By Jon Gremmels
Herald Sports Editor
Not having a weakness is the strength of the Northeast girls cross country team, and coach Pat Healy is hoping that makes the difference Saturday at the Iowa girls cross country state meet in Fort Dodge.
The Rebels enter as the top-ranked team in Class 2A, according to the Iowa Association of Track Coaches, and they go into the meet with high hopes.
“Top five is reasonable, top three is a good target and our aim is the top,” Healy said. “We’re not going to have anyone probably in the top five — we may be lucky to get in the top 10 — but if we can get all of our runners between 10 and 30, we’ll have an awful good score and probably can win the meet.”
He expects a competitive race.
“Cascade is also good, and so is Gilbert,” Healy said. “Unity Christian (of Orange City) is the defending champion, and they have a good team back.”
All three of those have strong No. 1 runners who should bring in a low point total for a solid base — in cross country, a runner receives a point equal to her or his placing among runners on qualifying teams, and the lowest score of five runners is the winner.
Cascade, the No. 2-ranked team in 2A, is led by senior Mariah Kauder, last year’s runner-up who is ranked No. 1 individually in the class, and No. 5 Kylie Kelchen. Third-ranked Unity is led by sophomore Kassidy DeJong, ranked sixth, but it graduated three of its top five runners from last year’s squad. Fourth-ranked Gilbert features the defending state champion, junior Sadie Thomas, ranked third individually.
While Northeast has no runner who can match those leaders in the individual rankings — Rebels senior Emily Franks, the 1A state champion as a sophomore, is No. 8 — there isn’t a great deal of difference in the quality of any of its seven runners. At Monday’s regional meet, four Rebels placed in the top nine, while Josye Kaczinski finished 12th and Mariah Casey was 14th — Kaczinski is ranked 28th in the state, while Casey placed sixth in the state a year ago but still is recovering from foot surgery.
“We may have an advantage of having seven better runners,” Healy said. “We don’t have a weakness there.
“It’s always nice to have the No. 1 spot, but you’ve got to remember that there are about 20 girls running unattached, so they’re not scoring. You might think you’re 30th and be 20th.
“Whoever runs their race that day should be the state champion,” Healy said.
Clinton senior Emmanuel Marcos-Teles and Prince of Peace junior Jackie Kokjohn will take aim at bringing home individual medals. Each is running at state for the third year in a row. Northeast junior Eli Kaczinski also qualified individually in Class 2A.
Marquette Catholic is the only other school sending a team to state. Both its boys and girls teams advanced from their meet at Starmont. The Mohawks won the boys competition, while the girls team placed third.