Top-ranked Ballard girls returning to state: Noe, Johnson go 1-2 to help Bombers win qualifying meet

Joe Randleman
Tri-County Times
Ballard's (L to R) Paityn Noe, Brooke Loewe, Josie Fleischmann, Caitlin Maher, Shewaye Johnson, Kate Huisinga and Ava Vance pose with the their state qualifier banner and poster after winning the Class 3A state qualifying cross country meet in Pella Oct. 22. All seven runners  also qualified for state individually, with Noe and Johnson placing first and second respectively at the meet.

PELLA - Led by record-setting performance by two sophomores the No. 1 Ballard girls’ cross country team made a huge statement during the Class 3A state qualifying meet run on the Central College cross country course Oct. 21.

The Bombers showed why they will be favored to repeat as 3A state champions by qualifying all seven of their runners at the qualifying meet for state individually. That helped Ballard turn in an outstanding team score of 24 points to crush Pella by 39 points for first.

“We have shown all season that we are consistent and methodical in our meet performances,” Ballard head coach Scott Barth said. “We look forward to our time on the state course.”

Sophomores Paityn Noe and Shewaye Johnson showed why they are the top two runners in all of 3A by a large margin by running phenomenal sub-18 minute times on the 5-kilometer course. The third-ranked 3A runner, Carlisle’s Ainsley Erzen, was also at the meet and she couldn’t keep within 38 seconds of the Bomber duo.

Noe, ranked No. 1 in 3A, matched the best effort of her career with a stunning winning time of 17 minutes, 35.62 seconds. Johnson, ranked second, upped her game in a big way to almost keep up with Noe, breaking 18 minutes for the first time with a fantastic 17:49.53 showing.

“It will be tough for anyone to compete closely with Paityn and Shewaye with the way they are running,” Barth said. “They always get us off to a great start.”

But Ballard was a lot more than its top two runners at Pella. The other three runners to score points for the Bombers all placed in the top 10 and the team’s average time of 19:05 was nearly 1:23 faster than Pella’s average time.

“Our pack is performing well,” Barth said. “The top five scorers on our team have been fluid this season and Kate Huisinga is putting a late season push once again in her junior season. That is a good sign for us heading into the state meet.”

Josie Fleischmann ran her best race of the season to give Ballard a third top-five runner. Fleischmann placed fifth with a sub-20 minute time of 19:58.65.

Caitlin Maher and Ava Vance finished the race in just over 20 minutes. Maher took seventh in 20:01.27 and Vance ninth in 20:04.26.

Brooke Loewe placed 12th in 20:15.05. Huisinga earned the final individual qualifying spot at the meet with a 15th-place time of 20:42.80.

Even though Ballard is rolling heading into state, Barth still expects a good fight from long-time rival Dallas Center-Grimes and traditional power Dubuque Wahlert - the second and third-ranked teams in 3A.

“We will undoubtedly receive tough challenges from Wahlert Catholic and DC-G, who also won their state qualifiers,” Barth said. “We will have to run well to defend our title, but I think we will be ready for that challenge.”

In the boys’ competition Ballard placed eighth out of 13 scored teams with 202 points. Second-ranked Pella won the boys’ race on its home turf with 40 points, eighth-ranked Carlisle was second with 73 and seventh-ranked Mount Vernon/Lisbon earned the final team qualifying spot by placing third with 81 points.

“The boys ended the season on a good note,” Barth said. “Although we are somewhat disappointed with an eighth-place finish, we knew breaking into the top three in the meet would be a tough job with all three teams being ranked in the top 10 of the state. In looking at our times and the progress that we have made in this season, I am very happy and proud of these guys.” 

Gage Long and Austin Shoen both finished in under 18 minutes for the Bomber boys. Long took 28th in 17:45.17 and Shoen 32nd in 17:54.42.

Seth Pencook came in 38th at 18:09.30, Jack Chism 48th in 18:35.04 and Chase Brekke 56th in 18:56.81 as the other runners to score for Ballard. Wyatt Borg placed 62nd in 19:14.08 and Ben Ward 69th in 19:28.28 for the Bombers.

Pella’s Tony Schmitz, ranked 30th in 3A, was the individual boys’ champion in 16:33.70. Carlisle’s Brandon Kesner took second in 16:44.54.

The Class 3A and 4A state meet competition has been moved up to Friday, Oct. 30 this year due to COVID-19 precautions. The 3A girls will start at 3:30 p.m. at Kennedy Park in Fort Dodge.

Final team scores

Girls: 1. Ballard 24 points, 2. Pella 63, 3. Carlisle 93, 4. Mount Vernon/Lisbon 100, 5. Grinnell 189, 6. Nevada 211, 7. Bondurant-Farrar 215, 8. Knoxville 225, 9. Fort Madison 234, 10. Oskaloosa 238, 11. Newton 239, 12. Fairfield 287.

Boys: 1. Pella 40, 2. Carlisle 73, 3. Mount Vernon/Lisbon 81, 4. Fort Madison 156, 5. Newton 172, 6. Nevada 177, 7. Grinnell 191, 8. Ballard 202, 9. Oskaloosa 225, 10. Fairfield 230, 11. Bondurant-Farrar 246, 12. Knoxville 278, 13. Keokuk 433.

Individual results (5-kilometer) - Ballard

Girls: 1. Paityn Noe, 17:35.62; 2. Shewaye Johnson, 17:49.53; 5. Josie Fleischmann, 19:58.65; 7. Caitlin Maher, 20:01.27; 9. Ava Vance, 20:04.26; 12. Brooke Loewe, 20:15.05; 15. Kate Huisinga, 20:42.80.

Boys: 28. Gage Long, 17:45.17; 32. Austin Shoen, 17:54.42; 38. Seth Pencook, 18:09.30; 48. Jack Chism, 18:35.04; 56. Chase Brekke, 18:56.81; 62. Wyatt Borg, 19:14.08; 69. Ben Ward, 19:28.28.