By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Often times the later the season goes the tougher the competition becomes.
Outside of a trip to the state meet its tough for the City High boys cross country team to run into stiffer competition than what they have seen the last two weeks.
The Little Hawks faced loaded fields at the Mississippi Valley Conference Super meet and Valley Divisional meet the past two weeks.
On Thursday ninth-ranked City High will attempt to return to the state meet for the second straight season at the Class 4A state qualifying meet at Noelridge Park in Cedar Rapids.
“When you look at the Super meet it’s incredible talent with seven or eight ranked teams and then you turn around and go to the divisional with four or five more of those teams,” City High coach Jayme Skay said. “It’s extremely tough and we expect the same thing this week.”
No state qualifying meet is to be taken lightly.
City High knows that well having qualified for the state meet 23 times in the past 25 seasons.
Still, Thursday’s state qualifying field that features seventh-ranked Linn-Mar and No. 12 Cedar Rapids Washington isn’t as imposing as what the Little Hawks have faced the last two weeks.
City High placed sixth at the MVC Super meet at Noelridge Park two weeks ago in a field that featured eight ranked teams.
A week later the Little Hawks were fourth in the Valley Divisional that had six ranked teams. On Thursday City High hopes that competition pays dividends.
“You have years where it’s a little bit lighter competition in divisional and you can kind of relax a little bit more but there is no relaxing this year,” Skay said. “They have to be up and ready and I think it’s only going to make us better and stronger.”
The top two runners for City High were consistent the past two weeks.
Seniors Michael Berg and Matthew Dodge took turns running in front of the City High pack at the two MVC meets, each lodging top 15 finishes in both events.
Berg was 12th at the Super meet while Dodge was 14th.
After those two is where the Little Hawks have seen some variation.
Lucas Firmston and Caden Turnbough were the third and fourth finishers for the Little Hawks at the Super meet and finished sixth and seventh among City High runners at the Divisional meet.
Skay is confident his team is solid all the way through the seventh spot heading into the postseason.
“Former coach Bud Williams always said you’re one and two guys are pretty reliable and your three and four guys and your five and six guys are going to be there it’s a question of where they are going to be,” Skay said. “Really to place and win your four, five and six guy become so important.”
Part of the reason for that variation was the performance of Quenton Max, who fell at the Super meet and finished 46th and seventh among City High runners.
Max responded with a 20th place finish at the Divisional, running behind only Berg and Dodge for City High.
“Quenton Max fell at Super meet and didn’t run as well as he could and turned around at the divisional meet and in the middle of the race he busted out a great acceleration and found himself running up in the front with our top guys,” Skay said. “That is what those two races give you is opportunities to get back and perfect your race, getting ready for state.”