Something strange has been happening for the Creston boys cross country team this year.
Well, strange if you look at how the team’s been performing over the course of the past 10-plus years.
Ten years ago, I was a freshman on Pat Schlapia’s cross country team. That year, we finished eighth out of 10 teams at the Hawkeye 10 Conference Meet. The year prior to that, the boys team finished 10th.
It never got much better for us in my final three years on the team. At Clarinda in 2006, where I won my second straight Hawkeye 10 Conference individual title, our team finished sixth with 143 points.
Matt Lanning, who was a year behind me, and is the last Creston boy to qualify for the state meet in 2007, didn’t have any better luck with team success after I left.
That was the one thing missing from our high school cross country careers — team success.
“I think it would have been a lot of fun, first off, to have a bunch of guys who are all super competitive,” Lanning said. “Nothing against the guys who did run back when we did, but having the added element of the team competition and the meaningful placements of your two, three and four guys — not just worrying about your own place, but what your teammates are doing behind you. I think it would have been really interesting.”
This year’s team has tasted the team success that Lanning and I never got to be a part of. We never competed for a team title at a meet, and we often considered ourselves lucky to finish in the top half of the team standings.
This year, the boys team has won three meet team titles. The boys won the Nodaway Valley Invitational for the third straight year. They’ve been ranked twice this season, including on the latest set of rankings released Wednesday, which has the boys 14th in Class 3A. They also finished either first or second in six straight meets before seeing that streak come to a close Thursday night at Atlantic.
That streak could have been continued Thursday, had the entire team been running at 100 percent health. With Ben Irr and Garret Taylor both hobbled by ankle injuries right now, the team was not able to compete with Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson and Harlan.
From a fan’s perspective, I hope the two of them are able to get back to 100 percent health in time for next Thursday’s Hawkeye 10 Meet in Red Oak. And if not by then, then at least in time for the State Qualifying Meet.
Because these boys — Cooper McDermott, Jay Wolfe, Irr, Taylor, Kruz Adamson and the revolving door of Brant Hudson and Zack Peppmeier — have a chance to do something neither Lanning nor I could accomplish.
It’s been 25 years since a Creston boys team has qualified for the state meet. Lanning was the last individual boy to qualify in 2007, and prior to that Nathan Brotherton qualified in 2000 and 2001, and I qualified in 2004-06.
When Lanning and I think back to our running days, it’s crazy to see where the team is now, with a chance to compete for a conference championship and possibly a state berth.
“For the longest time, it’s been pretty much the same schools at the top dominating,” Lanning said. “It’s the Harlans and the Glenwoods that have been up at the top. You never see Creston at the top as a team that’s competing. We’ve been stuck in the bottom three or four for as long as I can remember. It’ just kind of brings a whole new level of excitement to the conference race.”
And aside from Taylor, Adamson and Peppmeier, every varsity runner on this year’s team is set to return next year, giving the Panthers a decent chance to repeat this level of success next year.
“I think it’s been pretty amazing what they’ve done for having such a relatively young team for the most part,” Lanning said. “Especially if you were thinking a Creston team having a good boys team, you’d think it would be a bunch of seasoned veterans. When you have a bunch of underclassmen leading the way, it’s fun to watch and imagine what it’s going to be like down the road.”
Here’s to hoping a couple of banged up ankles make a quick recovery, so the Creston boys cross country team can continue this magical ride through a fairy tale season.
Is there anything better than the St. Louis Cardinals in October? I’m sure answers will vary depending on who you ask.
But, whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, there’s no denying that it’s nearly impossible to kill the Cardinals off once October rolls around.
The Cardinals are 8-1 in the past three years when facing postseason elimination.
They just won’t go away.
This marks the third straight season they’ve made it to the NLCS. That’s impressive.
And now, I can’t wait to be sitting in Busch Stadium Saturday when rookie Michael Wacha takes the mound against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers in Game 2 of the NLCS.
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