REINBECK Brady Ellenbecker wants his high school cross country season to end on a strong note and he got off on the right foot here Monday afternoon.
Ellenbecker, one of two seniors on the South Tama boys cross country team, led the Trojans at the North Iowa Cedar League meet. He helped the Trojans finish third as a team with 97 points, behind Hudson (85) and Denver (93).
"The varsity boys ran well," head coach George Kuhter said. "We went in hoping for a top-three finish with the way we practiced last week. Our goal was to put four in the top 20. We have to run well here and we did."
South Tama senior Brady Ellenbecker (No. 513) runs beside a South Hardin competitor Monday at the NICL cross country meet. Ellenbecker ran his best race of the season, finishing fifth in a time of 16:12. The STC boys took third.
South Tama's boys team placed four runners in the top 24 Monday. Ellenbecker led the Trojans with a fifth-place finish overall. He ran the 5-kilometer course in a time of 16:12, which was his fastest time in his career.
"He ran a great race," Kuhter said. "It's his last league meet and he wanted to be all-conference. He will admit that old summer running that jumped up and grabbed in him the butt. He ran a lot this summer, but he didn't run consistently. He wanted to finish on a high note and I think he did."
Ellenbecker was thrilled with his race and finish, after what's been a struggling season for the Trojans top returning runner from a year ago.
Varsity girls results
Team Standings - 1. Dike-New Hartford 75, 2. Hudson 106, 3. Denver 108, 4. South Hardin 131, 5. East Marshall 140, 6. South Tama 188, 7. Wapsie Valley 190, 8. BCLUW 195, 9. Grundy Center 204, 10. Aplington-Parkersburg 204, 11. LaPorte City Union 246, 12. Gladbrook-Reinbeck 252, 13. West Marshall 268.
All-conference (top 7) - 1. Kelsey Kirchoff, DEN, 16:09; 2. Abrah Meyer, WV, 16:35; 3. Amanda Cartney, HUD, 16:41; 4. Haylee Luna, DNH, 16:48; 5. Lauren Sharp, DNH, 16:50; 6. Lydia Rose, SH, 16:52; 7. Kelsey Kupka, STC, 16:53.
Varsity boys results
Team Standings - 1. Hudson 85, 2. Denver 93, 3. South Tama 97, 4. West Marshall 106, 5. Dike-New Hartford 114, 6. South Hardin 114, 7. East Marshall 154, 8. BCLUW 169, 9. Union 274, 10. Grundy Center 279, 11. Wapsie Valley 281, 12. Jesup 283
All-conference (top 7) - 1. Kyle Kehoe, DEN, 15:51; 2. John Crew, DNH, 15:52; 3. Jason Hawkins, HUD, 16:04, 4. Tim Rose, SH, 16:10; 5. Brady Ellenbecker, STC, 16:12; 6. Ben Terrones, EM, 16:18; 7. John Stanish, SH, 16:23
"Right from the start, I got in the zone," Ellenbecker said. "I've needed that zone all year and it finally came. This has always been my favorite course, because it's nice and flat. I'm not sure why today was so good, but with everything that's happened in the past two weeks, I just went hard today."
"It's been a really rough year, too," he said. "My times haven't been nearly what they have been in the past. I just want to end it on a good note and today's time tops my PR. This should help my confidence. It's what I needed."
Following Ellenbecker was sophomore Robert Tyynismaa, who has battled with and beat Ellenbecker for much of the season. Tyynismaa finished ninth, which was good enough for a spot on the second-team all-NICL, in a time of 16:28.
Freshman Blake Keller and junior Surrell Youngbear were the next Trojans to finish. They were one second apart as they placed 23rd and 24th, running 17:06 and 17:07. Rounding out the boys lineup was junior Luis Perez (36th), senior James Norton (47th) and junior Taylen Anderson (63rd).
On the girls side, South Tama finished sixth out of 13 full teams. The Trojans scored 188 points. Dike-New Hartford won the girls title with 75 points. South Tama didn't run its top lineup, because two girls are recovering from illness.
"Kelsey Kupka and Taylor Ellenbecker ran well," Kuhter said. "We're missing two of our top four girls. We picked the wrong time to get sick and it's the wrong time for everything, but what do you do."
