Area harriers prepare for state meet
All the cross country meets and miles run are just preparation for this Saturday.
One area squad — the Pekin girls’ cross country team — has qualified for the Class 1A race scheduled Saturday at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge. The Panthers will be joined by fellow schoolmate and freshman Austin Fariss in the Class 1A boys’ event as well as Fairfield senior Jessica Lamb in the Class 3A girls’ event.
Although the Pekin girls will find themselves ranked fourth in Class 1A headed into the state meet, they remain the team to beat after hoisting the state trophy for the past two years. Led by freshman Gwynne Wright, the Panthers may have the depth and star-power to do it.
Wright, the third-ranked individual in Class 1A, has lost just one race all season long and should challenge for the individual title right out of the gates. Her biggest challengers will include defending state champion and sophomore Rebekah Topham of Griswold, junior Leah Seivert of Sibley-Ocheyedan, who was runner-up a year ago, and Tiffany Christensen of Eagle Grove, who took seventh a year ago.
Wright will be joined by sixth-ranked senior Maleaha Earnest and seventh-ranked freshman Taylor Lock, both of whom have realistic shots at top-10 finishes. Earnest has already helped Pekin to two state titles and appears on schedule for her best individual finish yet; the senior was 35th at the state meet a year ago.
Outside of the top three, freshman Sloan Reighard will be close to the lead pack after finishing 13th at her first district meet. Junior Samantha Wright also returns from last season’s state-title squad and should be an important part of Pekin’s effort to defend its title. Freshman Payton Lock and junior Hannah Robison also have made strides in 2012.
In the race for the Class 1A team title, top-ranked Griswold appears to have the talent to challenge Pekin after placing third in last year’s meet. Although the Tigers have never won a state title, they return the entire team from the school’s best finish in 2011. Leading the way is Topham, who set a new state meet all-time best of 13:59. Her supporting cast is solid with Jordyn Sindt, Alyx Flippin, Allison Young and Larissa Backhaus keeping the Tigers unbeaten this fall.
Outside of the Pekin girls, the Trojans’ Lamb is ranked 23rd in Class 3A. This season, Lamb qualified to the state meet for the first time since her freshman campaign and is expected to be amongst the leaders in the race Saturday. Lamb most recently finished fourth at her district race in Pella, and she also was seventh in the open-800 of the state track meet as a junior.
While Pekin’s Fariss won’t find himself in the individual rankings, he looks capable of a top-30 performance in Fort Dodge after finishing 10th in his district.
The state meet kicks off with the Class 4A girls’ race at 11 a.m. in Fort Dodge. Lamb runs at approximately noon. Starting gun for the Class 1A girls’ race is 2 p.m., followed by Fariss in the Class 1A boys’ race at 2:30 p.m.