Anna Lindower, Emily Bywater and Mary Arch return to City High this season after competing at the state cross country meet last year.
By Susan Harman
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – After a handful of disappointing seasons in which the City High girls cross country team did not perform up to its own lofty standards, the Little Hawks roared back to relevance in 2015 by winning the Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet and placing fourth at the state meet.
“I thought we peaked at the right time,” City coach Tom Mittman said. “I knew that we had potential to score. When we won Super Meet, that surprised me. I knew we were getting better every week. We had a lot of youth, so that makes you a little unpredictable.
“But we had good young kids, and I was convinced that Mary (Arch) could be an all-state runner, and more importantly she learned to believe she could. When we won Super Meet the possibilities opened up for us mentally.”
“I remember West High was there and we ended up coming up from behind them. It was really exciting,” sophomore Anna Lindower said. “We knew we had more in us.”
Seven underclassmen ran at state last year, and they have another year of experience and summer mileage under their sneakers. With an influx of more young talent to provide depth and push the returnees City is poised to challenge for top honors this season.
“We had a rough patch there for four years, so we were pretty excited,” Mittman said of the finish at state. “I’ve got to give a lot of credit for the success of that team to the girls that were seniors. They really got the attitude back to where we needed it, to embrace the hard work along with having fun.”
Arch led the way last year for the Little Hawks, winning the divisional and Super Meet individual titles and Conference Athlete of the Year honors. She placed ninth at the state meet to earn all-state honors. Fellow senior Emily Bywater was 24th at state and Lindower was 25th.
“I knew that Emily and Anna were doing really well early in the season, but then by the end I was just, Whooo,’” Arch said. “They’re always pushing each other really hard and they pushed me.”
Others who return from the state meet team are senior Mollie Hansen (33rd), junior Bridgette Brown (59th), sophomore Aly Hecker (77th) and junior Amelia Morrow (85th).
That’s enough experience and talent to create high expectations, but there’s more. Freshman Esti Brady and sophomores Annie Rummelhart and Morgan Carey have had strong summers and are competing with City’s top runners. Junior Kinsee Brands has come over with a strong track background and has potential to help too. City’s fresh/soph and junior varsity teams led the MVC last year.
“Depth is a huge deal for our program,” Mittman said. “If we can stay healthy I think we can be competitive with anybody. I think it’s going to be a fun year. I think it really is a year where the state championship is up for grabs.”
Arch said that the number of girls running in the summer was indicative of the commitment the team has to reaching its potential this year.
“We’re all each day trying to push each other to be our best,” she said.
“In every run this summer we tried to get as many people as we could,” Lindower said. “And if people are falling back we always encourage them to stay up with everyone.”
Team chemistry and leadership are more important than you might think in a sport like cross country. And Mittman has confidence that this year’s seniors have embraced the challenge of nurturing the former and providing the latter.
“If we work really hard, we can achieve great things,” Lindower said.
“I think the sky’s the limit,” Bywater said.