By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
TIFFIN – The Clear Creek Amana boys cross country team was close last season.
Close to breaking through under first-year head coach Ben Robison, close to a top-three finish at the state qualifying meet and close to reaching the state meet as a team.
Exactly how close were the Clippers?
A single point separated Clear Creek Amana from third place and a state meet trip at last year’s state qualifier.
Clear Creek Amana senior Luke Wingert“We were outside by a point,” Robison said. “It was crushing.”
Clear Creek had four individuals finish in the top 15 and qualifying for the state meet at last year’s 3A qualifying meet.
Still the Clippers finished one point behind Cedar Rapids Xavier for the final qualifying spot in the team standings.
Motivating? You bet.
“It was really exciting because I got to go to state but looking back at the race just the little things just changing a little thing just getting one more spot, every point counts that’s the disappointing part. We want to go back there as a team, that is the goal,” senior Luke Wingert said. “Obviously not qualifying made us more determined to get that this year so it’s kind of a blessing in disguise.”
Wingert joins fellow senior Wyatt Sedlacek as the two returning Clear Creek Amana runners with state meet experience.
Sedlacek placed 93rd in Class 3A last year at the state meet in Fort Dodge while Wingert finished 119th.
The duo will lead an experienced Clipper squad that returns four of its top seven runners from last season.
Motivated by last year’s near miss, Wingert described the summer workouts as the best he’s experienced in his career.
“The season didn’t really start two weeks ago we’ve been really pushing, this is the best offseason we have had so our season really started in June,” Wingert said. “We said just do a little bit more, we were that close. If we do a little bit more we could be at state.”
Senior Ben Oxley returns with varsity experience along with sophomore Cole Liebe.
Both Oxley and Liebe earned valuable experience in the Clipper lineup last year.
Robison has also liked what he has seen from the incoming freshman class and believes several of those freshman could step into the varsity lineup.
“We have freshman right now that have bought in so we have a great mix of experienced and kids that want to be there,” Robison said. “We have a sophomore (Liebe) that is beyond driven. He was our fifth guy at districts last year so he is like that is never going to happen again. We’ve got the right pieces in place to have a good season.”
The Clear Creek Amana girls program has their own reason for optimism this season.
Sophomore Kaylie Barker returns with high expectations after finishing 58th at the 3A state meet in her debut season last year.
“I think the biggest thing is she has been working on her speed and I am really going to work on her confidence,” Clear Creek Amana coach Jane Astor said. “She has the base underneath her, she has the ability to run really, really well. She just needs to relax. I think sometimes she gets nervous and doesn’t realize she is as good as she is.”
Barker spent her summer working on her speed and Astor believes that work will pay off.
Barker ran 20:35.1 at the state meet a year ago and finished 18th at the WAMC conference meet.
“I feel like I’ve trained more this summer so I feel like I’ll be in better shape,” Barker said. “I did speed work and tempo work and I think that will help.”
Sophomore Ally Loren also returns with varsity experience and Astor expects senior Emilie Harder and junior Olivia Fairholm and Danielle Wnek to step into bigger roles.
“It’s going to depend on how much progress we make,” Astor said. “Kaylie is going to lead us very well but we are pretty young again so we are going to have to come along nicely and see where we go.”