Pekin finishes runner-up, 16 points shy of Griswold
FORT DODGE — For the Pekin girls’ cross country team, a trip to Fort Dodge wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the champions’ deck.
In the previous four seasons, the Panthers had finished champion three times and runner-up once, and Saturday they added another trophy to their growing list. Featuring a young squad consisting of four freshmen, Pekin claimed second place at the state meet on Lakeside Municipal Golf Course, and it came in head coach Davis Eidahl’s 50th season.
Anchored by a fourth-place individual finish from ninth-grade star Gwynne Wright, the Panthers scored 102 to fall 16 points shy of the three-peat and first-time champion Griswold. Pekin was 49 points ahead of third-place Central Elkador (151).
“When you consider we’ve won three titles and two runner-ups in five years, that’s pretty good. The girls thought they could win it, but they ran some of the best times of the year,” Eidahl said. “We were ranked fourth or fifth all year, but our girls rose to the challenge and performed when they needed to.”
While the young Panthers ran well, they weren’t able to duplicate last season’s dominant finish against a more experienced Griswold squad, which returned all of its top runners from last year’s third-place team. Four of Pekin’s runners were first-timers as freshmen, and three of the four rookies scored.
“Griswold had all its runners back and they’re a good squad. The big thing is our freshmen ran well. They weren’t used to the course, the fans ... and everything else that comes with the state meet, but they will know what to expect next time.”
Aside from Wright’s fourth-place time of 14:39, other freshmen scoring for the Panthers included Taylor Lock in 28th (15:49) and Sloan Reighard in 48th place (16:20). Peyton Lock was 66th (16:50).
Senior teammate Maleaha Earnest capped her cross country career second for the Panthers in 23rd place, finishing the course 14 seconds faster than last season in 15:39.
“Maleaha was never the top runner on any team, but what a leader she is,” Eidahl said. “She keeps things on track, and she’ll be a tough one to replace next year.”
Samantha Wright also scored for Pekin, finishing 58th in 16:33, and Hannah Robison posted a time of 17:05, good for 76th place.
The runner-up Panthers told their coach they wouldn’t take anything less than the title next season, when they return every runner sans Earnest and could even receive immediate contributions from the next group of ninth-graders.
“They were kind of disappointed at first, but afterward they told me second isn’t an option next season,” said Eidahl. “We return a lot of good runners next year, so look out.”
Defending state-champion and former course record-holder Rebekah Topham won the individual Class 1A title in 14:05, which was six ticks behind her time last season. Last year’s runner-up, Leah Seivert of Sibley-Ocheyedan, again took home silver with a 14:15 race.
Austin Fariss, Pekin’s lone representative in the boys’ race, ran like a veteran in his first state meet appearance. The freshman crossed the finish line 30th in 17:20.
“He ran really well. As a freshman it’s kind of hard to go up by yourself. He was pretty nervous at first, but I know he was fired up by the start of the race,” said Eidahl. “He had the best finish that he’s had all year long.”
Champion of the Class 1A boys’ event was St. Albert’s Josh Sindelar, who broke the tape in 16:15.
In other area action, Fairfield senior Jessica Lamb made her first state appearance since her freshman year and completed the 4-kilometer course in 15:46. It was one of her fastest times of a solid career, placing her 38th in the Class 3A race.
Anna Holdiman of Waverly-Shell Rock was the individual 3A champion with a scorching time of 13:51.
State Cross Country Meet
@ Fort Dodge
Final Team Standings — Class 1A Girls
1. Griswold 86
2. Pekin 102
3. Central Elkador 151
4. Earlham 161
5. Dike-New Hartford 172
6. Denver 180
7. Marquette Catholic 183
8. Tri-Center 187
9. Durant 229
10. Lynnville-Sully 232
11. Bishop Garrigan 242
12. Prairie Valley 245
13. North Linn 256
14. Underwood 281
15. Eagle Grove 301
Individual Results — Pekin Girls
4. Gwynne Wright (14:39), 23. Maleaha Earnest (15:39), 28. Taylor Lock (15:49), 48. Sloan Reighard (16:20), 58. Samantha Wright (16:33), 66. Peyton Lock (16:50), 76. Hannah Robison (17:05)
Top 10 — Class 1A Girls
1. Rebekah Topham (Griswold, 14:05), 2. Leah Seivert (Sibley-Ocheyedan, 14:15), 3. Tiffany Christensen (Eagle Grove, 14:29), 4. Gwynne Wright (Pekin, 14:39), 5. Kelsey Kirchoff (Denver, 14:51), 6. Jordyn Sindt (Griswold, 14:54), 7. Jasmine Staebler (Clayton Ridge, 14:56), 8. Emily Campbell (North Butler, 14:58), 9. Kari Fitzpatrick (Edgewood-Colesburg, 15:09), 10. Abi Watson (North Tama, 15:15)
Individual Results — Class 1A Boys
30. Austin Fariss (Pekin, 17:20)
Individual Results — Class 3A Girls
38. Jessica Lamb (Fairfield, 15:46)
Other State Champions
Boys — Josh Sindelar, St. Albert
Boys — Will Norris, Spirit Lake
Girls — Cassandra Stuflick, Danville/New London
Boys — Chandler Austin, Boone
Girls — Anna Holdiman, Waverly-Shell Rock
Boys — Jason Thomas, Dowling Catholic
Girls — Stephanie Jenks, Linn-Mar