Ballard High School's Paityn Noe runs away with 3A girls individual state cross country title
Ballard's Paityn Noe has missed running with 2020 state cross country champion Shewaye Johnson ever since Johnson moved with her family to Texas in June.
It's a safe bet she missed Johnson even more during Friday's Class 3A girls race at the state cross country meet in Fort Dodge.
Then she'd have someone to run with.
Noe spent most of the 3A girls race all by herself Friday. She completely blew away the rest of the field, winning her first individual state championship by an amazing gap of 53.67 seconds.
"Paityn dominated the field," Ballard head coach Scott Barth said. "I cannot say enough about Paityn. She is so steady for us and works very hard to put herself in the position to do so. I am so happy that she got that state championship."
Noe controlled the race from the start. She got off to a comfortable lead after the first mile and it just kept growing until she crossed the finish line in 18 minutes, 12.74 seconds.
Noe couldn't quite match last year's time of 18:01.1 when she placed second to Johnson's 17:55.3. But considering how decisive her victory was and that she didn't have Johnson to push her, Friday's performance can easily be considered more impressive.
"It means a lot," Noe said. "I've been working really hard to get back to where I was last year and it feels so good at the end to be able to come out and win my first state championship."
Two of Noe's long-time running rivals from the Raccoon River Conference — Adel-Desoto-Minburn's Geneva Timmerman and Carlisle's Ainsley Erzen — were a distant second and third. Timmerman crossed the finish line in 19:06.41 and Erzen capped her outstanding career with a time of 19:13.86.
Noe's phenomenal effort wasn't quite enough to earn Ballard its third-consecutive 3A team title. A Bomber team that ran three freshmen — Annika Larson, Ava Richardson and Raegan Loewe — scored 103 points to place second to Solon's 77 points in the final team standings.
"I'm so proud of them," Noe said. "It's a lot different from last year. We had a lot of freshmen this year and I think we did the best we could. We all ran amazing."
Sophomore Ava Vance is emerging as Noe's heir apparent. Vance joined Noe on the awards stand as an individual medal winner after placing 11th with an excellent time of 19:32.16.
"I've put in a lot of work this season," Vance said. "It's definitely easier having all of these amazing girls to run with. We're all supporting each other — it's definitely a team sport."
Despite having her ups and downs Larson was the top freshman runner for Ballard. Larson, an individual state qualifier, took 30th on Friday with a time of 20:08.49.
"I had a really big mental block, but having all of these girls (with me), I got out of it," Larson said. "This feels amazing."
Senior Kate Huisinga placed 47th in 20:34.79 and Richardson completed the Bomber scoring with a 61st-place time of 20:50.91.
"The most impressive thing about our running tonight was how strong we were as we progressed through the race," Barth said. "At the one-mile mark we were in fourth place as a team with a score of 167. At the two-mile mark we had improved by 36 points and moved into third place. At the finish we improved by another 28 points, which moved us into the runner-up position at the state meet."
The sister tandem of Loewe and her older sister Brooke also ran varsity for Ballard. Brooke, a senior, finished in 21:35.71 to place 105th and Raegan was right behind her with a 102nd-place time of 21:36.13.
"It was a great meet for us at the state meet," Barth said. "We ran well up and down the lineup which allowed us to get on the state championship podium for the third-straight season."