The first season in Collins-Maxwell cross country history saw the Spartan boys finish strong and the girls place in the top half at the majority of their meets.

The Collins-Maxwell boys struggled to hit its stride for most of the season. The Spartans only finished in the top half of the team standings in two of their first seven meets.

“We had some higher expectations with the boys’ team this season that just didn’t pan out,” Collins-Maxwell head cross country coach Jerry Meinerts said. “We had seven guys return from the previous year, with a lot of seniors, and we just didn’t improve like we were hoping. We still had a very successful season, but we just didn’t end it in Ft. Dodge.”

But as the season started winding down’ Collins-Maxwell started to get healthy and put things together. The Spartans took second in the final two meets of the regular season, then finished seventh out of 20 teams in Class 1A state qualifying meet field at Eagle Grove.

The Collins-Maxwell boys placed third at the first-ever Spartan Invitational to start the season Aug. 24. The Spartans took fourth at Pella and the Colfax-Mingo meets, eighth at Lynnville-Sully, fifth at West Marshall, 10th at Nevada and seventh at North Polk.

With Frank Sposeto IV entering the varsity mix, Collins-Maxwell started to find its groove heading into the final two weeks.

The Spartans came in runner-up out of 12 teams at the Montezuma Invitational. On Oct. 12, they turned in their best effort of the season at their first-ever Iowa Star Conference meet by again taking second out of 12 teams.

“The boys’ highlight was earning second place in the Iowa Star Conference meet, bringing home their first Spartan trophy,” Meinerts said. “It was the first time we beat Baxter as well.”

After Collins-Maxwell and Baxter ended their sports sharing agreement at the conclusion of the 2016-17 athletic year, senior Carter Fricke was the top returning runner on the Collins-Maxwell side. He led the Spartan boys in all but one meet, turning in seven top-10 performances.

Fricke placed sixth at the Collins-Maxwell and Lynnville-Sully meets, eighth at Pella, West Marshall and Montezuma, ninth at Colfax-Mingo and 10th at the ISC meet. He took 24th at the qualifying meet and his best 5-kilometer time was 18 minutes, 15 seconds.

Senior Max Van Maanen also returned with varsity experience.

Van Maanen placed 10th at the Collins-Maxwell meet, 11th at Montezuma, 15th at Pella, 16th at West Marshall, 17th at Colfax and 40th at the qualifying meet. His best performance came at the ISC meet as he stepped up to place eighth and run the fastest time of the season for the Spartans at 18:11.

Freshman Jacob Pierick came on strong during the second half of the season.

Pierick finished 17th at Montezuma and 52nd at the qualifying meet. He peaked at conference with a 14th-place time of 19:08.

Noah Rhoades placed 20th at the ISC meet with a season-best time of 19:54. He also came in 16th at the Spartan Invitational, 20th at Montezuma, 21st at West Marshall and 26th at Colfax.

Carter Merryman peaked with a time of 22:17 and his best varsity place was 42nd at Colfax. Addison Swaab’s fastest time of the season was 22:10 and he placed 44th at West Marshall.

Carter Davis took 27th at Montezuma and ran a 20:58 at the ISC meet. Austin Galbraith came in 52nd at Montezuma and his fastest time was 23:21.

Sposeto IV first ran at the Nevada Invitational. He took 16th at the ISC meet with a season-best time of 19:16, and he placed 66th at the qualifying meet.

Next season, Meinerts will have to replace five runners. The Raiders will have an especially tough time replacing Fricke and Van Maanen.

“Our first goal is start recruiting some more guys, then get into rebuilding mode,” Meinerts said. “We’ve got some pretty good younger guys that we can build around. So although the expectations won’t be as high as the girls, we are still going to plan on being competitive at each and every meet.”

The Spartan girls won the Montezuma Invitational, took third at the ISC and West Marshall meets, fourth at the Spartan Invitational and North Polk, fifth at Colfax-Mingo and ninth at both the Nevada and qualifying meets. The Spartans finished in the top half of six of those meets, a good accomplishment for a team with only three runners with previous varsity experience.

“We weren’t even sure if we would have enough girls to field a team,” Meinerts said. “But with the addition of four more girls, we were able to field a complete varsity team. These girls not only were able to be competitive at each and every meet, they won the first ever team championship at the Montezuma meet.”

The girls overcame nagging injuries to go along with the inexperience to field a competitive team by growing a little each meet.

“They learned how to push the pace a little more each meet and see how they affected their overall times,” Meinerts said. “It just took some time for them to learn how to race.”

The top runners for the Spartan girls were sophomores Mikayla Houge, Olivia Pasquariello and Abby Husak.

In her first year out for cross country, Houge placed seventh at the ISC meet with a season-best 5-kilometer time of 22:02 and she took 30th at the qualifying meet in 22:51. Houge also placed seventh at Montezuma, ninth at West Marshall, 10th at Colfax, 13th at the Spartan Invitational and 15th at North Polk.

Pasquariello stepped up to become the team’s second runner late in the season, running a 10th-place and season-best time of 22:28 at the ISC meet and placing 48th at the qualifying meet in 23:35. Pasquariello also came in eighth at Montezuma, 13th at both West Marshall and Colfax and 18th at the Spartan Invitational.

Husak ran her best time of 23:03 at the Spartan Invitational, where she placed 12th. She battled through injury problems after that, but came back to take ninth at Montezuma and 17th at the ISC meet, plus run a 23:40 at the qualifying meet.

Whitney Spencer was the lone senior competitor for the Collins-Maxwell girls.

Spencer peaked with a time of 23:24 at the conference meet, where she placed 20th. Spencer also ran a 24:28 at the qualifying meet and placed 17th at West Marshall, 21st at Montezuma and 22nd at the Spartan Invitational.

Junior Shasta Moody also regularly scored for Collins-Maxwell. Moody took 26th at the ISC meet in 23:57 and 64th at the qualifying meet in 24:30 — her best placing was 20th at both Colfax-Mingo and Montezuma.

Morgan Day and Tori Bienfang were the other varsity competitors for the Spartan girls.

Day took 21st at West Marshall, 23rd at Montezuma and 24th at Colfax and her fastest time was 24:01. Bienfang peaked at 23:55 with a 25th-place showing at conference and she also came in 25th at West Marshall.

With the return of everyone but Spencer, the Spartan girls should be a strong program in 2018.

“We’ve got some really big expectations for next year,” Meinerts said. “We want to be one of the best teams in the state in Class 1A. We will not be shy when we set our team goals next season. In fact, we are going to set them within the next month, as we’ve got some work to do to reach what we are planning on accomplishing.”