After a fourth place finish in the Iowa High School state cross country meet last season, the Dallas Center-Grimes girls’ cross country team picked up right where they left off to start 2018.
The Fillies were on the road at the Iowa State cross country course for their season opener on Thursday, August 23. It was a multi-class competition and the Fillies were grouped in Class A along with 12 other teams such as North Polk, Gilbert, Nevada, Newton, PCM, Bondurant-Farrar, Roland-Story, Hoover, Greene County, Kuemper Catholic, and Boone.
Among the twelve team field, the Fillies placed second with a point total of 43 and an average time of 21:55, missing out on the top spot by just six points. The only team to best the Fillies was North Polk who earned 37 points and an average time of 21:48.
The Fillies return eight returning letter winners from the 2017 run and two of those returning letter winners took home top ten spots. The sophomore pair of Emma Angus and Nicole Merical took home the second and sixth places respectively while a newcomer to the varsity scene in freshman Hannah Little. Angus put in a team best time of 21:16, under a minute off of one of her best times which came at state last year in 20:39.
Hannah Little clocked in with a time of 21:18 while Merical took home her sixth place position with a time of 21:36. The top seven for the Fillies continued on with sophomore Miranda Muhlstein, who paced the Fillies at the state meet last season and placed 11th at the Gilbert Invite with a time of 22:15. Senior Sami Sterbenz, a fellow returning letter winner and state meet participant, came in fifth on the DC-G roster and placed 21st overall thanks to a time of 23:10.
After the meet head coach Justin Droppert was very happy with what he saw from his top runners.
“Hannah did a great job as we knew she would,” began Droppert. “She is a really good runner who has put in a lot of work over the summer. She and Emma (Angus) really work off each other well and it’s been fun to see them this season.”
The final two of the top seven runners for the Fillies were junior Jaci Versluis and senior Grace Robbins with times of 23:27 and 23:33 placing 27th and 28th respectively.
Overall the Fillies showcased a lot of great things from a lot of underclassmen, and proved to be a strong start that 16 year head coach Justin Droppert mentioned will lead to other things.
“The younger athletes have really taken a lot from the upperclassmen, from the seniors,” began Droppert. “This was a really good starting point, especially for the first year kids. They got their first 5k race under their belts for the season and will learn how to race better and better throughout the season and figure out just what they are capable of becoming.”
With all that said, the Fillies put up such a great performance even without the help of fellow returning state meet runner and two time returning letter winner Natalie Paulsen. It was a strong performance that coach Droppert mentioned as showcasing their depth.
“We do miss Natalie as she is a really strong runner and also a really strong leader,” began Droppert. “We do however, have good team depth which has really helped us out and will help us out as we move forward. We had more of a gap from four to five than we’d like but our five through twelve runners were really close and strong. They did a good job of running together and they will continue to improve and push each other.
Of course, as always, coach Droppert was quick to mention how impactful the seniors were and have been for this Fillies roster.
“It always helps having senior leadership like we have and it showed,” said Droppert. “Each and every one of these senior girls has helped the underclassmen feel appreciated and truly a part of the team. Team chemistry is a huge thing and being able to have others to help you be as confident as you can be is big.”
The Fillies were set to entertain a 12 team field at home Tuesday, August 28 but due to mother nature and a rainy day, the home invitational has been moved to Thursday, August 30th. The DC-G girls will be joined by the boys squad in welcoming a twelve team field on both sides including Atlantic, Carlisle, Creston, Des Moines Christian, Des Moines East, Earlham, Johnson, Kuemper Catholic, Norwalk, Van Meter, and Winterset. The girls race will kick things off beginning at 5:10 p.m. while the boys race will follow shortly after, beginning at 5:45 p.m. The awards will be given out at 6:25 p.m.