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(KMAland) -- Another look at the Hawkeye Ten Conference today, as we loom into the boys cross country race. Last year was a toss-up that came down to a sixth-runner tiebreaker to decide the title. Does this year present the same kind of balance? Find out…


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Atlantic Trojans — Last Year: 3rd Place (87 points) 

Coach: Dan Vargason 

RETURNEES: While Atlantic just missed out on a conference title, they put it together at their state qualifier to advance to state. Senior Craig Alan Becker is the lone returnee among their top three runners from the H-10s, but he’s a really good one and will chase a conference title after placing third last year. Fellow senior Ethan Williams placed 44th last year while juniors Drew Engler and Cooper Jipsen ran 27th and 35th, respectively. In addition, fellow junior Zane Berg ran at state for the Trojans and finished 77th.

FINAL WORD: Two of the top 15 runners in the Hawkeye Ten have graduated for Atlantic, but Becker is going to score very low. Now, how much lower can the rest of those juniors score for the Trojans? That’s a question that if the answer is a positive one, it means Atlantic could take this year’s conference championship. 

Clarinda Cardinals — Last Year: 8th Place (182 points) 

Coach: Jane Mayer

RETURNEES: I am writing about these teams in their order of finish last year, and this is the first with all seven returning runners back. Senior Jon McCall has had a very nice career, and he would love nothing more than to get another H-10 medal and a state qualification after running 18th in the conference meet last year. Juniors Michael Mayer and Mark Everett were 33rd and 40th, respectively, while sophomores Luke Baker, Ronnie Weidman and Alec Wyman were 34th, 57th and 75th. Another senior Jordan Fasnacht placed 72nd at last year’s meet.

FINAL WORD: They’ve got everybody back from last year, and that was a team that was able to make a three-spot jump from 11th in the H-10 in 2018 to 8th last year. Can they make a similar move this year? That all depends on what kind of work went into the summer and if they continued that improvement. The proof will be in the pudding, as they say. 

Creston Panthers — Last Year: 10th Place (264 points) 

Coach: Pat Schlapia

RETURNEES: Senior Clayton Stafford has one more year to make a deep run to Fort Dodge, as he did early in his career. He placed a solid 11th at last year’s H-10s, but the next three runners on that Panthers team have graduated. Juniors Aidan Anderson and Isaac Shields and sophomore Riley Wipperman are all back after finishing between 68th and 77th at the conference meet a year ago.

FINAL WORD: Stafford headlines what figures to be an interesting group of Panthers this year. There’s not a lot of knowns behind him, but I guess that’s what the offseason, preseason and eventually the season is all about. We’ll see.

Denison-Schleswig Monarchs — Last Year: 9th Place (206 points) 

Coach: Nick Bradley

RETURNEES: Sophomore Leo Flores had an impressive freshman season, capping it off with a 16th-place finish in the Hawkeye Ten Conference. Four seniors from last year’s team have gone and graduated while juniors Cole Carlson and Jason Castillo are back after running 45th and 74th, respectively, in Creston last year.

FINAL WORD: There’s not a lot we can take from the returnee section since only three of them ran last year. I think, more than anything, it’ll be fun to see what kind of season Leo Flores can put together. It’s not easy for freshmen runners to make immediate impacts, but he did it. What’s he have in store for an encore?

Glenwood Rams — Last Year: 6th Place (137 points) 

Coach: Todd Peverill 

RETURNEES: For the second straight year, Glenwood loses a good chunk of their lineup from the conference meet. They have just three of last year’s seven runners from the H-10s, led by senior Nathan Rohrberg, who placed 12th in Creston last year. Additionally, 24th-place runner Tyler Huey enters his senior season, and sophomore Dillon Anderson is back after running 62nd as a freshman.

FINAL WORD: Like I said, these are two straight big senior classes that have graduated, and it hurt them a bit last year. It’s nice to have two seniors atop the lineup again this year, and Anderson’s improvement will be vital for this team. Other than those three, it’s a guessing game for me, but I figure Glenwood will be just fine when it comes to talent and depth.

Harlan Cyclones — Last Year: 2nd Place (83 points) 

Coach: Doug Renkly

RETURNEES: The 2018 H-10 champion Trey Gross went through heck and back in order to just race by the end of the season. He did, and he had a really heroic second-place finish at last year’s H-10s before a seventh-place run at state. Big things are ahead for his senior year if he can stay healthy. Fellow seniors Brennon Munch (20th at H-10s) and Mitchell Rueschenberg (25th) should provide depth while sophomore Kaiden Milliken (47th) and Reed Boardman (71st) are additional runners that return for the Cyclones this year.

