FORT DODGE – The Class 2A boys’ cross country championship race on Saturday afternoon in Fort Dodge was certainly as exciting as it was hyped up to be, and it just happened to be even more exciting for the Camanche Indians.
In the highly anticipated Class 2A division, Dylan Darsidan faced off against Tipton’s Caleb Schumaker and Bellevue’s Brady Griebel for the No. 1 spot, opponents who have been jockeying for that spot all season.
Darsidan, who started behind the leading pack, broke away from Bellevue‘s Griebel on the final straight away, a lone fist pump signifying his state title. He won the event in 16:02.
“It felt amazing,” Darsidan said. “It was one of the best races I’ve had. I got myself in the position I wanted and it felt great.”
Darsidan came in ranked No. 3, not feeling well at the district meet and finishing third.
“I was never really worried about it,” Darsidan said. “We all raced together, and even not feeling well I managed to get third. Going in as an underdog and not ranked No. 1, I didn’t feel like I was going in with a giant target on my back and left me feeling a little more confident in how I could race today.”
It was just the second time in school history the Indians qualified as a team, and Darsidan marked the first state champion.
Dodson Melchiori crossed the finish line next in 17:21.4, falling into an embrace with Darsidan. The Indians ended up placing ninth overall as a team.
“I ran my hardest and left everything I had out there,” Melchiori said. “I feel like we worked really hard as a team to get where we were at. We were a little bit of an underdogs coming into the season and for us to even get out to state this year was awesome for our whole team.”
Andrew Butt finished in 17:59.8 and Zack Edens in 18:45.7.
Northeast’s Andrew Hilgendorf also brought home some hardware, finishing 12th in the 2A race in 16:44 to cap off his senior year and his third state appearance.
“There was a rush of join, happiness and disbelief going through my mind knowing that all my hard work had finally paid off,” Hilgendorf said.
Hilgendorf kept a steady pace, looking confident despite the cold and windy temps.
“The race felt amazing,” he said. “I had people telling me where I was at place wise and I knew I was in the running so I knew I had to kick it into high great to give me some breathing room and make sure I ended my career on a high note up on the porch.”
Hilgendorf was joined at state by teammate junior Thomas Machande, who clocked in at 17:28.4 for a 53rd place finish.
“It was a great accomplishment for me and it being only my second year of cross country my family and friends were very happy,” Machande said. “It proves hard work pays off.
“It was an overall great experience, other than the cold and the win, and I’m definitely going to work just as hard if not harder to try and get in the top 15 next year.”
The first local athlete to hear the gun Saturday morning was Central DeWitt senior Carly Small, who took a hiatus from the state meet as a junior after qualifying as an underclassman.
Small ran 20:50.1 to finish in the top 75 of the field.
In the Class 2A girls race, Northeast freshman Cenady Soenksen made her debut at Kennedy Park. The wind really picked up around 1 p.m., just before the start of that race.
Soenksen still finished 21st in the entire field, the freshman running a 20:06.8.
“I didn’t PR which made me sad,” Soenksen said after the race with a smile. “[The wind] affected me, turning corners blew me off course a little bit.
“I think it says I achieve a lot, I work hard and try to stay up with the seniors. [I want] to train harder during the winter so I can run faster next season.”
The Prince of Peace girls team makes a reappearance at the state meet collectively for the first time since 2011 and just the fifth time in school history. While the team finished 15th, Sophie Griffin picked up a top 30 finish in 20:32.4, breaking her own school record yet again.
“I am happy I PR’d,” Griffin said. “I don’t always do great in the wind, but I feel pretty good. I’m feeling mixed feelings.”
Junior Ava Ruden came in next in 22:08, and Madison Anglese locked in at 22:17.
Kaelyn Goodsman and Mary Schnier both finished under 24 minutes.
Four of the six runners were running the in Fort Dodge for the first time, definitely feeling some nerves.
“They all ran well throughout the year and most of them improved,” head coach Owen Howard said. “I thought we could probably get our ranking up and maybe finish top ten, but we had a couple who fell back a ways and didn’t do what they needed.
“I told the girls that the goal this year was to get them out here and get the nerves out.”
Prince of Peace freshman Marcus Blount also ran on the boys’ side, finishing 43rd in 17:33.
Easton Valley’s Aidan Gruver, also making his state debut, finished the 1A boys’ race in 18:20, cracking the top 90 of the 142-man field.