The Fairfield cross country teams hosted a Class 3A state qualifying meet Thursday afternoon at Water Works with 11 girls and 13 boys teams competing for a chance to run at Fort Dodge Oct. 27.
“This race was a lot different [than last time] because they added that big hill and it sets a lot of people back because they aren’t used to it and aren’t expecting it,” explained junior Destiny Gridley who managed to avoid collapsing at the finish, something most of the runners were doing.
“You’re trying to be tough until the end and then when it’s over, you just release all of it,” added the hoops standout that used this season to “build up my endurance for basketball and I’m excited for that.”
The fastest of the lady Trojans, senior Ashley Bloomquist, experienced a similar fate as the majority of girls as they approached the end.
“Halfway down the final straightaway, my legs went numb which happens off and on during the season. When I hit the line, my body was just done and I couldn’t go any farther. Luckily, I have great teammates who carried me off,” said the now three-time state qualifier in cross country.
“It started off with the happy people that like to use the first 800 meters to win and I knew that was going to happen, so I didn’t really freak out when I saw 12 people in front of me. I just got around the first corner and as we ran across the dam, they all fell off which was fine. I was sitting third behind a couple of Solon girls going into the woods and then I would say about three-quarters of the way through the woods back there, I started to pull away from them. I just split right between them and started to take off and if they wanted to come with they could, and they did. We ran up the gravel and as we hit the strip, there goes Mary Blanchard and Abby Ryon. Darn. I tried to keep them as close as I could, that was the whole plan. So after the first lap, we stayed in pretty much the exact same order the whole way and then I start hearing someone behind me when I hit the gravel the second time, and I think a girl from Assumption (junior Taylor Quick) got in front of me and I just stayed on her tail to block the wind a little bit and take me all the way to the finish.”
Ashley admits that she “would have liked to be third or better, but, you make it, you make it,” said the senior.
Bloomquist had her normal raceday muffin and will do the same Oct. 27 after a week full of adequate sleep and hydration to go along with mental focus on her goal of being an all-state selection which would require a top-10 finish at Fort Dodge.
As for the other girls, Belzer got what he could out of a group that was new to the sport.
“I gave 100% and a big thing that pushed me was knowing that Belzer had individual goals for each of us and I didn’t want to let him down,” added Gridley.
Freshman Delaney Breen has been dealing with a hip injury that held her back, but the rookie said her and the rest of her teammates gave everything they had.
“I’m not the best runner, but I love it,” said Breen. “It keeps me in shape, not the same as basketball shape but, still it definitely helps out.”
When asked if she was ready for basketball, Gridley grinned and said yes emphatically.
When Breen was asked the same question, she almost had a stroke.
“No doubt! Practicing, all the time, yep. As you can see, it leaves me speechless.”
1st North Polk 63
2nd Grinnell 75
3rd Solon 76
4th Assumption 102
5th Marion 106
6th Mt. Pleasant 120
7th Fairfield 236
8th Washington 243
9th Central DeWitt 244
10th Clear Creek-Amana 251
11th Fort Madison 263
1st Mary Blanchard, Jr., Grinnell 19:17.70
2nd Abby Ryon, Jr. Mt. Pleasant 19:23.80
3rd Taylor Quick, Jr., Assumption 19:42.10
4th Ashley Bloomquist, Sr., 19:43.70
29th Yana Gaskell, So., 21:21.70
64th Hailey Pohren-Gevock, Jr., 23:32.70
68th Destiny Gridley, Jr., 24:30.90
71st Grace Sobaski, Fr., 25:19.40
73rd Delaney Breen, Fr., 25:37.40
80th Claire Epperson, So., 30:50.00
Belzer said it would come down to the Trojans battling Grinnell for the third and final team state qualifying spot with Clear Creek-Amana and Marion easily earning the first two slots, as expected.
Unfortunately, the Tigers No. 5 and No. 6 finishers crossed the line just ahead of the No. 3-6 runners for Fairfield that we’re bunched up around 30th place with the Trojans quartet finishing 31st-34th.
“We knew we needed to run as a pack,” said senior Mark Diers. “It helped knowing the course and the quickest lines to take.”
“Grinnell is really good,” said Belzer. “They are ranked No. 10 and are probably better than that. We spent the last few days looking at what we needed to do and who we needed to beat, and our guys ran their best race of the year and they ran so hard and I can’t complain about that.”
Belzer added that he wasn’t disappointed in the kids at all, but the guys “really felt like they had a shot and so from that stand point we didn’t accomplish everything we wanted to and these things always hurt. Regardless of the sport.”
For the front-running Trojan Alex Forrest the “biggest challenge was going up and down the dam.” He said that is what wore him out most.
The sophomore does believe that Fairfield is ready to make the jump into the state spotlight ASAP.
“We’re definitely ready to make the jump, we were right there!” added Forrest who said the view helps take his mind off of the pain. That and listening to pumped up music in his head while running with a “I can do this!” mentality.
Diers does admit that, “It’ll be difficult this week, but I’ve had a great career here and I’m proud of what I’ve done and thankful for what the coaches have done for me.”
Classmate Dylan Harvey added, “I’m motivated for track and excited for the prospect of a good season.”
1st Clear Creek-Amana 37
2nd Marion 60
3rd Grinnell 85
4th Fairfield 143
5th Mt. Pleasant 156
6th Solon 174
7th Assumption 208
8th Central DeWitt 224
9th Fort Madison 231
10th Washington 241
11th North Polk 269
12th Notre Dame/West Burlington 354
13th Keokuk 433
1st Cody Mertens, Sr., Mt. Pleasant 16:10.09
2nd Jack Sexton, Jr., CC-A 16:39.51
3rd Chris Guise, Jr., Assumption 16:48.61
20th Alex Forrest, So., 17:47.60
27th Mark Diers, Sr., 17:59.85
31st Dalton Rippey, Sr., 18:24.54
32nd Dylan Harvey, Sr., 18:25.31
33rd Kaidyn Mickels, Fr., 18:25.64
34th Brian Wilkins, Jr., 18:26.55
52nd Aidan Daugherty, So., 19:08.38