FINAL WORD: They’ve got the odds-on favorite to win the conference, some depth behind him and the motivation of just missing last year’s state meet as a team (as well as just missing an H-10 title). While they did lose a top-10 runner in Isaac Jones, Coach Renkly’s team is hungry and no doubt among the favorites to win the league.

Kuemper Catholic Knights — Last Year: 7th Place (157 points) 

Coach: Mark Kloser

RETURNEES: Kuemper had three of the top 23 runners at last year’s conference meet, and two of them are gone. They do bring back junior Michael Pottebaum, who had a really nice year and capped it off with a solid 13th-place run at the H-10s. Fellow juniors Patrick Hensel, Carter Drake and Sam Janssen and senior Carter Soppe are also back with finishes at the conference meet between 46th and 76th.

FINAL WORLD: There’s strength in numbers here, and if the bottom half of last year’s lineup can make improvements then Kuemper can definitely put together a nice season. However, it is going to be difficult to replace the two seniors — Tyler Putney and Jack Hagen — who generally finished pretty well throughout the year. We’ll find out.

Lewis Central Titans — Last Year: 1st Place (83 points) 

Coach: Taylor May

RETURNEES: Last year’s conference champion (by virtue of the sixth-runner tiebreaker) lost four of their seven runners from the H-10 meet. Their top guy is senior Nathan Sell, who placed ninth in the conference race, while fellow senior Tyler Ruiz also had a nice run in 19th. Junior Aiden Rudloff is the third-returning runner after a solid 32nd place run.

FINAL WORD: I’m guessing Lewis Central has the bodies and the depth to fill in some holes, and they do bring back two of their top three runners from the H-10s. However, Connor Lancial is a tough one to replace. We’ll see what 2020 looks like soon enough.

Red Oak Tigers — Last Year: 5th Place (133 points) 

Coach: Curt Adams

RETURNEES: The Tigers had a really experienced team last year, but at the top of this year’s group is returning junior Baylor Bergren, who placed fifth in the Hawkeye Ten and 25th at the state meet to cap off his sophomore season. Fellow juniors Kaden Johnson and Nolan Blackman should make for solid running partners after placing 28th and 58th at the H-10s last year. 

FINAL WORD: They lost four of their top seven runners and a few other seniors that ran for the cross country squad last season. Now, how do they replace those seniors and how well can they fill those open spots? Bergren is going to get his, but there will need to be some others to step up with him in order for the Tigers to place as well as they did a season ago. 

Shenandoah Mustangs — Last Year: 11th Place (269 points)

Coach: Andy Campbell

RETURNEES: Four of Shenandoah’s top five runners at last season’s conference meet are back. Juniors Mitchell Jones and Josh Schuster were the top two guys, ranking 39th and 51st at the meet. Fellow junior Eli Schuster and senior Bryce McDowell are other returnees after running 61st and 64th at the H-10s.

FINAL WORD: I think there’s a good chance Shenandoah improves their place and their scoring this season. It doesn’t always work out perfectly in that returnees with experience get better and better, but if that’s the case here then the Mustangs are in a good spot.

St. Albert Falcons — Last Year: 4th Place (110 points) 

Coach: Russ Sindelar

RETURNEES: A state qualifier a year ago, St. Albert lost quite a bit, especially at the top of their lineup. That includes H-10 champ Bennett Heisterkamp. Sophomore Colin Lillie is a prodigy in the making, though, as he ran 38th at the state meet after a 21st place finish at the H-10s. Juniors Hadyn Piskorski and Chase Morton were 30th and 42nd, respectively, at the conference meet while sophomore Adam Denny ran 55th.

FINAL WORD: They were really, really tough last season, as evidenced by their seventh-place finish at state. This year MAY be a little bit more of an undertaking with the loss of three of their runners. That said, I see Lillie making a big jump this year, and that could bring along the rest of what figures to be a young group.

CONCLUSION: Last year was such a toss-up that there was a tie in the low score and then the third place team sat just four points behind that. I think this year could be even more of a toss-up. Only four of last year’s top 10 runners are back, and the top teams from last year have some holes to fill. I’m at the point where I’m not sure I can even pick a favorite. Maybe Harlan? Maybe Atlantic? LC again? Your guess is as good as mine.

Send any questions, comments and/or concerns to dmartin@kmaland.com.

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