The Ankeny girls’ cross country team doesn’t get a chance to compete in a field of nearly 400 runners very often.
That was the opportunity–and the challenge–that awaited the Hawkettes on Friday.
Seventh-ranked Ankeny traveled to St. Paul, Minn., for the prestigious Roy Griak Invitational at the Les Bolstad Golf Course. The Hawkettes placed ninth among 40 teams in the Girls’ Championship Division with 357 points.
“Anytime you can get the team to be in the same environment as some of the best DI, DII and DIII athletes is a great opportunity,” said Ankeny coach Quinn Groff. “Mike Jay is announcing, you have thousands of athletes, it’s an atmosphere and opportunity the girls won’t forget. We had the opportunity to run in the championship race and compete against 40 of the best teams in the Midwest–eight states represented with some of the best talent in the country. It was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.
“It gave our girls a chance to compete with more athletes similar to us. They constantly had people to run with so that only pushes you more. The meet is held on one of the best and toughest cross country courses in the nation. Our girls could attest to that,” he added.
Wayzata (Minn.) won the meet with 118 points. No. 1 Johnston was the runner-up with 147.
No. 9 Valley also competed. The Tigers finished 12th with 376 points.
Ella Hagen of Summit (Colo.) won the 5k race in a time of 17 minutes 56 seconds. Libby Castelli of O’Gorman (S.D.) was second in 18:04.
Drew Beason was Ankeny’s top finisher. She placed 15th in the field of 377 runners with a time of 19:15.
Beason ran the opening mile in 5:41, putting her in 21st place. She was still in 21st at the 3k mark, but then ran the final 2k in 8:14 to move up six places.
“Overall, it was a great day,” Groff said. “The weather was great. Drew got out well and kept the chase pack within reach. She competed very well and stayed in the race mentally. A top-15 finish in a field of close to 400 of the best runners in the country is a huge confidence boost.”
Sophia Graber placed 97th for the Hawkettes, while Ainsley Kiene finished 98th. They were both clocked in 20:52.
Makenna Madetzke was right behind that duo. She took 100th in 20:53.
“Sophia came in second for us, and I couldn’t be more proud of her,” Groff said. “She is taking a risk in the middle of the race and trying to pull our pack with her. She is running phenomenal right now.”
Lauren Jackson was Ankeny’s fifth scoring runner. She placed 126th in 21:11.
Gwen Briggs took 168th in 21:34. Ella Schulz placed 225th in 22:07, Ivy Wiegand was 228th in 22:08, Raegan Prendergast took 249th in 22:20, and Madisyn Gholson finished 305th in 23:09.
“Our 3 through 10 runners had a good day,” Groff said. “Some girls just didn’t feel like themselves, some got out too fast, some just haven’t seen that many hills on a course. A few girls just had a mental or physical lapse, but it is a huge opportunity. We have so many things we can pull from that race that were positives. There are a few things we can improve on but there always will be.”
The Hawkettes will compete in the Southeast Polk Invitational on Thursday.