WINTERSET — It’s been a long time coming for the Creston boys cross country team.
Twenty-five long years it’s been since a boys team qualified for the State Cross Country Meet.
The wait is over.
The Panther boys finished third here Thursday at the Class 3A State Qualifying Meet, scoring 103 points, just ahead of Perry’s 112 to earn the final qualifying spot. Harlan won with 63 points and Dallas Center-Grimes took second with 96 points.
“It’s hard to put into words,” head coach Pat Schlapia said. “Seven individual boys racing, bringing it all together as a team. You have to admit, those were seven great individual efforts, but it was one fantastic team effort.”
The seven varsity members qualifying for the state meet are Cooper McDermott, Jay Wolfe, Ben Irr, Garret Taylor, Kruz Adamson, Brant Hudson and Zack Peppmeier.
The last Creston team to qualify for state was the 1992 girls team, but the last boys team to qualify was the 1988 team led by Paul Hoff and Mike Linch.
Not only is it the first Creston boys team to qualify in 25 years, but it’s also the first Creston boys team to qualify in Class 3A.
In total, the Creston team qualified three individuals — Maria Mostek on the girls side and McDermott (fourth) and Wolfe (seventh) on the boys side. That’s the most individuals a Creston team has qualified for state in one season.
The Panthers have now had 15 individual state qualifiers in 14 years, dating back to 2000.
Every point matters
With just a nine-point difference between Creston in third and Perry in fourth, every single point on the course mattered in the final standings.
McDermott paced the Panthers with his fourth-place finish in 17:09 for the 5K course. Wolfe spent much of the race in 10th place, but moved up in the final 800 meters of the race into seventh.
Irr, a freshman who just missed out on qualifying as an individual in 11th place, sat in 14th and 15th place for much of the race, but used a strong closing kick to move into 11th.
“Jay sitting in the 10th spot and moving into seventh, those three points add up,” Schlapia said. “Ben made a surge, had a nice kick. There’s another three points. Throw in Garret and Kruz running guts out, that’s the difference right there.”
The team included three seniors — Taylor, Adamson and Peppmeier. With Taylor and Adamson figuring into the scoring five, they picked a perfect day to have one of their best races.
Taylor finished 32nd in 18:20, while Adamson finished 49th, running his career-best time of 18:51.
“Garret was just gutsy,” Schlapia said. “That’s a legitimate, strong 18:20 for him. He was fighting for every place he could. He’s been doing that for four years. That’s where some of our senior leadership was shining through.
“Right behind him was the best race I’ve ever seen Kruz Adamson run,” Schlapia continued. “He’s really moved up the last couple of weeks. With both Garret and Kruz, we expect that out of senior leaders.”
Peppmeier finished 65th in 19:25, while Hudson, a junior, placed 62nd in 19:21.
“This is something for the boys we haven’t had in 25 years,” Schlapia said. “We’ve had some fine individuals through the seasons, and some fine teams, but we’ve never been able to put it together like we did this season.”
It was an emotional night for the Panther head coach, who has never had a boys team qualify under his watch. The closest he’s come was with an Underwood team that missed qualifying by two points.
“As a coach, when you see that team up on that deck receiving their team medals and when they rolled out the banner that goes up in the gym, it’s hard to put it into words,” Schlapia said. “Not afraid to say, it makes a grown man cry. As a coach, on the personal side, this team — both boys and girls — has really lifted me up. That’s why this meet feels so emotional.”
The Panthers return to action at 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 2 at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge, where they will be one of 15 teams competing for the state championship.
Class 3A State Qualifying Meet
BOYS TEAM SCORES
1. Harlan 63, 2. Dallas Center-Grimes 96, 3. Creston 103, 4. Perry 112, 5. Ballard 133, 6. Humboldt 147, 7. Winterset 162, 8. ADM 165, 9. Glenwood 202, 10. Saydel 227, 11. Atlantic 345, 12. Madrid 368.
State qualifiers — 1. Atem Akok, Perry, 16:24; 2. Luke Kohut-Jackson, Ballard, 16:47; 3. Casey Roberts, Saydel, 17:01; 4. Cooper McDermott, Creston, 17:09; 5. Josh Berger, ADM, 17:20; 6. Chris Brace, Harlan, 17:26; 7. Jay Wolfe, Creston, 17:32; 8. Michael Bowden, Humboldt, 17:33; 9. Craig Jordan, Ballard, 17:35; 10. Philip Sciranko, Harlan, 17:37.
Creston — 4. Cooper McDermott, 17:09; 7. Jay Wolfe, 17:32; 11. Ben Irr, 17:43; 32. Garret Taylor, 18:20; 49. Kruz Adamson, 18:51; 62. Brant Hudson, 19:21; 65. Zack Peppmeier, 19:25.