Warrior cross country season comes to heartbreaking conclusion

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Jaydin Dettman came in 21st at the district meet on Oct. 23. (Photo by Bev Hamann)

Parker Vaughn turned in a 57th-place finish at the district meet at the Guttenberg Golf Course. (Photo by Bev Hamann)

Members of the Central junior high cross country team recently competed in the Washburn Classic middle school state meet. Pictured (left to right) are Bryce Heller, Collin Jaster, Gavin Holst, Alexis Thiese, Brooke Tieden, Reese Berns, Layla Embretson, Caden Fette, Michael White and Braxton Bormann. Unable to attend was Keeley Curran. (Submitted photo)

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register

The Central cross country season is over, and for the first time in 21 years, the school will not be represented at the state meet. The outcome is a by-product of changes to state qualifying, COVID-19 and the loss of the team’s top two runners due to contact tracing, a development that marred the season finale. 

The runners who were at the district meet at Clayton Ridge on Oct. 23 performed, enduring through the situation and epitomizing the “Warrior Strong” ethos. 

On the girls side, decimated by the loss of two stars and six other runners, the Warriors had no chance to qualify for state as a team.

Competing in a field of 67 runners, Allie Mussman was the top finisher in 17th. She was followed by Taylor Moser in 19th, who ran a career-best 23:23, Jaydin Dettman in 21st and Madylen Gregerson in 52nd. Senior Maci Kluesner, competing in her first-ever district race, finished 62nd. 

As a team, Central finished seventh of eight teams, with a score of 143, while the winner South Winneshiek scored 46. 

The Central boys team of three was reduced to a team of two, when COVID-19 knocked out one runner. The remaining members, Corey Weber and Parker Vaughn, who finished 25th and 57th, respectively, both came within 20 seconds of their season-best times. 

In discussing the outcome, assistant coach Martha Bauder was forthcoming. 

“This was quite a unique district meet, from the few changes in state qualifying to the contact tracing that hit our team hard, to the one-day delay due to weather and then the cold, windy conditions on race day,” she said. “We knew we had a good chance on the girls side for the team and some individuals. However, during the week, we were heartbroken to hear that we lost eight girls and one boy to COVID contact tracing, which basically eliminated our chance to qualify as a team. It was a devastating blow. But we were extremely proud of how the team forged ahead, tried to stay positive and how our remaining runners gave it their all on such a cold day and after the emotional roller coaster of the week.” 

As for the junior high team, the Warriors competed in the Washburn Classic middle school state meet sponsored by the Iowa Track Coaches Association, and the results bode well for the future of the Warriors cross country program. 

In a field of 144 runners, the junior high girls’ top finisher was Reese Berns, who was the team’s only medalist and finished in 70th. Alexis Thiese finished 99th, Layla Embretson 111th and Brooke Tieden 139th. 

Overall, there were 60 schools represented with 14 complete teams, and Central finished 14th with a score of 214. Logan Magnolia, the team competition winners, finished with a score of 22.

The real story for the junior high team continues to be Gavin Holst, who finished 10th out of 164 total runners with a time of 11:18. Holst was also a medalist, as were fellow teammates Collin Jaster (65th place), Caden Fette (69th place) and Braxton Bormann (78th place). Remaining team members Bryce Heller and Michael White finished 154th and 163rd, respectively. 

Out of 18 complete teams, the Warriors finished in ninth place, just six points out of fifth place, with a score of 134. IKM-Manning, the team competition winners, finished with a score of 56. 

The finish, according to Bauder, “was even more impressive because our team was all seventh graders except for one eighth grader. There is usually a considerable difference between seventh and eighth graders.”

“Our runners have been participating in this meet since 2000 and have been highly successful over the years,” added Bauder. “The success of our junior high runners here has had a big effect on the success of our high school program over the last 20 years. Even more importantly, this meet has offered our runners a chance to end the season with a fun and rewarding experience. This year was no exception as all of our runners had career best races…With this being the first time running at the Marshalltown course, new Central records were set by Layla Embretson for seventh grade girls, Reese Berns for eighth grade girls, Collin Jaster for seventh grade boys and Gavin Holst for eighth grade boys.”

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