AMES — It didn’t take long for the Ballard girls to show they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with in Class 3A at the Gilbert Invitational Thursday.


Sparked by a tremendous debut from freshman Shewaye Johnson, the No. 3 Bombers took down No. 2 Dallas Center-Grimes in the Class A competition on the Iowa State cross country course.


“We were definitely looking for them,” Ballard senior Ellie Twedt said of going up against DCG. “I think we came out and represented very well. Coming out strong in this first meet is going to be a really great confidence-builder as we continue on this season.”


Ballard scored 29 points to beat DCG’s 37 for the Class A team title. No. 14 Norwalk was a distant third with 117 points and No. 11 North Polk placed fourth out of 14 teams with 126.


Twedt showed why she entered the season ranked fourth individually in 3A by placing third overall. But the star of the day was Johnson, who jumped out to a huge early lead in her first varsity meet and kept up her outstanding pace the whole way.


“Running is all about hard work and I love working hard,” Johnson said. “I felt good. I’m really thankful about everything.”


Due to a scoring system crash, only the times of the individual champions were recorded. Johnson’s winning time of 20 minutes, 11 seconds was around 40 seconds faster than the rest of the field and 18 seconds ahead of Class B winner Kate Crawford of ACGC.


DCG’s Megan Sterbenz, ranked sixth individually in 3A, just edged out Twedt for second place and the Fillies’ Miranda Muhlstein placed fourth. Ballard put a third runner in the top five when another talented freshman — Paityn Noe — came in fifth.


Ballard head coach Scott Barth was thrilled with the performances of Johnson and Noe in their first varsity races.


“They ran like seasoned runners and didn’t look like runners in their first high school races,” Barth said. “They are hard workers that constantly push to make themselves get better. They don’t like to lose and are coachable — they are actually a coach’s dream.”


Sophomore Brooke Loewe placed ninth and Meg Rietz just missed the top 10 by coming in 11th as the last runner to count toward the team scoring. Veterans Josie Fleischmann and Rachel Wohlgemuth weren’t far behind the lead group, placing 15th and 17th respectively.


“We showed that we have taken another step forward from last season in this meet tonight,” Barth said. “We were mentally tough and handled the pressure of running against three other ranked teams.”


The Ballard boys came in sixth out of 14 scored teams in the Class A boys’ with 181 points. DCG, the No. 6 team in 3A, won with 46 points, Norwalk took second with 71 and No. 2 Gilbert placed third with 82.


“Many of our runners had strong second halves of their races,” Barth said. “I think that is a good sign of our potential as a team. Learn a little more about racing strategies, and I see us improving a lot over the course of the season. I am really proud of our guys.”


Chris Lee placed 19th to lead the Ballard boys. Jace Beall took 33rd, Jack Chism 38th, Austin Shoen 40th and Gage Long 52nd as the other Bomber runners to earn points.


Jonah Olson and Dante Jones also ran varsity for the Ballard boys. Olson took 58th and Jones 67th.


DCG’s Aidan Ramsey was the Class A boys’ individual champion with a 5-kilometer time of 17:02.


Final Class A team scores


Girls: 1. Ballard 29 points, 2. DCG 37, 3. Norwalk 117, 4. North Polk 126, 5. Gilbert 171, 6. Bondurant-Farrar 213, 7. Newton 214, 8. Nevada 224, 9. Roland-Story 227, 10. PCM 264, 11. Greene County 321, 12. Des Moines North 335, 13. Kuemper Catholic 372, 14. Boone 374.


Boys: 1. DCG 46, 2. Norwalk 71, 3. Gilbert 82, 4. North Polk 101, 5. Bondurant-Farrar 159, 6. Ballard 181, 7. Newton 215, 8. Roland-Story 222, 9. Kuemper Catholic 238, 10. Nevada 287, 11. Boone 307, 12. PCM 308, 13. Greene County 318, 14. Des Moines Hoover 395.


Class A individual places - Ballard (no times available)


Girls: 1. Shewaye Johnson, 3. Ellie Twedt, 5. Paityn Noe, 9. Brooke Loewe, 11. Meg Rietz, 15. Josie Fleischmann, 17. Rachel Wohlgemuth.


Boys: 19. Chris Lee, 33. Jace Beall, 38. Jack Chism, 40. Austin Shoen, 52. Gage Long, 58. Jonah Olson, 67. Dante Jones.