Schellhorn, Keehner punch tickets to state cross country meet

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Cora Keehner secured the 10th and final qualifying spot in the girls race. This is just her first high school season. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

MFL MarMac sophomore Jacob Schellhorn placed second at the state qualifying meet in Cascade, giving him back to back state appearances.

Clare Grau placed 20th with a time of 23:27.76 at the state qualifying meet.

Sawyer Keehner crossed the finish line 34th in the Oct. 20 race.

Emma Koether was 40th in the state qualifying meet.

Will Koether turned in a time of 19:37.04 to place 30th in the boys race. Tucker Ruff was a close 32nd.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


MFL MarMac runners Jacob Schellhorn and Cora Keehner are headed to the state cross country meet. Schellhorn placed second and Keehner 10th in the Class 1A state qualifying races at Cascade on Oct. 20, marking the third straight year a Bulldog runner has punched a ticket.


They did it on, inarguably, the most challenging course of the season.


“If you thought Luana’s course was hard,” said coach Eric Koenig, “the downhills here are steeper—you’re not used to running straight downhill.”


“You really felt it when you had to come up this hill and go around and come right back up that [hill],” added Schellhorn. A skilled hill runner, he used the terrain to catch up to leader Marcus Blount from Prince of Peace, forcing a photo finish at the end.


“I definitely left it all out there,” said Schellhorn, who dove across the line in a time of 17:11.22, two hundredths of a second behind Blount.


Schellhorn, a sophomore, qualified for state a season ago. He placed 36th of 156 Class 1A runners, at that time coming off an injury. Now, he’s healthy and physically stronger. 


“He doesn’t look it, but he’s a bigger kid. He’s grown taller and has put on 10, 15 pounds,” Koenig said. “You think in a runner that isn’t a good thing, but muscle helps propel him forward.”


“Even this summer when we were running, we were running miles 30 seconds faster. So going into the season, I knew he was going to excel,” Koenig continued. “His times are pretty consistent, but it’s all who he’s racing, the course. A day like today with not so many hills, he probably would have been 30 seconds faster.”


Schellhorn won four races this season, including the Upper Iowa Conference meet the week prior. That success—along with a year of experience—made him more confident heading into state qualifying.


“Last year, I was very nervous. This year was a lot better because I just had to relax and run my own race and probably be fine. That was a big part of it, actually being able to relax,” he explained.


Schellhorn will take that same confidence into the state meet at Fort Dodge on Friday. His goal is to finish in the top 10 and improve his time. He’s currently ranked 11th in Class 1A.


“This one, my time was slower, but the hills slowed everybody down. The times will be a lot faster at Fort Dodge, and I’ll have people pushing me on the whole time,” he said.


For Keehner, a freshman, state will be a first-time experience. She acknowledged it wasn’t an early season goal.


“My goal was to get 21 minutes—I focused really on time. Focusing on that helped me get here,” Keehner shared. 


Heading into state qualifying, she was nervous to compete against a large field on a hilly course.


“But I was just like, ‘OK, I think I can do it.’ It’s my last race freshman year, so I gave it my all. And I get to have one more race. So I was really excited about that,” Keehner said.


Keehner secured the 10th and final qualifying spot with a time of 22:00.16. She finished nearly 10 seconds ahead of Josie Tieskoetter from South Winn, a runner who’d beat her all season long.


Heading into the meet, Koenig felt the 10th spot was up for grabs between Keehner and teammate Clare Grau. Some pre-race advice—and instinct—helped Keehner pull it out.


“I noticed in practice and even in meets that the second half is always slower. I think she did pull back a little bit at the start of the race and was able to maintain a consistent speed throughout,” Koenig said. “Both Jacob and Cora have been running good races. In practice, we work on endurance and speed, and they’ve got to use that in the race—it’s all mental at that point.”


Keehner was in 10th place throughout the race. That was comforting, she noted.


“I did pass someone, but then I got passed again, so I was hoping no one was too close behind me. I was trying to keep my pace and not slow down at all and try to use those hills to my advantage,” she explained.


Keehner’s off season regimen included running a 1.5-mile path cut through her family’s property at least every other day. 


“I didn’t do it all the time, but I knew it would help me because it had some hills and rough ground, and I knew that would strengthen my leg muscles and keep me ready for the season,” she said.


Schellhorn, likewise, ran with Koenig during the summer.


That extra work shows, the coach reflected.


“The difference between Jacob and Cora is they run all summer long. It’s why they’re in this spot,” Koenig said.


Having a strong team around them also helps. It keeps runners focused and working hard, while also having fun.


“They all enjoy hanging out together. It doesn’t matter what grade they’re in—they all get along really well. That helps,” Koenig said. “Team support encouraging each other. Aside from the growth on the course, just the camaraderie we have is great.”


The MFL MarMac girls placed fourth at Thursday’s state qualifying meet with a score of 116. South Winneshiek totaled 36, while Cascade and Central each had 67. Cascade won a tiebreaker to join South Winn at state.


Grau was the Bulldogs’ top finisher after Keehner, placing 20th with a time of 23:27.76. Evelyn Ruff came in 28th and Emma Koether 40th. Kaylee Nuehring and Mariah Moser were a respective 42nd and 43rd, while Cadence Weber crossed the line 65th.


In the boys race, Will Koether turned in a time of 19:37.04 to place 30th. Tucker Ruff was a close 32nd, followed by Sawyer Keehner in 34th and Logan Ross 96th. 


The Bulldogs were seventh overall with 168 points. Cascade and Clayton Ridge advanced to state with respective scores of 61 and 90.


The Iowa High School Cross Country Championships will be split over two days this year, Oct. 28-29, at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge. Class 1A girls will run at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, followed by the Class 1A boys race at 11:15 a.m.

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