Eagle Grove and Bishop Garrigan will both get their long-awaited opportunities to prove they belong among Iowa's elite Class 1A girls cross country programs here today.
Start time for the 34th annual co-ed state meet is set for 11 a.m. this morning at Lakeside Golf Course. Class 1A girls competition kicks off at 2 p.m. in the afternoon.
Making their third consecutive state trip, the 12th-ranked Eagles have lofty goals once again after placing fourth in 1A last season.
"As a team, we're going to try and go over (to Lakeside) and run as many (personal records) as we can," said EGHS head coach Mike Herrington, whose squad settled for third at districts in Marshalltown. "We lost four of our top seven runners from last year, so this has been a rebuilding season for us. We just want to enjoy the atmosphere and are very focused on coming home with a Top-10 finish, which would be a pretty good accomplishment."
No. 4 junior Tiffany Christensen will attempt to cap off an unbeaten season for Eagle Grove. Christensen clocked a winning district mark of 15:23. Her individual best time of 14:41 came earlier this year at the South Hardin Invitational. Christensen previously finished 60th individually at state as a freshman and seventh as a sophomore.
"Tiffany is strong lead runner, who has been trying to continue her training routines to stay fresh and peak at the right time," Herrington said. "If things break right, she has a chance to finish somewhere in the top five."
Hailey Adams, Alaina Helmke, Sam Helmke, Kylee Almond and Hannah Hanson were the other Eagle district participants.
"It's so important in cross country to ensure the whole team concept," said Herrington. "We've been close to running in a pack all season, but we've never been able to put it all together like we did at districts. Our two through five runners were 26 seconds apart and ran exceptionally well."
Erin Reedy, Nicole Behr and Erin Quinlin each qualified individually for the No. 14 Golden Bears, who finished seventh at state in 2011. Reedy, a 28th-ranked senior, is seeking her fourth Top-20 state showing. Emily Riesenberg and Erica Carlson were Garrigan's last two counters at districts, where they advanced with a third-place effort.
Top-ranked Griswold and No. 2 Central Elkader anchor the 1A girls field. Sibley-Ocheyedan's top-rated defending state runner-up Leah Seivert and Griswold's No. 2 reigning state champion Rebekah Topham are the individual frontrunners.
Jaclyn Rittgers will lead the Warriors into action in the 1A field after finishing 10th a year ago as a junior.
Rittgers, who finished second at regionals in the individual race, will be joined by Katie Clough, Angela Dopita, Anna Heatherington, JoJo Krekow, Hannah Miller and Erica Rittgers, who added a seventh place regionals performance earlier this week.
Jaclyn Rittgers is ranked 12th entering state. The only person to finish ahead of her at regionals was No. 2 Leah Sievert of Sibley-Ocheyedan. Rittgers had a time of 15:59.
South Central Calhoun
A year after finishing 13th overall, the Titans return with state experience all around.
Sophomore Ryan Daisy is back after placing 63rd as a ninth-grader. Daisy was sixth at regionals, finishing in 18:16.
South Central Calhoun advanced as a third team from Panorama.
Joining Daisy will be Ben Clark, Nicholas Collision, Lucas Farrington, Zach Ludwig, Matthew Nieland and Tanner Schrad.
Nieland and Collison each ran last year, with Nieland placing 95th and Collison 104th.
Manson Northwest Webster
Jack Walstrom as positioned himself to make a statement today.
Walstrom, a junior who is ranked sixth in 1A, captured a district title earlier this week in Holstein. He finished in 16:48, 10 seconds ahead of the runner-up.
Joining Walstrom will be classmate Alex Dangelser, who finished eighth to advance.
Tangy Wiseman will be making her third state appearance in as many years, as the Bulldog junior returns from a 14th place showing last year.
Wiseman, ranked 27th in 3A, placed third at regionals in 15:21.
She was 35th as a ninth-grader at state, and had a time of 15:09 last year.
Sam Larson will be looking to move up the Top-10 ladder after finishing ninth last year at state.
The Wildcat junior was fourth at regionals, finishing in 15:27.
In 2011, Larson clocked a time of 15:07 to earn herself a spot in the Top-10. She is currently rated 18th in 3A.
Junior Emma Luhmann gained valuable state experience a year ago, placing 31st in the 1A field.
Now, a year wiser, Luhmann will look to inch closer to the top spot. The Eagle enters ranked 29th in her class.
Luhmann had a time of 15:49 a year ago on the state course, and qualified with a fourth place showing at regionals in 16:12.
Sophomore Rose Meyer will make her state debut for the Maidens this year.
Meyer finished in the last qualifying spot at regionals, placing 10th in 16:59.