KINGSTON – Between chasing Indians and dodging deer, it was an interesting, but productive day for the Dixon and Rock Falls girls cross country teams at the Big Northern Conference championship held Saturday at Walcamp Outdoor Ministries in Kingston.
The Duchesses had five of the top 12 finishers to amass 44 points and take second place, while the Rockets were next with 103 points. They were all looking up at Winnebago, the defending Class 1A state champs who had seven of the first nine runners, including the first four, on its way to a mere 17 points.
Breaking the Indians’ stranglehold at the top were a pair of Dixon runners, Jade Miller and Emma Smith, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively. They ran in the second of three races, to better match up with what Winnebago put on the 3-mile Walcamp course for that particular race. The event was split into three races, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Miller crossed the finish line in 18 minutes, 29.93 seconds, behind the Indians’ Kaylee Woolery (3rd, 18:04.52), but ahead of Winnebago’s Katie Erb (7th, 18:49.44).
“Our goal was to just sit on the top two Winnebago girls in that race and just move up on them as much as we could,” Miller said. “We got the job done. We passed one of them, so we finished in a good place.”
Smith was sixth with a time of 18:33.28. Winnebago dominated the final race as Natalia Martino (1st, 17:31.76) and Grace Erb (2nd, 17:50.82) were the lone runners under 18 minutes, with Marissa Roggensack (4th, 18:10.66) not too far behind.
“I think it actually helped us,” Smith said of not running against ‘Bago’s top bunch. “We just wanted to stay up front with the Winnebago girls.”
Dixon’s other counting scores came from Paige Stees (10th, 19:09.28), Emily Conderman (11th, 19:09.81) and Keeley Mick (12th, 19:12.21). For Mick, it was a personal best by about 1 minute.
“I’ve been trying to work hard, to get ready for conference, regional and sectional,” Mick said.
Taylor Hills finished 15th for Dixon with a time of 19:23.34, and had a close encounter with nature just before the homestretch. A deer missed her by about a foot.
“I saw two deer out of the woods to my right, and I thought they were done because they passed me,” Hills said. “Right as I was starting to speed up for my finish, there was another one that came out of nowhere. I had to stop in my tracks for a second because I didn’t know if it was coming in front of me or behind me. It was a little scary.”
Layni Lappin (25th, 20:37.09) rounded out the Dixon lineup.
Leading the way for Rock Falls were a trio of all-conference runners in Calin Gaulrapp, Bryahna Ganther and Gracie Rippy. Those finishing in the top 20 earned all-conference medals.
Gaulrapp was the top Rocket with a time of 19:18.72, good for 14th place.
“I think I did really good, but it was a tough race,” Gaulrapp said. “I was trying to hang on as hard as I could. It was really tough.”
Ganther was another runner who had an unexpected obstacle in her way. She was 16th in 19:53.98.
“There was a deer that ran out in front of me that scared the crap out of me,” Ganther said. “I feel like that helped me a little bit because it got my mind off of everything. At the beginning, I was back a little bit, but I knew that in the middle, I was going to kick again, like I usually do.”
Rippy did her best to keep up with her teammates and was 17th in 19:58.35.
“I think I did pretty well,” Rippy said. “Bry and Callie were a big part of me reaching 17th and not staying back. They really pushed me.”
Sydney Reyes (24th, 20:27.81) and Kacey Estrella (32nd, 21:28.43) rounded out the Rockets’ top five. They were followed by Lilyana Spotts (35th, 22:09.15) and Noelia Ibarra (45th, 22:51.62).
Oregon was fifth among nine teams with 146 points. Leading the way for the Hawks was Leah Watters, 21st in 20:23.52.
The other counting scores for the Hawks came from Faith Marquardt (23rd, 20:25.24), Katlyn Ramirez (27th, 20:44.75), Jennica Ciesiel (37th, 22:19.43) and Ellen Hodson (38th, 22:20.37).
Rounding out the Oregon lineup were Ava Wight (42nd, 22:44.93) and Katelyn Bowers (49th, 23:13.65).