Tuesday afternoon marks “Crowd the Course Day” for Creston cross country, as the Panthers host the Creston Invitational on the grounds of Southwestern Community College and Crestmoor Golf Club.
Creston head cross country coach Pat Schlapia encourages the community to come out and support the teams.
“I hope everyone takes advantage to come out for the ‘Crowd the Course Day,’ because I think they’ll see some good races,” he said. “This is a good showcase for Creston, having this home meet. With 20 schools coming in, that’s quite a sight, not only seeing all of the runners running, but the crowd on the course.”
There is no cost for entry and parking is free.
The meet begins at 4 p.m. with the middle school girls race, followed by the middle school boys race. It will be the first competition of the season for the Creston middle school teams, after having their races cancelled at both the Winterset meet and Thursday’s meet at Southwest Valley.
The cross country parents’ night presentation will begin at approximately 4:30 p.m. with the high school races to follow.
But directly following the parents’ night presentation will be the “Creston Little Kids Race.” That race is open to any child up through sixth grade who would like to compete. It’s free of charge and there is no registration.
The Creston Invitational will feature strong competition, with several Hawkeye 10 schools competing, along with a host of talented area runners and teams.
The Creston boys team will compete for the first time as the 15th-ranked team in Class 3A. This marks the first time a Creston boys team has been ranked in at least the past 25 years.
Shenandoah comes into Tuesday’s meet ranked seventh in Class 2A. Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson, a Class 4A team, has been running strong in western Iowa meets so far this season.
Those three teams will likely battle it out for the team title in Class A. Also running in Class A will be Atlantic, Clarinda, Clarke, Kuemper Catholic, Red Oak and Winterset.
On the girls side in Class A, Winterset comes in ranked 14th in Class 3A. Schlapia said he expects Shenandoah/Essex to field a strong team, and for his own Panthers to be right in the mix, as well.
“Team wise in Class A, it’ll be interesting,” Schlapia said. “We haven’t seen any of the conference schools yet other than Kuemper. One thing I like about this meet is it gives us a chance to see some conference schools for the first time, and it also has a lot of local flavor to it.”
Class B features area teams from Bedford, Central Decatur, Southwest Valley, Mount Ayr, Nodaway Valley, East Union and Orient-Macksburg.
The top three varsity teams in each division will receive medals.
With both classes running together and being split into different chutes at the finish, there figures to be some strong competition in the individual races.
On the boys side, Creston sophomore Cooper McDermott is ranked 27th in Class 3A. Shenandoah’s Brad Young is ranked 27th in Class 2A.
Schlapia said strong competition will also come from Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson, which has two strong individual runners. He also believes Creston junior Jay Wolfe can be in the mix at the front, along with Noah Larsen from Mount Ayr.
Nodaway Valley features a host of young individual talent, as well. The Wolverines are ranked 15th in Class 1A.
The girls race will also feature strong individual competition.
Nodaway Valley sophomore Destiny Scar is ranked 11th in Class 1A, while Mount Ayr junior Adrian Richards is ranked 16th. Earlham’s Kristen Weber is ranked 23rd and East Union freshman Emma Harper is ranked 24th.
Creston junior Maria Mostek is ranked 22nd in Class 3A, while Winterset’s Brittany Sawyers and Dominique Fleming will also likely contend at the front of the pack.
Individually, the top 25 in varsity races for each class will earn medals, while the top 20 JV runners will earn medals.
The course starts out on the Southwestern campus, works its way around the baseball and softball fields, and eventually winds its way through the Crestmoor Golf Club, before finishing up the long hill on the driving range and down a straightaway back to the east toward the college.
“We feel we have a very challenging cross country course for both girls and boys,” Schlapia said. “This is a very good spectator course.”
Coming off a fourth-place finish in the girls competition at Ballard on Monday and winning the team title in the boys competition, Schlapia said he expects this to be another strong competition.
“Monday at Ballard was awesome, but Tuesday for our home invitational is another step up,” he said. “We’re running hungry. You talk about the blood in the water with the sharks — it’s shark time again on Tuesday.”