FORT DODGE — A clutch performance from junior Ellie Twedt sparked Ballard to a fourth-place finish and North Polk also placed in the top 10 during the Class 3A girls’ race at the state cross country meet Saturday at Kennedy Park in Fort Dodge.
Twedt had upped her game all season, winning four meets and taking second at both the Raccoon River Conference and state qualifying meets for Ballard. On Saturday, she took it to a whole new level against the best in the state.
Twedt completed the 5-kilometer course at the Lakeside Golf Course in 19 minutes, 0.2 seconds to place fifth overall in 3A, just edging out the 19:00.3 by Atlantic sophomore Taylor McCreedy.
“There are no words,” Twedt said after her remarkable performance. “I’m just so excited — it kind of seems like a dream. I would not be able to do this without my family and my teammates. Honestly, they’re everything to me.”
Twedt’s time was nearly 56 seconds faster than her 2017 time at state, when she placed 35th in 3A.
“I learned from last year you can’t get out too slow,” Twedt said. “Getting out fast and getting a good, strong first mile was definitely my strategy today and it worked.”
Glenwood senior Janette Schraft won the 3A girls’ individual title in 18:22.5. Atlantic’s Adrianna Katcher took second in 18:30.3, Dubuque Wahlert’s Gabby Moran placed third in 18:51.2 and Carlisle freshman Ainsley Erzen was fourth in 18:57.4.
As a team, Ballard scored 173 points to finish just two points out of third place behind Glenwood’s score of 171. Wahlert repeated as 3A champions with 56 points and Dallas Center-Grimes took second with a score of 85.
The fourth-place finish is the best in school history. Ballard had placed fifth on two separate occasions.
Ballard was hoping for a shot at the 3A championship after entering the meet ranked No. 2 in 3A. But the Bombers will get another shot next year as they return their top 11 runners and bring up an eighth-grade group that won the state middle school cross country title.
“It’s a little disappointing, but at the same time it’s just more motivation to come back and do even better next year,” Twedt said. “We’ve got some really great girls coming up and, honestly, we’re not losing any seniors and I’m really confident we can come back even stronger.”
Team unity was a big reason the Bombers ended up one of the top five teams in 3A on Saturday.
“Before our races we always have a circle and we say positive and encouraging things,” Ballard junior Rachel Wohlgemuth said. “That helps us really just get through the race for each other.”
Wohlgemuth stepped up with a 32nd-place time of 20:15.8 as Ballard’s second runner and sophomore Caitlin Maher was right behind her with a 33rd-place time of 20:15.9. Wohlgemuth beat her 2017 state time by nearly 34 seconds, and both she and Maher easily bested their final individual place from last year’s meet.
Freshmen Brooke Loewe and Meg Rietz took 94th and 101st in their first state with respective ties of 21:22.7 and 21:30.9 as the final two runners to earn points for Ballard. Hailey Cole came in 106th at 21:34.4 and Josie Fleischmann was 114th in 21:45.3.
North Polk scored 229 points on Saturday. The Comet girls finished just 19 points out of seventh place and they dropped two spots from last year’s eighth-place finish at state.
“I was hoping we would run faster times (and) I thought at least one of our seven runners would set a PR,” North Polk head cross country coach Steve Leach said. “I am not sure why we didn’t, and that is frustrating to me because I am not sure how we can fix it. That does not, however, detract from the great year these girls experienced with a limited amount of races (seven total) due to all of the rain.”
North Polk’s top runner — freshman Lucy Schaffer — was exhausted crossing the finish line and needed medical attention after the race. But she still ran a quality race, placing 67th as the team’s second finisher with a time of 20:56.6.
Freshman Aleah McBee ended up North Polk’s lead runner on Saturday, running a 20:20.5 to place 36th.
“It was pretty good,” McBee said. “I felt strong, but I didn’t finish my best.”
McBee had a strong finish to her first year of varsity cross country. She was also the team’s fastest runner at the 3A qualifying meet in Fairfield after running behind Schaffer for most of the season.
“I needed to practice (being) mentally (tougher),” McBee said. “I just needed to tell myself it’s not as hard as it (looks).”
Kennedy Wendel capped her outstanding career with a 68th-place time of 20:57.8 and junior Sophie Schaffer took 73rd in 21:09.8. Another senior — Emily Patterson — was the last Comet runner to score points, coming in 112th at 21:43.0.
Patterson entered the season as the top returning runner for the Comets after placing 45th at last year’s state meet with a time of 20:03.6. A knee injury prevented her from hitting peak form this season, but she still fought through it to finish on a high note.
“It’s harder than the rest of the years, but it was good,” Patterson said. “It took a lot, but it was more of my team carrying me through it. This team has been the closest team I’ve had. It was super fun getting to do it all together.”
Abbi Zimmer was the sixth runner at state for North Polk on Saturday with a time of 21:55.0. Addie Cooper placed 119th in 21:58.5.
Final Class 3A girls’ team scores
1. Dubuque Wahlert 56 points, 2. DCG 85, 3. Glenwood 171, 4. Ballard 173, 5. Bishop Heelan Catholic 180, 6. Pella 190, 7. Atlantic 210, 8. Harlan 216, 9. Grinnell 222, 10. North Polk 229, 11. Solon 241, 12. Charles City 241, 13. Decorah 245, 14. Norwalk 275, 15. Spencer 304.
Individual results (5-kilometer) — Ballard and North Polk
Girls: 5. Ellie Twedt (B), 19:00.2; 32. Rachel Wohlgemuth (B), 20:15.8; 33. Caitlin Maher (B), 20:15.9; 36. Aleah McBee (NP), 20:20.5; 67. Lucy Schaffer (NP), 20:56.6; 68. Kennedy Wendel (NP), 20:57.8; 73. Sophie Schaffer (NP), 21:09.8; 94. Brooke Loewe (B), 21:22.7; 101. Meg Rietz (B), 21:30.9; 106. Hailey Cole (B), 21:34.4; 112. Emily Patterson (NP), 21:43.0; 114. Josie Fleischmann (B), 21:45.3; 118. Abi Zimmer (NP), 21:55.0.3; 119. Addie Cooper (NP), 21:58.5.