Redhawks runners take flight into postseason
Lidgett captures conference title, sets school record
The North Tama Redhawks cross country team took off into the post-season last week, competing in the Iowa Star Conference meet held at the Wartburg College course in Waverly.
The temperature was unseasonably chilly and winds were gusting up to 21 mph to add a degree of difficulty on the otherwise moderate terrain.
Head Coach Katey Holbach was impressed with her team’s focus in the face of adversity Thursday.
“Mentally we are just much stronger this time of the season,” Holbach said. “They did not worry about the wind today. They were like, ‘Yep, it’s windy, let’s roll with it’. They all ran their season best times, if not an overall PR. They all had a huge night tonight.”
Class 1A No. 13 Grace Lidgett continued her upward climb with a resounding first place finish of 19:51.65.
The time set a new school record for the Redhawks.
Jules Breakenridge set the school’s 5K cross country record last season with a time of 20.32. Lidgett broke the record two weeks ago at the Dike-New Hartford meet and then broke her own record this week at Wartburg.
Lidgett ran close to Baxter’s No. 17 Elie Tuhn for the first two miles Thursday, but was able to pull ahead during the final mile, crossing the finish several strides ahead of the runner-up.
“I tend to have really strong endings, like my last mile was faster than the middle one,” Lidgett said. “So I was kind of trying to stay by (Tuhn) in the middle mile and then push ahead for the last one.”
The finish was a 40 second improvement for Lidgett that allowed her a strong personal record performance ahead of this week’s state-qualifying district meet.
“We knew of a couple names of kids that our top runners were looking for,” Holbach said. “Grace knew that Baxter girl was going to be pushing her the whole race. This is the third time they’ve ran against each other and they’ve always been neck-and-neck the whole time. So she knew who to watch for.”
Breakenridge came in with a sixth place finish of 21:53.81 in only her third meet of the season. The junior has been battling through a hip and back injury this season but has been able to compete the last two weeks.
Rachel Robinson rounded out the North Tama girls finishers with a personal best finish of 27:54.81.
“I think this season has been great for a lot of people,” Lidgett said. “The whole team is having a lot of great success. Something is pushing everyone I think.”
On the boys side, Sam Snyder placed third with a time of 17:34.04, a personal best for the senior.
“Sam’s goal was to try and stick with Isaac Natvig from Valley Lutheran and try to stay on his hip,” Holbach said. “Sam beat Isaac last year at state and our goal was to get back up there at conference, if not right on his tail. He went out really strong tonight, but he ended up beating the other Valley Lutheran kid that was right on his hip at Dike, the last time we saw them.”
Natvig of Valley Lutheran captured the conference title with a finish of 17:06.98. Runner-up was senior Kyle Vanderwal of Collins-Maxwell.
Elsewhere in the boys roster, Scott Lewis finished with a time of 20:07.17 and Christian Dronebarger with a time of 23:08.82. Both runners were able to capture personal best records at the conference meet.
Prior to the boys and girls high school races, the conference held a combined junior high race. North Tama eighth grader Nic Hinrichs competed for the Redhawks, finishing with his best mile time of the year.
With the conference meet in the rearview mirror, all eyes in the state are focused on this week’s state-qualifying district meets.
“Our team is doing really well,” Holbach said. “They’re peaking at the right time. They’re hitting their best times now, which makes me excited going into districts next week for all of the runners knowing they can PR one more time. We should have at least three that have a really strong chance at qualifying for state.”
North Tama will travel two hours north for their district meet this Thursday at the Pioneer Town And Country Club in Manly, Iowa. Central Springs will play host for the meet, scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.
“From what we can see on Google Maps, we’re assuming it’s a flat course,” Holbach said. “We’ll do a lot of speed work this week, not as much hills. We’ll do one day of hills just in case, but that won’t be our main focus next week.”
Schools competing with North Tama at the state-qualifying meet include: Aplington-Parkersburg, BCLUW, Bishop Garrigan (Algona), Central Springs, Clarksville, GMG, Lake Mills, Nashua-Plainfield, Newman Catholic (Mason City), North Butler, North Iowa, North Tama, Northwood-Kensett, Riceville, Rockford, Saint Ansgar, West Fork and West Hancock.
Lidgett will enter as the odds on favorite in the girls race as the only only ranked runner in the field of 18 teams.
Of the competitors she projects to see, only a handful made it to the state meet last year.
Aplington-Parkersburg returns the multiple runners off their roster that qualified as a team last year. Also returning from last year’s state qualifiers should be Chloe Matthews and Jennah Carpenter of Nashua-Plainfield and Kacie Eisentrager of West Fork.
Breakenridge and Lidgett both were just outside of the qualifying field of runners last year at their district meet in Cedar Falls.
The Redhawks girls drew a tough district slate last October. Four of the runners that advanced from the Cedar Falls district race wound up placing sixth or higher at the State Meet a week later. Breakenridge missed qualifying for State in 2019 by just 13 seconds.
In his senior campaign, Sam Snyder is looking for a return to the State Meet after qualifying with a 10th place finish at the 2019 district meet and a 62nd place finish at State last year.
The outlook at Central Springs on the boys side looks competitive. Saint Ansgar, Newman Catholic and West Fork each qualified their whole team for the state meet last year. Newman Catholic and West Fork currently rank 9th and 10th respectively in 2020.
Ranked individual runners set to compete in this year’s district race include No. 7 Riley Witt of Saint Ansgar and No. 24 Bryce McDonough of Central Springs.
Of the competitors Snyder faced last year in Fort Dodge, only one 2020 district opponent finished ahead of his 17:52.8 time (Witt, Saint Ansgar).
Also, of the 61 runners that finished ahead of Snyder last year at State, 29 of those were seniors that have graduated, leaving plenty of opportunity for Snyder to have a successful postseason run.
With an eye toward social distancing and COVID-19 prevention, the boys and girls state athletic organizations announced qualifying and schedule changes for this year’s cross county post-season.
The district meets and state meet will each be split into two day affairs. Class 1A and 2A will compete using the normal Thursday-Saturday schedule, running their district meets on Oct. 22 and the state meet on Oct. 31. Class 3A and 4A will hold their district meet on Wednesday, Oct. 21 and the state meet on Friday, Oct. 30.
In North Tama’s Class 1A, district sites will go from five sites to eight. This will cut attendance at each 1A location by around 10 teams per gender.
With this change, Class 1A will feature 16 state qualifying teams – the top two teams qualifying at each site, instead of the usual three – and 10 individual state meet qualifiers for each gender instead of the usual 15 individual state qualifiers. The IHSAA and IGHSAU anticipate this will be a one-time qualifying change. Class 2A, 3A, 4A will remain unchanged on qualifying teams and individuals for the 2020 State Cross Country Meet.