T-minus two days until Iowa High School cross country begins postseason action with state qualifying meets.


For the Van Meter girls and boys squads, they will be taking the lengthy drive to Mount Ayr Thursday, Oct. 24. Both the West Central Activities Conference champion Bulldog girls and top-six Bulldog boys will have quite the tough field to go up against. It’s a field that includes three top-15 ranked teams and seven ranked individual runners on the boys’ side along with two ranked teams and three ranked individual runners on the girls’ side.


While neither Bulldog squad has touched up the top team rankings, one of the ten total individual ranked runners across both girls’ and boys’ squads includes one Van Meter runner. As she has for most of the season, freshman standout Clare Kelly will enter state qualifying as the 17th best runner across the entire girls’ Class 1A landscape. The first time varsity runner captured third-place individually in the West Central Activities Conference meet and continues to ride a phenomenal season. That included becoming the first-ever Bulldog girl to capture first place and being part of a team that captured not only the program’s initial first-place team finish but their first-ever conference crown. It’s been a season that has been exceptional but while many look at Clare as a first-time varsity runner, she views it as more of the same.


“It’s been a great season for me but at the same time, I’m continuing from what I’ve done last season in middle school,” said Kelly. “Coach Flaws has helped me so much last year and now it doesn’t seem like a huge jump for me at the varsity level.”


With one Kelly comes another as sister Mary Kelly has been right alongside her sister as the top two runners for Van Meter all season long. They’ve been the most impactful runners on a strong overall team and as both said proudly, they are their biggest motivators.


“Running with Clare is both fun and serious at the same time,” said Mary following the conference meet. “We are extremely competitive with each other and that is one my biggest motivation out there.”


On the boys’ side, Carson Wille has paced the boys’ side most of the season. The senior has epitomized what Bulldog cross country is all about as he came back from a leg injury that sidelined him for the first part of the season. After rehab and tough work to get back, Wille got back to true form which was highlighted by several meets including his top ten finish at the ADM meet in September. Recently, his success has taken him to a top-ten performance in the conference meet on Oct. 17.


“It was cruddy that I couldn’t be there for my team right away at the beginning of the season,” began Wille. “I felt I came back strong though but I’m always looking to improve.”


Both Bulldog girls’ and boys’ captured at least two top-20 individual finishers at the conference meets and will be seeking to continue that momentum in Mount Ayr. Girls will kick things off followed by the boys’ race at 4 p.m.