Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Depth. Balance. Teamwork.
Regardless of what phrase you use the Liberty High cross country team has it.
Liberty High even has its own term for describing the team-centric style that has vaulted the Lightning up the Class 4A rankings this season.
“We call it the bolt pack,” Liberty High coach Josh Hildebrand said. “They feed off of each other, they use that energy and they really go out after that last half.”
The bolt pack was in full effect on Thursday as Class 4A sixth-ranked Liberty High put five runners in the top 10 on its way to the team title at the West High Invitational at Kickers Cross Country Course in Iowa City.
Freshman Aidan Decker led the list of five Liberty High runners to post top-10 finishes, placing fifth in 17:10.6 as the Lightning finished with 39 points.
“Bolt pack is kind of our motto,” Decker said. “We always like to stick together. We treat this really as much as a team sport as any other sports team.”
City High sophomore Ford Washburn placed fourth to lead the Little Hawks to a runner-up finish with 63 points.
Seventh-ranked Pleasant Valley got an individual title from Kole Sommer and a runner-up finish from Tarun Vedula and finished third with 71 points while West High was fourth with 103.
Sommer won the individual title by nearly half a minute, finishing in 16:30.2. Washburn was fourth in 17:01.6, just .02 off of third-place Conner Kilgore of Dubuque Senior.
“My hip was bothering me and I everything just felt bad,” Washburn said. “I just tried to stay up there and keep up with the front people.”
Liberty High used its tight pack to pull away from the field in the team race.
Caleb Schillinger was seventh in 17:17.2, Bowen Gryp was eighth in 17:17.3, Christian Montover was ninth in 17:19.9 and Gavin Keeney was 10th in 17:21.6.
The team title was the second straight for the Lightning following a three-week layoff caused by the Iowa City School Districts starting classes on-line.
“I’m really pleasantly surprised by how we’ve been able to race recently and we’ve definitely done it as a team,” Montover said. “That’s what we harp on constantly,” Montover said.
In its return to action last week Liberty High put four runners in the top 10 while winning City High’s Bud Williams Invitational.
It was more of the same on Thursday as Liberty High won its third team title in four races this season.
“I feel like the rest of Iowa doesn’t really realize how good that we are,” Decker said. “I think we are going to be a little under the radar when we head to the big meets and we can show everyone what we’ve got.”
With his fifth place finish on Thursday Decker became the fourth different Liberty High runner to lead the Lightning pack this season.
Gryp, Jack Kinzer and Schillinger had all been the top Liberty High finisher at a race this season before Decker took top team honors on Thursday.
“Every race that we’ve raced a different person has been our top runner,” Montover said. “More than anything I think that has helped us this season.”
Decker followed the plan of running with the pack for awhile on Thursday but could tell early he had an extra bounce in his step.
“I felt pretty good, I went out fast and felt like I had something else in me today,” Decker said. “I started working my way up and trying to help my teammates keep on pushing forward.”
The fifth-place finish was a career-best for Decker.
“Aidan our freshman just stunned us today,” Montover said. “He came out and pushed us all and that just shows how much we enjoy this beautiful thing that we all do together.”
The fourth-place finish for Washburn was the second straight strong showing for the City High sophomore coming off the three-week break.
Washburn won the individual title at the Bud Williams Invite on the same course last Thursday.
“The first two miles felt really easy last week and I was just breezing,” Washburn said. “The last mile I just sped up a lot. That was a lot easier than this meet it was a lot cooler.”
Elliot Dunnwald, Noah Carey and Ammon Smith placed 12th, 13th and 14th respectively for No. 14 City High.
Seth Cheney led No. 13 West High with an 11th place finish in 17:21.6 while Caden Noeller was 15th in 17:37.4.
“I was really nervous about some of these teams coming here like Pleasant Valley and West and I was also really excited at the same time I really wanted to get out there and started having more competition,” Decker said. “It was really fun being able to race them I was just trying to do my job for the team.”
West High finished third in the girls race with 74 points.
Class 4A seventh-ranked Dubuque Senior won the team title with 24 points while Pleasant Valley was runner-up with 40.
Maddy Negley placed fifth in a time of 20:47.1 to lead West High.
Trojan Early Bird Invite
At Kickers Soccer Complex
Team scores – 1. Liberty High 39; 2. City High 63; 3. Pleasant Valley 71; 4. West High 103; 5. Bettendorf 109; 6. Dubuque Senior 126
Individual leaders – 1. Kole Sommer (PV) 16:30.2; 2. Tarun Vedula (PV) 16:58.3; 3. Conner Kilgore (DS) 17:01.4; 4. Ford Washburn (ICH) 17:01.6; 5. Aidan Decker (ICL) 17:10.6; 6. Nick Moore (BET) 17:11.7; 7. Caleb Schillinger (ICL) 17:17.2; 8. Bowen Gryp (ICL) 17:17.3; 9. Christian Montover (ICL) 17:19.9; 10. Gavin Keeney (ICL) 17:21.6
Liberty High (41) – 5. Aidan Decker 17:10.6; 7. Caleb Schillinger 17:17.2; 8. Bowen Gryp 17:17.3; 9. Christian Montover 17:19.9; 10. Gavin Keeney 17:21.6; 16. Jack Kinzer 17:45.9; 17. Jordan Robinson 17:47.9
City High (62) – 4. Ford Washburn 17:01.6; 12. Elliot Dunnwald 17:21.6; 13. Noah Carey 17:30.2; 14. Ammon Smith 17:37.2; 20. Hayden Beerends 17:54.1; 31. Parker Max 18:19; 34. Truman Thompson 18:25.9
West High (102) – 11. Seth Cheney 17:21.6; 15. Caden Noeller 17:37.4; 22. Tosh Klever 18:07.1; 27. Drew Peterson 18:16.1; 28. Asher Overholt 18:16.3; 38. Sebastian Cochran 18:46.8; 42. Clay Bopp 20:30
Trojan Early Bird Invite
At Kickers Soccer Complex
Team scores – 1. Dubuque Senior 24; 2. Pleasant Valley 40; 3. West High 74
Individual leaders – 1. Lillian Schmidt (DS) 19:23.7; 2. Izzy Gorton (DS) 19:50.6; 3. Bella D’Antico (PV) 20:05.2; 4. Lizzie McVey (PV) 20:41.7; 5. Maddy Negley (ICW) 20:47.1; 6. Leah Klatatauskas (DS) 20:52.7; 7. Kaitlyn Miller (DS) 20:54.4; 8. Lucia Nelson (DS) 20:55.6; 9. Lexi Minard (PV) 21:06.3; 10. Hanna Walsh (DS) 21:07.4
West High (74) – 5. Maddy Negley 20:47.1; 15. Gabby Moniza 21:40.3; 17. Vicki Carrica 21:59; 18. Sara Alaya 22:03.6; 19. Katie Hoefer 22:43.5; 20. Mattie Harms 22:56.7; 21. Erinn Varga 23:00.6