Since the very beginning of Van Meter High School, there have been many successes in the athletic world from conference titles to state crowns and more. One area that hasn’t shared in conference/state success has been that of Van Meter girls’ cross country, well until now that is.


Made official within the grounds of Panorama’s Par-3 golf course in Panora, the Van Meter girls cross country team made history. By taking the conference crown, the 2019 edition became the first-ever conference champion in the existence of Van Meter girls cross country to do so.


“It’s a testament how hard these girls have worked across not just the regular season but the off-season as well,” said head coach Josh Flaws. “The numbers this year have been great and these girls have really bought into what we’re asking of them. They’ve put in the work and it turned out very well here today.”


In total, the Bulldog girls captured a team time of 1:47:56 with four runners earning All-Conference top-14 finishes for the meet. As she has nearly every meet this season, freshman phenom Clare Kelly paced the way for Van Meter with a time of 20:29. That time earned her first-team All-Conference honors as well as a third-place finish overall. Right behind her was Mary Kelly who also picked up a top-five performance with one of her best times of 20:49. The sister pair had been leading the pack nearly all season long but it felt a little extra special as they were able to come together and help claim a conference title.


“It’s very fun and exciting at the same time,” said Mary. “We’ve pushed each other all season long and we did that here again at conference.”


Sister Clare echoed those thoughts.


“We both pushed each other to run strong races and it feels amazing that it happened at the conference meet,” echoed Clare. “As a team, it also means we exist. Teams now have to watch out for Van Meter cross country going forward.”


Maya Herman was the third Bulldog to cross the finish line thanks to a time of 21:38 for a ninth-place finish overall. Her efforts landed her second-team All-Conference as she averaged 6:58 per mile. Herman was closely followed by Payton Rice who clocked in a 12th place time of 22:05 and averaged 7:07 per mile, one of her best marks of the 2019 season so far. Senior Clair Lauterbach just missed out on All-Conference consideration but did manage a top 20 finish courtesy of a time of 22:54 to capture 19th out of 98 total runners.


The rest of the top seven for the Bulldogs included Claire Newell, als a freshman, clocking in a time of 24:42 and earning a 32nd place finish overall. Matti Rebelsky delivered on a top-40 time herself with a mark of 24:48, averaging 7:59 per mile to place 35th overall.


It marked the first time ever that Van Meter girls cross country captured first place in any meet, let alone conference.


“It was a rather hilly course out there and to be able to put up the times they did, given the conference field they were up against, is nothing short of amazing,” began coach Flaws. “These girls managed the course extremely well and I couldn’t be happier for these girls and their efforts here today.”


The Bulldogs as a team were followed up by ACGC who placed second as a team followed by Earlham in third. Next up for the Bulldogs will be a trip to Mount Ayr for state qualifying!