.73; 8. Zane Berg, Atlantic, 17:26.45; 9. Colin Lillie, St. Albert, 17:34.73; 10. Liam Hays, Glenwood, 17:35.18.
Girls top-10 – 1. Braelyn Baker, Creston, 19:51.75; 2. Emma Hughes, Glenwood, 19:55.70; 3. Taylor McCreedy, Atlanitc, 20:00.96; 4. Mayson Hartley, Clarinda, 20:06.03; 5. Kaia Bieker, Harlan, 20:14.62; 6. Brecken VanDaale, Harlan, 20:19.28; 7. Reece Duncan, St. Albert, 20:24.84; 8. Natalie Smith, Lewis Central, 20:28.04; 9. Erin Schultz, Glenwood, 20:29.07; 10. Riley Wiese, Glenwood, 20:29.72.
Creston boys – 11. Clayton Stafford, 19:39.80; 52. Riley Wipperman, 19:39.29; 55. Anthony Eblen, 19:46.17; 72. Carson Smith, 22:07.43.
Creston girls – 1. Braelyn Baker, 19:61.75; 11. Paide Davis, 20:31.29; 35. Riley DeGonia, 23:13.42; 36. Morgan Buxton, 23:15.00; 51. Molly Sickels, 24:51.06; 54. Sydney Strunk, 24:58.32; 62. Emma Pantini, 25:35.62.