FORT DODGE — Creston sophomore Maria Mostek came into Saturday’s Iowa High School Cross Country Championships a veteran of the course, having competed here as a freshman.
Mostek placed 24th last year, with a time of 15:24. That experience was valuable for her on Saturday, especially when things didn’t go her way early on in the race.
Mostek fought back from getting boxed in early in the race to finish 27th overall with a time of 15:35 in the Class 3A girls race.
“From the beginning, I was just put in a different box from last year, and it was on the complete opposite side,” Mostek said. “On the start, you almost have to run extra just to get on the turn on the right side, so I kind of got boxed in there for awhile, for the first 800 meters practically. That kind of hurt my time.”
It also put Mostek into the upper-30 range at about the mile marker, but just a quarter-mile later, she had already worked her way up to 35th.
She only needed another quarter-mile to pick off four more runners, moving up to 31st. And, by the time she reached the two-mile marker, she had climbed into the top 30 at 29th.
“There was always someone you could catch,” Mostek said. “Just the fans and everything, everybody was just screaming. I was so happy to see familiar faces from my team, and it just motivated me to keep passing them.”
Spurred by a large contingent of Panther fans at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course, Mostek continued her forward push, finding two more girls to pass before the finish line.
Had the race been just a few meters longer, there were several more girls who Mostek could have passed.
Coming in as the 30th-ranked runner in Class 3A, Mostek actually beat 10 runners who were ranked ahead of her, while seven unranked runners moved ahead of Mostek.
Anna Holdiman, a senior from Waverly-Shell Rock, capped off a stellar career with her second state championship and fourth top-five finish, winning the race with a time of 13:51. Dallas Center-Grimes junior Madison Waymire, running just her second race since returning from mononucleosis, finished fourth in 14:34 after running in second for most of the race.
Mostek felt like she could have done better, but even so, Creston head coach Pat Schlapia was very happy with how she ran.
“Any of us who make it to state, you get to run with the best. But she’s proven she is one of the best,” Schlapia said. She ran with a big heart and a lot of guts up there.”
Mostek, who had finished fifth at the State Qualifying Meet in Atlantic on Oct. 22 in Atlantic, maintained that fifth-place spot among the meet’s qualifiers on Saturday.
“She ran two big-time meets in a matter of six days,” Schlapia said. “She handled that in fine fashion. With her heart and guts, she ran just fine. She really handled the pressure. She keeps it pretty calm and just goes out and does it. I think the future is unlimited for her in cross country. We’re very proud of what she accomplished here.”
Mostek became the fifth two-time state meet qualifier for the Creston cross country program in the past 13 years.
And though the 2012 cross country season just ended, she already has her sights set on next year.
“I want to make it back,” Mostek said.
IOWA HIGH SCHOOL CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
1. Decorah 63, 2. MOC-Floyd Valley 85, 3. Davenport Assumption 93, 4. Solon 151, 5. Harlan 153, 6. Dubuque Wahlert 168, 7. Pella 194, 8. Dallas Center-Grimes 210, 9. Grinnell 212, 10. Bishop Heelan 223, 11. Fort Madison 235, 12. Williamsburg 277, 13. Shenandoah/Essex 328, 14. Crestwood 363, 15. Spencer 376.
CLASS 3A GIRLS
All-state — 1. Anna Holdiman, Waverly-Shell Rock, 13:51; 2. Lauren Benzing, Solon, 14:30; 3. Bethany Dykstra, MOC-Floyd Valley, 14:31; 4. Madison Waymire, Dallas Center-Grimes, 14:34; 5. Kenzie Theisen, Le Mars, 14:40; 6. Sarah Steffensmeier, Fort Madison, 14:55; 7. Sam Larson, Humboldt, 14:58; 8. Abby Kohut-Jackson, Ballard, 15:01; 9. Lily Horst, Vinton-Shellsburg, 15:01; 10. Elizabeth Mallon, Davenport Assumption, 15:02.
Creston — 27. Maria Mostek, 15:35.