After some weather and course condition problems, the Little Hawkeye Conference cross country meet is back and ready to go today in Oskaloosa.
Of the seven conference teams in attendance, the Class 3A fifth-ranked Dallas Center-Grimes will be taking part and eying their fourth straight top-three conference finish. This has been a team ranked inside the top 15 in Class 3A the entire season and currently house two of the top 16 Class 3A individual runners.
The Mustangs are on quite a roll heading into the conference meet having placed top three or better as a team in four out of the five meets so far this season. That’s on top of an undefeated season for the JV squad. It’s been a season that has been a strong lead-up to the conference meet, one that head coach Matt Pries has been quite pleased with overall.
“These guys have really battled all season long,” began Pries. “They’ve continued to grow all season long and we’ve been getting stronger through a lot of depth and skill. The whole team has been strong for themselves and for each other and that has helped a lot this year.”
Among the strong individual runners, spearheading the group has and will continue to be sophomore star, Aidan Ramsey who ranks fourth individually across the entire Class 3A landscape. Ramsey burst onto the varsity scene last year and ended with a top 70 state meet finish last year. It’s been quite the season for Ramsey and one that’s been paved with a lot of hard work.
“Aian has really worked hard and has learned to embrace the pain,” began Pries. “That’s one of the hardest things to do as a young runner. Anticipate the pain, accept the pain, and push through, that’s how one becomes a great runner and that’s exactly what Aidan has been doing all season long.”
Of course, as coach Pries preaches each and every season, it’s not just about one person. In fact, it’s about a whole host of individuals, including fellow Ramsey brother Bradley Ramsey. A top ten state meet runner last season, Bradley has been through the rigors as well. Currently a top 16 Class 3A runner, the elder Ramsey has continued to be a consistent strong piece for coach Pries and has actually boosted the performance of Aidan.
“It’s quite the dynamic to watch between Aidan and Bradley,” started coach Pries. “You see siblings lash out at each other and butt heads but that’s not the case with these two. They push each other unlike what I’ve seen from most siblings.”
Recently, in their last outing, the Mustangs took on a talented Southeast Polk field filled with primarily Class 4A opponents, something that truly helped show coach Pries where his team stands right before the conference meet.
“The toughest part this year has been loosing three JV meets and two varsity meets so we haven’t had a lot of race consistency,” started Pries. “However, at the Southeast Polk meet, our number four through seven runners were all tightly packed up and looked really good. Now it’s just working on closing that gap to our number three (runner).”
Now all the regular-season work is coming down to what coach Pries calls the championship part of their season and it starts with the conference meet later today. Originally set to take place in Norwalk, due to course conditions, the meet will take place in Oskaloosa for the second straight season. It marks a more than slight change of pace to the course location but in the end, it doesn’t necessarily come out as a bad thing for coach Pries and his team.
“A lot of our runners know the Oskaloosa course and are already quite familiar with it,” said Pries. “That’s one of the biggest hurdles is handling the course properly and when you have a good familiarity with it, course management is much easier.”
Coach Pries also noted that the rest of the conference field will have the same advantage as the Mustangs will, noting that it makes for an even playing field for all teams. Now the Mustangs will have to continue to bridge the gap against a conference field that coach Pries himself mark as one of the best in the entire state. He’s not the only one to think that as three out of the eight conference teams are currently ranked inside the top 15 teams in the class.
Catch the Mustangs and the Fillies compete in their respective conference meets today at Edmundson Park beginning at 5 p.m.