Under sunny skies and perfect running weather, the Van Meter girls cross country team was in action taking part in the eight team ADM Tiger Invitational Tuesday, Sept. 24 in Adel.


Within the confines of Hilcrest Country Club, there was history made and it had to do with Van Meter’s freshman phenom Clare Kelly. It may be her first year at the high school level but she’s defying expectations and that included becoming the first Van Meter girls cross country runner to ever take first place in a high school meet. From a fast start to a strong finish, the freshman clocked in one of her best times of the season so far with a mark of 20:07. At a pace of 6:28 per mile, Kelly crossed the finish line a full 24 seconds ahead of the second place runner. There’s no doubt her performance will ring throughout the future at Van Meter High School and it was a performance that Kelly was quite pleased with.


“I thought it was a good race and it felt really good,” said Kelly. “It felt good after all those middle school meets, JV meets, and all the hard work put in to do so well. From all the work put in, it feels good to get to where I was hoping to get to.”


While it is one of her best performances so far, it’s not the only strong outing the freshman has had this season. Kelly has two other top ten finishes including a ninth place finish at the DC-G Invite where she clocked in her best time of the season so far at 20:06.9. Her prior best finish came at the season opening meet at the ISU Course where she placed third thanks to a time of 20:31. She may be a freshman but she acts like a seasoned veteran and she gives a lot of credit to her work in the off-season.


“A lot of credit goes to the conditioning before the season and the effort put in during the summer,” said Kelly. “That’s where I improved both my times and my confidence which have been big for me this year.”


Following Kellys great effort was fellow freshman Mary Kelly who was one of three Bulldog girls to capture a top 25 finish on the day. Coming in at fifth place was sister Mary who clocked in a time of 21:43, averaging 6:59 per mile. The Kelly sisters highlighted what head coach Josh Flaws talked about regarding a strong underclassmen group.


“We have a good amount of underclassmen but these are girls that have had success at nearly every level they’ve been at,” began Flaws. “They will be big for us this season.”


Following Mary Kelly was senior Clair Lauterbach who placed 25th out of 65 runners thanks to a time of 23:34. Freshman Payton Rice rounded out the top 35 finishers for the Bulldogs with a time of 24:08 while freshman Claire Newell, junior Matti Rebelsky, and sophomore Shae Bernhardt rounded out the total scoring for Van Meter with times of 26:54 (55th place), 27:17 (58th place), and 27:57 (61st place) respectively.


Next up for the Bulldog girls will be an Oct. 1 trip to Clarke to take on a meet that will begin at 4:30 p.m.