Solon’s Sophie Nicol and Erin KerkhoffBy Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
SOLON – With every cross country course offering its own subtle differences and specific twists and turns running on a familiar course can provide an advantage.
Erin Kerkhoff, Sophie Nicol and their Solon teammates put that home course advantage to good use on Thursday.
Kerkhoff and Nicol each finished in the top 16 to lift Solon to a runner-up finish at the WAMAC meet on a cool and calm afternoon at the Solon Nature and Recreation Area.
“We really used running here as an advantage because (coach) Emy (Williams) told us the other girls don’t know the course like we do,” Nicol said. “We know when we are getting close and when we need to power through and I think that was a big advantage for us.”
The home course advantage along with strong performances from Kerkhoff and Nicol helped Solon finish with 99 points, 43 behind team champion Mount Vernon-Lisbon.
Kerkhoff led Solon with a 13th place finish in 20:35 while Nicol was 16th in a time of 20:49 as Solon finished 17 points in front of third place Benton Community.
“It helps to run here, we knew exactly what was coming up and how to use that to help us,” Kerkhoff said. “We knew went to push and when we thought we could break through.”
The time of 20:35 for Kerkhoff was more than a minute faster than her performance at the same course at the Solon Invitational last month.
The sophomore moved up several spots in the final 200 meters on Thursday to improve on her 22nd place finish at the WAMAC meet last year as a freshman.
“I’ve always kind of waited to the end to sprint but now I am starting to push my pace a little during the race and then sprint at the end,” Kerkhoff said. “That’s kind of what I’ve been going for.”
Behind Kerkhoff and Nicol the Spartans had five runners finish in the top 25 on Thursday.
Freshmen Nicole Shafer, Ella Duster and Aira Foster all logged top-25 finishes for the Spartans in their first WAMAC conference meet.
“They are surprising me,” Solon coach Emy Williams said of the freshman trio. “These last couple of meets have really come on strong and made some great growth.”
Shafer finished 22nd in 20:59 while Duster finished 23rd in a time of 21:02. Foster placed 25th in 21:07 to round out the scoring for Solon.
“We’ve all improved our times a lot,” Kerkhoff said. “The freshmen have really come up which is awesome because we are doing really good as a team now.”
Solon isn’t done running at home.
The Spartans will host a Class 3A state qualifying next Thursday where they plan to once again use their home course knowledge to their advantage.
“It’s a big advantage and it’s really reassuring because you know exactly what you need to do,” Nicol said. “We talk about it in practice, we talk about it when we are walking the course exactly when you need to put in a surge or exactly where you need to speed up.”
Kaylie Barker placed 15th in 20:48 to lead Clear Creek Amana as the Clippers placed 14th as a team with 393 points.
WAMAC Conference Meet at Solon Nature and Recreation Area
Team scores – 1. Mount Vernon-Lisbon 56; 2. Solon 99; 3. Benton Community 116; 4. Marion 125; 5. Williamsburg 139; 6. Center Point-Urbana 147; 7. Anamosa 177; 8. South Tama 199; 9. Central DeWitt 215; 10. Vinton-Shellsburg 219; 11. Western Dubuque 304; 12. Independence 326; 13. West Delaware 353; 14. Clear Creek Amana 393; 15. Dyersville Beckman 429; 16. Maquoketa 437.
Individual results – 1. Adrianna Katcher (CPU) 18:17; 2. Sophia Gilbert (BC) 18:48; 3. Emma Duncan (Ana) 19:59; 4. Julia Campbell (CD) 20:03; 5. Hallie Kephart (Mar) 20:09; 6. Maggie Davis (MVL) 20:10; 7. Faith Anton (MVL) 20:13; 8. Lauren Woeste (BC) 20:13; 9. Hayley Corkin (MVL) 20:22; 10. Aubrey Frey (MVL) 20:30.
Solon (99) – 13. Erin Kerkhoff 20:35; 16. Sophie Nicol 20:49; 22. Nicole Shafer 20:59; 23. Ella Duster 21:02; 25. Aira Foster 21:07; 70. Calista Haasl 22:47; 81. Jayna Koffron 23:39.
Clear Creek Amana (393) – 15. Kaylie Barker 20:48; 76. Ally Loren 23:10; 95. Olivia Fairholm 25:05; 101. Danielle Wnek 25:45; 106. Olivia Smyka 27:08; 107. Emilie Harder 27:20.