It was one of the most dominating performances ever by the Ankeny Centennial girls’ cross country team.
The seventh-ranked Jaguars cruised to a Class 4A regional title on Wednesday at the Ashton cross country course in Iowa City. They scored 23 points and advanced to the state meet for the 10th time in the 11-year history of the program.
“I’m pretty speechless,” said Centennial coach Eric Cogdill. “We set a big goal of having everyone finish in the top 15 to be an individual qualifier and not only met that goal but put six girls in the top 10! Running loose certainly had its rewards, too. Only six girls in the top 16 ran lifetime bests and five of them were Jaguars. And, for the third week in a row, the girls have lowered the school record for the varsity seven team time taking roughly a full minute off the record each week.”
No. 10 Waukee placed second in the eight-team field with 44 points, while No. 12 Cedar Falls took third with 84. Those teams also qualified for state.
Centennial had placed third on the same course in the Bud Williams Invitational on Sept. 28.
“This week we emphasized running without pressure and having fun while racing with your teammates,” Cogdill said. “Having been to the Iowa City course earlier this year also helped with confidence as there are a couple challenging spots out there where our girls were able to move up a couple spots among their competitors.”
The Jaguars were led by fifth-ranked Anika Mohrhauser, who pulled away from the field to win the 5k race in a time of 18 minutes 12 seconds, matching the school record that she set a week ago at the CIML Conference meet. She finished 30 seconds ahead of runner-up Michelle McConkey of Waukee.
“Anika was our second ever regional winner, and that was a big one,” Cogdill said. “McConkey had finished only 4 seconds behind Anika two weeks earlier.”
Mohrhauser, a junior, earned her third victory of the season.
“I felt confident before my race and was excited to have the opportunity to run at the Ashton course again,” she said. “The workouts at practice have been going well and the team has all been looking amazing, so that has definitely been a confidence booster! My goal during the race was to just have fun and see if I could pull away from Michelle at some point in the race. Cog and I had talked about sticking with Michelle the first mile and then pulling away and running my race, which worked great!”
No. 24 Cora DenHartog placed third in 18:50, Bella Hodges took fourth in 18:58, Julia Flick was sixth in 19:06, and Ellie Blevins finished ninth in 19:18.
“Cora is starting races faster and picked up consecutive finishes under 19 minutes, while Bella raced tough throughout and picked up her first sub-19 performance,” Cogdill said. “Julia stayed in control early and then moved up fiercely through the field and also nearly broke 19 minutes. Ellie started aggressively, forgetting to take her foot off the gas pedal early and finding herself near the lead, then held on masterfully for a huge PR.
“Ellie is so new and raw to the sport and is emerging at just the right time after splitting all fall with the undefeated freshman volleyball team where she starts as the libero,” he added.
Haley Hveem also earned a top-10 finish, placing 10th in 19:38. Kyra Zinn was 14th in 19:48.
“Haley picked up another PR after she found a moment to separate from her pack with about 1,200 meters to go,” Cogdill said. “Kyra earning a top-15 bid to be an individual state qualifier is amazing. She was running JV in our No. 11 slot just three weeks prior, and she is splitting time with the varsity swim team.”
The state meet will be held on Oct. 27 at Lakeside Golf Course in Fort Dodge. The Jaguars are seeking their fourth top-eight finish under Cogdill.
“Each of these girls has had quite the journey to earn their success, and it hasn’t been easy for any one of them,” Cogdill said. “They each carry some battle scars. I’m incredibly proud of their perseverance and determination that has carried them to moments like this and even more proud of how they have come together as a cohesive unit wanting to do their best for each other.”