By Jon Gremmels Herald Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — BETTENDORF — Kim Kaster didn’t get to break the news to her sister, but she couldn’t wait to tell her anyway. Two years after Kate Kaster finished fourth in the Iowa Class 4A girls cross country state meet, her sister gets the chance to run the same course.
“She said to go out and have fun,” Kim Kaster said of an earlier call to Kate. “I think Dad told her (how Kim did). I’ll call her later ... it will be awesome.”
The usually soft-spoken Clinton High junior was positively giddy Thursday after placing sixth in the state-qualifying meet at Crow Creek Park. She got in an early groove and ran in fifth or sixth place most of the 4,000-meter race.
“I’m just so excited right now,” she said. “I easily PRed (set a personal record). I was pretty confident the whole race.”
The excitement started before she even finished with a time of 15 minutes, 33 seconds.
“I was so excited (approaching the finish),” she said.”It was like, ‘I have to hold on at the end because that’s when people get me.’ “
Only Abby Sears of Bettendorf got her this time. The two had been running neck-and-neck heading up the final hill, and Sears moved ahead to take fifth in 15:22. But, since the top 10 finishers all advanced to state, that one spot didn’t matter.
Kaster, who placed 12th on the same course last week at the Mississippi Athletic Conference meet, said the key to the race came much earlier in the race.
“The start is what I changed — or maybe they didn’t go out as fast,” she said.
Clinton coach Wes Golden congratulated Kaster for utilizing strategy they discussed of getting above the No. 10 spot early in the race so it didn’t come down to a foot race at the end.
Kaster wasn’t the only one excited about the girls race. Golden was joyous as he bounded toward his group of runners, giving each a happy hug.
“They ran awesome,” he said. “It was fantastic. If all of them didn’t PR today ... they had to. Kate was icing on the cake. She worked so hard. She earned it.”
Senior Emily Bradley was the second River Queen across the finish line, placing 39th in 17:45. Senior Griffin Rasche took 43rd (18:06), sophomore Lily Gabel was 45th (18:24), freshman Amber Buer was 50th (18:53) and freshman Samantha Wohlstadter was 56th (19:23).
Pleasant Valley won the team title with 20 points. McKenzie Yanek led a 1-2-3-4 finish for the Spartans, crossing the line in 14:04, 53 seconds ahead of teammate Maddie Reynolds. Bettendorf (49) was second and Dubuque Senior also advanced to state with 85. Clinton scored 183 points and took sixth in the nine-team field.
The Clinton boys placed ninth with 233 points, but Golden said they performed better than the previous week in the MAC meet.
“It was an improvement from last week, and that was key,” he said. “We got a whole lot closer to the teams in front of us.”
Jonathan Facio led the River Kings, placing 37th in 18:09.
“I (set a PR) by about 19 seconds,” Facio said. “It was a pretty fast meet, and everybody was super competitive.”
Facio, a sophomore in his first year of cross country, said this season served as a positive introduction to the sport.
“This year gives me a mark to beat, a mark to improve from, and that’s what I hope to do,” he said.
Jace Houzenga (18:28) placed 44th for Clinton, Noah Buikema (18:50) was 47th, Todd Broadrick (19:17) was 52nd and Ryan O’Day (19:18) was 53rd. The River Kings ran without sophomore Michael Peters, their No. 2 or 3 runner most of the season, and Andre Dunlap, their top runner last week in the MAC varsity race. Both were ill.
“Jace ran a great race,” Golden said. “Todd and Ryan kind of fell off in the second mile and pushed hard the third mile.”
Putting all five of its scorers in the top eight, Pleasant Valley won the team title with 29 points. Mark Fairley (16:03) was the individual champion and led Dubuque Senior to the runner-up spot, while Bettendorf captured third place with 82.