Panther teams surge to state meet

Cole Cruise runs to a third place finish for Monticello at the State Qualifying Meet Oct. 24 in Dike. (Photos by Pete Temple)

Getting started in the State Qualifying Meet for the Panther girls are (from left) Emily Hendricks, Triniti Etzel, Lydia Recker and Emma Althoff.
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     Head coach Dan Sauser and the Monticello High School cross country team couldn’t have asked for a more emphatic display of dominance as the Panthers – easily – qualified for the Nov. 2 state meet.

     Monticello overwhelmed the competition at the Class 2A State Qualifying Meet, held Oct. 24 at Fox Ridge Golf Course in Dike. Under near-perfect conditions – sunny, temperatures around 50 – the Panthers won both the boys’ and girls’ divisions, and neither was close.

     “Taking both teams into account, this was our best performance this season,” Sauser said.

     The boys won by 49 points, placing five runners in the top 10 individually and beating South Hardin, which had 85; and Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck, which had 90. All three qualified for State.

     The girls had a similar triumphant effort, with their top five runners finishing in the top 11. Monticello scored 40, Jesup was a distant second with 72, and Dike-New Hartford earned the third qualifying spot with 76.

     It was the third time in school history that the Panthers had won both the boys’ and girls’ divisions in the qualifying meet (formerly called districts for boys, regionals for girls). The most recent was 2014, when the Panther girls went on to win the state title and the boys finished second.

     The other was in 2004. At State that year, the Monti boys were third, the girls fifth.

     The other telling number: the Panther boys extended their streak of state qualifying to 23 years, the longest active streak in the State of Iowa, and second all-time to the 25-year streak for the Cedar Falls boys that ended two years ago.

     As in all sports, teams try to peak when the stakes are highest, and this statistic shows how the Panthers seem to be doing just that: Monticello had 11 season-best times, five of which were personal records.

     The event started with the girls’ race, and Monticello got a strong start and ran well throughout. Emma Althoff finished second overall, not only breaking into the 19-minute realm for the first time, but doing so easily, at 19:25.

     Then came four Monticello runners in a row: Karle Kramer eighth, Lydia Recker ninth, Emily Hendricks 10th and Triniti Etzel 11th. Katie Roher had a 35th place finish and Mya Postel was 46th, each with a season’s best time.

     “The girls got us going,” Sauser said. “They were confident going in, but we wanted them to be aggressive, especially at the start. It was one of the better races the girls have had.”

     Althoff had her runner-up finish despite being bumped and falling down early in the race. Recker beat her PR by about 30 seconds, and coach Sauser said Etzel had an outstanding second mile.

     “In all three phases of the race, the girls ran about as well as they could,” the coach said. “It was the confidence boost we needed going into the state meet.”

     For the boys’ race, Sauser said, the approach was the same, to establish themselves early.

     “We had a wonderful start, and completed all three phases very well,” he said.

     Senior Cole Cruise had, the coach said, “the best race he’s ever had in his career.” Cruise finished third overall, and Jasper Nietert had another strong effort to finish sixth. The Panthers also had the 8-9-10 finishers with Harrison Ahlrichs, Carter Kurt and Zach Chapman, respectively. Grant Hospodarsky ran 24th, getting a PR by 47 seconds. Kurt had a PR by 18 seconds, and Ahlrichs, a freshman, had a season-best time by 25 seconds (Sauser doesn’t call races “personal bests” until a runner is at least a sophomore).

     “The boys ran like a very experienced team,” the coach said.

State meet stuff

     • The Panthers will compete in the state meet Saturday, Nov. 2 at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge. The Class 2A races are at 1 p.m. for girls, 1:30 p.m. for boys. The 2A awards ceremony is scheduled for 2:20 p.m.

     • The final cross country rankings were scheduled to come out Oct. 29, after this paper went to press. As of Oct. 22, the Panther boys were ranked third in Class 2A, and the girls were ranked fourth in their division. At State, the top three teams receive trophies and recognition on the podium.

     “Our goal is to go down there and try to bring home team trophies,” Sauser said. “We have a shot, but we’re going to have to have another race like (the last one).”    


Oct. 24

Class 2A State Qualifying

(at Fox Ridge Golf Course,



(top three qualify for State)

     1, Monticello 36; 2. South Hardin 85; 3, Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck 90; 4, Jesup 126; 5, South Hamilton 139; 6, Roland-Story 140; 7, Union 166; 8, Eagle Grove 180; 9, Dike-New Hartford 243; 10, Pocahontas 260; 11, Springville/Central City 322; 12, Clarion-Goldfield/Dows 333; 13, Southeast Valley 336; 14, South Central Calhoun 386.


     3, Cole Cruise, 16:55; 6, Jasper Nietert, 17:09; 8, Harrison Ahlrichs, 17:11; 9, Carter Kurt, 17:25; 10, Zach Chapman, 17:31; 24, Grant Hospodarsky, 18:01.


(top three qualify for State)

     1, Monticello 40; 2, Jesup 72; 3, Dike-New Hartford 76; 4, Roland-Story 104; 5, Springville/Central City 130; 6, Pocahontas 181; 7, Eagle Grove 206; 8, South Central Calhoun 211; 9, South Hamilton 216; 10, Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck 223; 11, Clarion-Goldfield/Dows 285; 12, Union 303; 13, Southeast Valley 362; 14, South Hardin 381.


     2, Emma Althoff, 19:25; 8, Karle Kramer, 20:30; 9, Lydia Recker, 20:44; 10, Emily Hendricks, 20:53; 11, Triniti Etzel, 20:58; 35, Katie Roher, 22:32; 46, Mya Postel, 23:08.



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