Mertens? eighth-place finish leads area XC runners at state

By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News


FT. DODGE ? The best distance runners in the state of Iowa were at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Ft. Dodge on Saturday and a handful of Henry County athletes came away with personal bests at the state meet.

The area was led by a couple of Mt. Pleasant runners who made waves in the 3A races. Junior Cody Mertens finished eighth in the boys? race, in 16:16, and sophomore Abby Ryon was 18th, in 19:28.6, during the girls? race.

It was the first top-10 of Mertens? career, and also the second year in a row in which he improved his time. After beating his freshman year time by one minute last season, he knocked off 20 more seconds from his personal best on Saturday.

It was one of the fastest 3A races in recent memory. The top five runners were all seniors, meaning Mertens was the third-best non-senior in the field. Gilbert sophomore Tyler Rees finished sixth in 16:15.5, and Decorah?s Gus Hayes was seventh in 16:19.8. That sets up for an interesting race towards the 2018 title next season.

Ryon?s 18th-place time was roughly 49-seconds better than her time last season. It was her first top 20 at the state meet after debuting in 39th last year.

Ryon was the top Southeast Conference runner in the 3A girls? field. Fairfield?s Ashley Bloomquist, who beat Ryon at the SEC meet, finished five seconds behind her in 21st place.

The 3A girls? field was relatively young. Just five seniors finished ahead of Ryon, meaning a majority of the top 20 will be back fighting for the 2018 title when the new season kicks off next fall.

Danville-New London placed 12th in the girls? team standings, scoring 283 points. Mid-Prairie, led by Marie and Anna Hostetler, took the team title, with the two Hostetler?s finishing first and second. It was the second year in a row for a one-two Hostetler finish, but the two were flipped as Marie, a sophomore, took her first title.

Lexi Brown led the way for Danville-New London with a 29th-place finish. She crossed the line in 20:41. Alyssa Pfadenhauer was 41st in 20:54.4 and Addy Parrott was 48th, in 21:01.7, to give the team three in the top 50.

The rest of the Danville-New London field finished a few minutes later. Lilly Garnsley was 126th in 24:33.3. Allyson Farley palced 131st in 24:54.7. Breann yaley was 133rd in 25:41.5, and Elaina Johnson was 134th in 25:49.6.

Winfield-Mt. Union senior Pearl Krieger-Coble made her state debut count, cracking the top 30 with a 30th-place 20:43.8. It was the end of a long season for the two-sport fall athlete, as she competed in a regional volleyball semifinal just two days prior to the race.

All-in-all, every single runner from a Henry County school set new personal bests. The county?s high school fall sports season ended with the finish of the last race.