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Vanderwal turns in historic season for C-M boys: Spartan girls just miss out on state again in 2020

Joe Randleman
Tri-County Times
Jacob Pierick had a productive senior year for the Collins-Maxwell boys' cross country team this fall.

The Collins-Maxwell boys’ cross country team produced the first state qualifier in program history and the girls just missed out on state as a team for the third year in a row during the 2020 season.

Senior Kyle Vanderwal became the first runner to ever don a Spartan blue uniform at the state meet. His outstanding season was a big highlight for a boys team that finished in the top three during five meets on the season.

“The boys had a great season,” Collins-Maxwell head coach Jerry Meinerts said. “This was the second year in a row that we were conference runner-up.  We were very competitive at most every meet we ran at.”

The Collins-Maxwell boys took third at the Spartan Earlybird meet, fifth at Pella and then won the Colfax-Mingo Invite to bring home the traveling trophy. The Spartans took sixth at Lynnville-Sully, third at West Marshall, fifth at Nevada, sixth at North Polk and second at Montezuma before finishing runner-up at the Iowa Star Conference meet.

At the conference meet Collins-Maxwell scored 47 points to come in just 10 points behind Valley Lutheran’s winning score of 37. Vanderwal placed second and Ethan Haus eighth as all-conference runners for the Spartan boys with respective 5-kilometer times of 17 minutes, 19.13 seconds and 18:22.21.

“The guys worked hard in practice and really started holding each other accountable for their workouts,” Hennick said. “We weren't a deep team, so everyone had to do their job each and every day.”

Collins-Maxwell went on to place seventh out of 13 teams at the Class 1A qualifying meet in Guthrie Center. Vanderwal was sensational at the meet, qualifying for state with a fifth-place time of 18:20.20.

At state Vanderwal saved the best for last. He ran a 17:39.7 against the top competition in 1A to place 31st.

“It was fun to get him through to the state meet,” Meinerts said. “He had a really good season and will forever be the first of hopefully many Spartans to run at the state meet.”

Haus came in 30th at the qualifying meet in 19:47.23. Like the rest of the varsity Spartan boys his fastest time of the season came at the conference meet.

Freshman Austin Hennick took 38th at the qualifying meet and 12th at the ISC meet. His top time was 19:12.94.

“Austin Hennick had a great freshman season,” Meinerts said. “If we can get them under 20:00 as a freshman, then I look for them to really step it up next year.”

Senior Jacob Pierick took 14th at the ISC meet in 19:15.88. Hunter Lee was 26th in 20:15.83 at conference and 56th at the qualifying meet in 21:19.31.

Marshall Day took 32nd at the ISC meet in 21:34.50 and 78th at the qualifying meet in 22:46.60. Kaleb Ruiz-Genovese finished 52nd at conference 23:29.73 and 90th at the qualifying meet in 24:04.18.

Parker Lawrence was 89th at the qualifying meet in 23:59.42 and 53rd at the ISC meet in 23:48.57. Nick Haus was 55th in 23:52.29 and Isaiah Hill 58th in 26:23.07 at the ISC meet.

Losing Vanderwal and Pierick will be a big blow for the Collins-Maxwell boys. But Meinerts likes the potential of the 2021 team with who has coming back.

“I look for us to reload next year and still be very competitive,” Meinerts said. “We have some really good runners returning next year, so I look for us to compete for a conference championship again next year.”

The Collins-Maxwell girls repeated as ISC team champions in 2020. But the Spartan girls fell one spot shy of qualifying for state as a team, coming in just eight points behind Montezuma’s runner-up score for the final qualifying spot from the 1A qualifying meet in Guthrie Center.

“The girls team won five meets - I would say that is pretty special,” Meinerts said. “We were conference champions for the second year in a row.  Originally, I wasn't sure if we would have a season because of COVID.  But, we were able to make it through the season. We had an awesome season.”

The Spartan girls’ five victories came at the Spartan Earlybird meet, Colfax-Mingo, West Marshall, Montezuma and the ISC meet. They also placed third at Lynnville-Sully, fifth at North Polk and sixth at both Pella and Nevada.

“I thought all of our girls really improved as the season went along,” Meinerts said. “The second half of the season our girls team really started taking practices more seriously. If we gave them a pace to run for a workout, they did their best to hit those times and paces.  We stopped running miles just to run miles..... every mile had a meaning.”

At the ISC meet Collins-Maxwell scored 25 points to easily beat Baxter’s runner-up score. The Spartans had 106 points at the qualifying meet to finish behind ACGC (51) and just a hair in back of Montezuma (98) 

Junior Alexis Houge and senior Morgan Day were the top two runners for Collins-Maxwell for most of the season.

Houge placed fifth at conference in a school-record time of 21:50.06 and 17th at the qualifying meet in 23:02.17. 

“Alexis did a great job emerging as our No. 1 runner for the majority of the season,” Meinerts said.

Day was eighth at the ISC meet in 22:16.22. She also took 23rd at the qualifying meet in 23:15.50.

“Morgan had an amazing career as a Spartan,” Meinerts said. “She set personal records each and every year she ran. She just kept getting faster.”

Avery Fricke turned in a productive junior year for Collins-Maxwell. Fricke placed 10th at conference in 22:22.97 and 24th at the qualifying meet in 23:21.92.

Meyaurah Pratt was the surprise runner for Collins-Maxwell. Pratt was third on the team over the final two meets, placing ninth at the ISC meet in 22:21.17 and 21st at the qualifying meet in 23:26.92.

Freshman Erica Houge and Karley Ruiz-Genovese also scored points at meets throughout the season. 

Karley Ruiz-Genovese helped the Collins-Maxwell girls' cross country team win an ISC championship and come within one spot of qualifying for state in 2020.

Houge placed 12th at the ISC meet in 22:42.76 and 29th at the qualifying meet in 23:46.30. Ruiz-Genovese finished 13th at the ISC meet in 23:04.58 and 30th at the qualifying meet in 23:48.00.

Ashlyn Davis also ran most of the varsity races for Collins-Maxwell. Davis finished conference 19th in 23:55.63 and the qualifying meet 42nd in 24:51.09.

Sarah Tschantz was 29th at the ISC meet in 25:11.40 and Leah Davis 39th in 27:20.87.

Day will be the only loss for the girls’ team heading into next season.

“Morgan will be a big loss next year, but with some summer training we shouldn't miss a beat from this year to next,” Meinerts said. “I look for us to be able to three-peat as conference champs and compete for a spot at the state meet next year.”