West High junior Bailey NockBy Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
FORT DODGE – With top-seven finishes in each of her first two trips to the state cross country meet Bailey Nock had been close to a state title before.
As Nock approached the finish line in her third straight trip to state on Saturday the West High junior couldn’t believe how close she was to being more than just close.
Nock outkicked Johnston junior Jessica McKee to win the Class 4A title in a time of 18:06.9 at Lakeside Golf Course in Fort Dodge.
“My coach this whole season has said, ‘keep your head high, stay focused on the girl in front of you don’t look at the ground, and when I looked up I saw that with 300 yards left I wasn’t that far behind,” Nock said. “I was surprised how close I was, I gave it everything I had and it was enough.”
Nock became the sixth individual champion in West High history and the first since Sarah Wickman won the second of her two 4A titles in 2005.
“She is in some good company,” West High coach Mike Parker said. “Jeni Frudden, is one of the greatest of all time, Sarah Wickman won two and Robdu Adam won one so we have now had six individual state champions and that’s pretty rare.”
Nock was close to becoming the sixth state champion the past two seasons.
She finished third in her state debut as a freshman and was seventh a year ago.
In her third state meet appearance on Saturday, Nock used that past experience to break through.
“I think just being in the atmosphere and having thousands of people yelling in your face just doing that twice helped me learn how to deal with it,” Nock said. “Having been here twice helped me learn the course and know how it feels.”
West High senior Gabby Skopec
Nock and teammate Gabby Skopec trailed the Johnston sister duo of freshman Brooke and junior Jessica McKee for much of the race.
With 400 meters to go Nock made her move, sprinting past the older McKee down the final straightaway.
Nock finished better than three seconds in front of runner-up Jessica McKee who finished in 18:10.
“My coach has been telling me all season that I really need to use my kick to the fullest of its ability,” Nock said. “I had to do that today and it helped me finish it out.”
The time of 18:06.9 was a career-best in a 5K race for Nock and was nearly 34 seconds faster than her time at state from a year ago.
It is the third fastest time at a state meet since the state switched to the 5K race last season.
“As a freshman we knew Bailey was very good but the biggest problem with her sophomore year was she was the number one returning from the state championships and she had to learn to deal with those expectations,” Parker said. “To come here and get seventh I think last year was a huge learning year for her and helped her get where she is today.”
Skopec finished fourth in a time of 18:38.1 in her fourth and final appearance at state.
Prior to Saturday, Skopec, who entered ranked second in 4A, had never finished better than 49th at a state meet.
“It just didn’t go the way that I wanted today but I’m so happy for Bailey,” Skopec said. “She ran great.”
Skopec ran through an injury last season on her way to a 49th place finish.
On Saturday Skopec took more than a minute off her state meet time from last season, finishing nearly 12 seconds in front of fifth place Emily Poss of Johnston.
“Gabby has come a long way way from someone that was here on one leg to someone that will be a first team all-state elite so she has a lot to be proud of,” Parker said. “Even with all those things right now all Gabby can see is that she didn’t win a state title but she is a great teammate and I know she is extremely happy for Bailey.”
The top-four finishes from Nock and Skopec helped West High to a fifth-place finish in the team standings with 166 points.
State Cross Country Meet at Lakeside Golf Course
Class 4A Girls
Team scores – 1. Johnston 26; 2. Dubuque Hempstead 91; 3. City High 121; 4. Cedar Falls 137; 5. West High 166; 6. West Des Moines Dowling 199; 7. Waukee 211; 8. Ankeny Centennial 214; 9. Dubuque Senior 236; 10. Pleasant Valley 237; 11. North Scott 246; 12. Ames 267; 13. Linn-Mar 305; 14. Muscatine 306; 15. Ankeny 392.
Individual results – 1. Bailey Nock (West High) 18:06.9; 2. Jessica McKee (Johnston) 18:10; 3. Brooke McKee (Johnston) 18:30.6; 4. Gabby Skopec (West High) 18:38.1; 5. Emily Poss (Johnston) 18:50; 6. Ella Popenhagen (Cedar Rapids Kennedy) 18:52.2; 7. Paige Horner (Johnston) 18:54.8; 8. Trinity Borland (Bettendorf) 18:55.4; 9. Kylie Latham (Ottumwa) 18:58.6; 10. Mary Arch (City High) 18:59.1; 11. Helen Gould (West Des Moines Valley) 19:00.7; 12. Mackenzie Gaherty (Dubuque Senior) 19:00.7; 13. Presley Case (North Scott) 19:02; 14. Josie Hovey (Johnston) 19:02.5; 15. Ally Gallagher (Bettendorf ) 19:03.2.
City High (121) – 7. Mary Arch 18:59.1; 15. Emily Bywater 19:15.8; 28. Bridget Brown 19:33.4; 34. Kinsee Brands 19:41.7; 37. Annie Rummelhart 19:46.6; 47. Esti Brady 19:58.6; 93. Anna Lindower 21:08.5.
West High (166) – 1. Bailey Nock 18:06.9; 4. Gabby Skopec 18:38.1; 46. Claire Ronnebaum 19:58.2; 49. Deniz Ince 20:00.8; 66. Jessie Skopec 20:23.3; 71. Emma Durian 20:34.8; 96. Olivia Moore 21:14.4