CEDAR RAPIDS – Cedar Rapids Prairie boys cross country team has one more step to ascend before its climb to the top is complete. The Hawks take the first step to clear the last hurdle Thursday.
Top-ranked Prairie will compete in a Class 4A district meet at Noelridge Park as boys and girls cross country teams and runners from across the state begin the postseason with district and regional meets for girls. All meets except at Knoxville and Marshalltown begin at 4 p.m.
Theya ren’t overlooking the task at hand. Prairie has to top three other ranked teams – No. 5 Cedar Rapids Washington, No. 10 Linn-Mar and No. 11 Iowa City West – for one of three state meet berths. It’s the first obstacle on the path of state title hopes.
“We have pretty high goals. … It’s something that’s been on everybody’s mind,” Prairie Coach Bill Schwarz said. “We’ve got to get there first. There are three other ranked teams at the meet and only three can go to state.”
The Hawks returned their top six runners from last year’s state runner-up team. That performance was a jump from placing eighth in 2008. The just missed out on that title last year, placing behind champion Burlington by three points.
The disappointment of coming so close to a state crown isn’t a source of motivation. Instead, that performance serves a different purpose.
“It has given them a sense of confidence,” Schwarz said. “They know they do have the ability.
“It was a big day for them. It was a positive.”
Prairie is led by seventh-ranked Matt Stocker, who placed ninth at last year’s state meet. Stocker’s twin brother, Kyle, ranks 16th, and Jordan Burns is 23rd. All are part of a key senior group. Burns’ twin brother, Justin, Scott Titler and Jacob Aune also return with state experience, which has been a key component to the Hawks’ success.
“Those six kids have been through the battles,” said Schwarz, noting they are familiar with the competition and can carry out strategies during the race. “It all happens when the race unfolds and that experience that bthey have to go off of is big.”
The Hawks has been near flawless this season with its only blemish coming against Medina, Minn. A scary thought since they’ve been training to be at their best at this point in the season.
“We’re at the point of the season where all the hard work, in the first many weeks and all through the summer, hopefully, pays off,” Schwarz said. “The kids sure have looked strong ion practice this week.”
Washington will host the 4A meets at Noelridge for both boys and girls. The boys’ field also includes Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Clinton, Waterloo East and Waterloo West.
The girls regional meet consists of the same meet with the addition of the Cedar Rapids Xavier. The Saints teams compete in different classes, resulting in the two teams being sent to different locations. The Saints boys squad will compete in a 3A district hosted by Anamosa, running against the likes of top-ranked Marion, No. 4 DeWitt Central and No. 14 Mount Vernon-Lisbon. Marion girls is also at Anamosa.
Williamsburg’s cross country programs face a similar situation. The Raiders girls team will run at a 3A regional meet and boys are in a 2A district. Both meets, however, will be at Knoxville.
Cedar Rapids Kennedy travels to Marshalltown, which features Cedar Falls that’s ranked third for boys and seventh for girls.
Iowa City High competes in postseason meets at Pleasant Valley. The Little Hawks girls team is ranked second and will battle No. 3 Pleasant Valley and No. 15 Bettendorf.
Decorah, whose girls team is top-ranked in 3A and last year’s state runner-up, will compete in a 3A regional at Charles City. Two-time defending 2A state champion Union Community heads to West Union for a regional hosted by North Fayette.
The top three teams and top 10 individuals advance to the state meet at Fort Dodge on Saturday, Oct. 30.