Kupka and junior Ellenbecker were the top two runners for the Trojans. Kupka continues leading the Trojans, as she placed seventh and finished the 4-kilometer course in a time of 16:53.
"I am really excited," Kupka said. "I was just trying my best to stay up front. This is my senior year so I am trying to go out with a bang. I am trying to leave it all out here."
Behind her was Ellenbecker, who finished 11th, running 17:18. Like her brother, Ellenbecker was ecstatic about her race as she's battled issues this fall and struggled racing.
"I'm very happy with my race, especially since I haven't been finishing like I've wanted to this year," Ellenbecker said. "I wasn't expecting to place that high at all. I'm ready for regionals. I want it tomorrow. I'm so excited.
"I'm kind of getting my blood sugars under control a little better," she said. "The nice weather also helped. Plus, it's my junior year and I only have one more year so I have go out with a bang. I guess I better start now."
Also running varsity for the Trojans were junior Regina Balderas (39th), junior Erin Filloon (63rd), senior Natasha Musgrave (68th) and senior Grace Kavalier (69th).
South Tama had full teams compete in the junior varsity races, too. Sophomore Diahana Puentes finished runner-up in the JV girls race. She, along with sophomore Naomi Hoskey who didn't run Monday, were the two girls missing from the varsity roster. Also running in the JV girls race were freshman Sacorro Mendoza (13th), Ericka Dunning (16th), junior Brittany Bear (20th) and sophomore Kristi Lasley (22nd). STC finished third in the JV girls standings.
The South Tama JV boys placed fourth as a team. Sophomore Jake Theissen led the Trojans with a 19th-place finish. Following him were sophomores Trent Garcia (27th), Britton Waldo (38th), Andrew Kajer (39th), Cade Steuhm (41st) and Isaiais De Latorre (44th).
South Tama Middle School runners also competed at their final meet of the season. The STC girls finished second out of five full teams at the meet with 63 team points, while Denver won with 38 points.
Eighth-graders Lauren Yuska, Jensen Vodochodsky and Allison Yuska all finished in the top 15. Kaitlin Berger (32nd), Shae Slaven (33rd), Lauren Gumm (36th) and Mahala Doyle (43rd) rounded out the Trojans team.
On the boys side, eighth-grader Hunter Filloon led the way with a ninth-place finish. Also running at the meet were Jake Wilkerson (30th), Jacob Dostal (40th) and Thayne Lamb (47th).
"The middle school group is really enthusiastic," Kuhter said. "Sometimes they drive you crazy, but they are really enthusiastic, but they like to be here and they like to practice. I will probably have all but one full-time cross country next year, so I think we have a lot to build on. We have to get those kids believing that this is something they can do."
Monday was the first meet for the high school teams and the second meet for the middle school teams since the tragic passing of eighth-grader Ian McFate. He was killed the day after being injured in a car-pedestrian accident.
"Considering what happened, we had a pretty decent week of practice last week," Kuhter said. "But everybody was flat coming off Monday. It was hard for the kids to focus on what they were supposed to be doing. It showed in practice. But they did begin to focus on this meet. This is their 'we have to get back to business' kind of deal. Everybody ran well. I'm happy with the way everybody ran."
The Trojans have dedicated their season to McFate and they ran Monday for him.
"It took a while to settle in," Brady Ellenbecker said. "After the funeral, everyone got back into our old routine, well somewhat old routine. We all tied ribbons to our shoe and anytime it got tough, we told everyone to look down. It worked for me. It was my inspiration."
Monday's meet was originally scheduled for Saturday, but it was postponed because of weather Saturday morning. Monday's weather turned out to be nearly perfect running conditions, but the Trojans were ready to run Saturday.
"We had everybody set and ready to go Saturday," Kuhter said. "You have to play with the cards you're dealt. You can control the weather. We just press on and do the best we can."
South Tama will compete at the Class 3A Regional meet Thursday in Pella. The results will be in the next edition of the Toledo Chronicle.
"This is the fourth year in a row that we're in the toughest regional in the state," Kuhter said. "There are a lot of good teams out there that are running well. If we can fire on all cylinders Thursday, I think that a top-three finish isn't out of the question."