Your Prep Sports
WILLIAMSBURG – One of the things Kiersten Conway has learned in her four-year varsity career is that some days just feel better than others.
Never has Conway felt better than she did on Thursday.
Conway won the first individual conference title of her career in a school-record time to lead Solon to its first WAMAC Conference crown since 2012 on Thursday at the Williamsburg Sports Complex.
“There are just those days when you are know you are feeling good and this was one of those days,” Conway said. “This was the best I have ever felt.”
A senior that had already earned a trio of top-eight finishes at the conference meet Conway felt good before the gun sounded on Thursday.
“I was probably 200 meters from the start and I yelled at her and she looked me dead in the eye and shook her head yes at what I was telling her,” Solon coach Emy Williams said. “I knew then and there she knew what she was going to do. That’s what is great about her is she knows what she has to do and she went and did it today.”
Conway felt even better after she finished.
Her winning time of 19:15.75 was more than 17 seconds faster than runner-up Haidyn Barker from Clear Creek Amana and was nearly 30 seconds faster than the time Conway clocked on the same course at a regular season meet last month.
More importantly her performance helped Solon snap a string of close calls at the conference meet.
Solon finished runner-up at the WAMAC meet four times since winning the second of back-to-back titles in 2012 and was second to Williamsburg each of the past two years.
Class 3A fourth-ranked Solon turned the tide on Thursday, finishing 13 points in front the 2A second-ranked Raiders on their home course.
“It’s amazing to finally be able to say we are conference champions,” Conway said. “In the lobby at our school it says district champions and there are footballs just everywhere. Finally, we can say we were conference champs and that’s just a cool feeling.
Solon put four runners in the top 15 and had all seven of its runners in the top 21 while finishing with 57 points.
Class 3A No. 10 Mount Vernon-Lisbon was third with 110 followed by Benton Community with 122 and Center Point-Urbana with 124. Clear Creek Amana was seventh with 140.
“Coach Emy was telling us yesterday that we’ve gotten second, second, second and this year we were really going to go for it and try to secure that championship,” Solon junior Emma Bock said. “We’ve worked so hard this season that I think it was just really time for us to win this meet. I am just so proud of everyone because we have really put in the work to get to where we are today.”
Sophomore Mary Fiala was 11th for Solon in a time of 20:22.54 leading a barrage of Spartans to finish under the 21-minute mark.
Bock was 13 in 20:28.92 while junior Meghan O’Neill placed 15th in 20:35.32.
“Winning this meet was definitely high on our list of goals because it’s conference and it’s a really important meet but I think every year we’ve been second and we knew we could get to first,” Fiala said. “This was definitely high on the list because we’d been so close before.”
Only 23 runners finished under 21 minutes on Thursday and seven of them were from Solon.
Freshmen Anna Quillin (20:38.55), Gracie Federspiel (20:44.06) and Ashlyn Williams (20:53.4) finished 17th, 20th and 21st respectively.
“We have such a good team, we have girls on junior varsity that would be varsity on almost every team,” Fiala said. “I think that’s really cool and it makes us closer as a team.”
Depth may have carried Solon on Thursday but it seemed the win was as much about the Spartans’ senior leader.
Conway ran even with Barker and Marion junior Peyton Steffen for the first mile and then simply took off.
“This is probably the smartest race I have ever run,” Conway said. “I always try to get out to the front right away. I always want to get that gator right away and today I just stayed behind and I let them lead me and it was right at the start of the second lap that I decided to go.”
By the two-mile marker Conway had opened up a comfortable lead over Barker and continued to pull away.
Conway was eighth at the WAMAC meet as a freshman and sophomore and had a then career-best fourth-place finish a year ago.
Thursday she finally got her WAMAC gold.
“We were going around the final loop and my coach said ‘you have about 40 meters on them’ and that felt so good,” Conway said. “I kept speeding up from there. I just felt so good.”
At Williamsburg Sports Complex
Team scores – 1. Solon 57; 2. Williamsburg 70; 3. Mount Vernon-Lisbon 110; 4. Benton Community 122; 5. Center Point-Urbana 124; 6. Marion 130; 7. Clear Creek Amana 140; 8. West Delaware 225; 9. Independence 263; 10. Maquoketa 268; 11. South Tama 271; 12. Vinton-Shellsburg 295; 13. Dyersville Beckman 341
Individual leaders – 1. Kiersten Conway (SOL) 19:15.75; 2. Haidyn Barker (CCA) 19:33.4; 3. Peyton Steffen (MAR) 19:35.97; 4. Ruth Jennings (WIL) 19:36.37; 5. Madison Prier (MAR) 20:00.59; 6. Laura Swart (MV-L) 20:03.03; 7. Kora Katcher (CP-U) 20:06.93; 8. Anna Hoffman (MV-L) 20:13.33; 9. Natalie Bemer (WIL) 20:14.1; 10. Taylor Winegarden (WIL) 20:16.57; 11. Mary Fiala (SOL) 20:22.54; 12. Hailee Ricklefs (BC) 20:25.9; 13. Emma Bock (SOL) 20:28.92; 14. Emma Wilkerson (CP-U) 20:29.51; 15. Meghan O’Neill (SOL) 20:35.32
Solon (57) – 1. Kiersten Conway 19:15.75; 11. Mary Fiala 20:22.54; 13. Emma Bock 20:28.92; 15. Meghan O’Neill 20:35.32; 17. Anna Quillin 20:38.55; 20. Gracie Federspiel 20:44.06; 21. Ashlyn Williams 20:53.4
Clear Creek Amana (140) – 2. Haidyn Barker 19:33.4; 22. Kayla Jiras 20:58.2; 28. Avery Allan 21:29.37; 39. Emily Coleman 22:15.61; 49. Allie Kounkel 23:06.39; 51. Eva Plathe 23:11.54; 63. Alexis Ponce 24:19.2