Running ahead of the pack

Lynnville-Sully’s Greenlee Smock became a four-time cross-country state qualifier at the district meet at Central Decatur on Thursday, Oct. 20. Smock, a senior, claimed the individual girls title and will advance to the state cross-country meet in Fort Dodge on Friday, Oct. 28. She will be joined by teammates senior James Gruver, sophomore Olivia Norrish, and senior Zach Morningstar, who finished fifth, seventh, and tenth in their respective boys and girls races, and qualified for the state meet.

Pella Christian’s cross-country teams made history by both boys and girls teams punching their tickets to the state meet in the same year. The girls, ranked #11 in Class 2A, placed third overall as a team, grabbing the last state-qualifying team spot with 23 points. Local students freshman Bailey Vos and junior Tysen DeVries finished in sixth and 15th places respectively and earned all-district honors at the state-qualifying meet held at Pella Sports Park on Oct. 20.


Four Hawks race their way to state cross-country meet

 Smock, Norrish, Gruver, Morningstar will run at state meet in Fort Dodge Oct. 28


Four Lynnville-Sully cross-country runners strode their way for a chance to run at the state cross- country meet after placing in the top 10 of their respective classes at the district meet held at Leon Country Club hosted by Central Decatur on Thursday, Oct. 20. Seniors Greenlee Smock, James Gruver, and Zach Morningstar, and sophomore Olivia Norrish each earned the right to compete at the Oct. 28 state meet.

L-S harriers conquered a course full of long, gradual hills and wide turns in conditions that were  arguably the most perfect of weather for a race. The start line was facing a downhill slope as was  the first 150 meters, making it easy for all runners to get out at a quick pace.

Smock didn’t get out with the front of the pack in the first part of the race and had to navigate through traffic, passing opponents through the first quarter to half mile. Going head to head with a familiar opponent from Twin Cedars and an athlete from Madrid, Smock caught up with the lead runner by the two- mile mark after letting herself go on the downhill and pushing strong on the uphills. Close to the finish line, Smock pulled away to claim the title as district champion by over 20 seconds in 19:55. This is Smock’s fourth time qualifying for the state meet, but this race her senior year marked her first time being the district champ.

Norrish punched her ticket to the state cross-country meet with a seventh-place finish in 21:17. She raced smart in the first mile, setting her pace and choosing to stick with a Southeast Warren runner. With 400 meters to go, Norrish pushed the pace to get away from her rival, but it wasn’t quite enough in the final 100 meters to stay in front. However, she had gutted it out enough to solidify a qualifying finish. Last season, Norrish finished 11th, one place short of a qualification. She used last season’s disappointment to fuel her all through summer training and regular-season races, making her state qualification this year all the more satisfying.

Senior Kendra Fikse finished her final high school cross-country meet with a 28th-place finish in 24:10, her second-fastest time of the season. Freshman Corrina Rozendaal took advantage of the downhills to place 43rd in 25:48, close to her season-best time. Junior Brooke Conover was just a few places behind Rozendaal for 46th place, running in 26:02. Freshman Laura Fikse placed 52nd in 26:35.

The girls team earned a fifth-place finish with 100 points, only four points back from Central Decatur in fourth place and five points from the third-place team, Collins-Maxwell. Pekin claimed the team title with 42 points. Madrid was the runner-up with 71 points.

With the girls race final, it was time for the boys to compete for a chance to extend their season. At the gun, the Lynnville-Sully boys took the correct angle down the hill to get into a good position early in the race. Competing for only 10 coveted spots for state, there was much jockeying around for position. That made it difficult for the runners to establish a good rhythm until about halfway into the race, at which point Lynnville-Sully’s top three were not in the top 10, but within striking distance. At the two-mile mark, Gruver made moves to gain a few positions with Morningstar and sophomore Hen-drick Lowry close behind. At the finish line, Gruver surged past more runners to finish fifth in 17:22, making it his third trip to the state meet. Morningstar was the last to qualify in 10th place, crossing the line in 17:41. This is his second time as a state cross-country qualifier. Unfortunately, Lowry was just a few places short to qualify, placing 12th in 17:56. L-S had the best score of any team’s top-three runners.

Rounding out the team was Ethan Dunsbergen, who finished in 52nd in 21:36. Senior Evan Fikse raced his final race as a high school student, finishing in 70th with a time of 23:21. Freshman Will Conover used the hills as he gained experience in his first season in cross-country to finish 85th in 26:52.

The boys team also placed fifth with 141 points, only six points behind Pekin in fourth. North Mahaska was the district champion with 76 points, followed by Madrid (103) and Collins-Maxwell (113).

The state qualifiers will run at Kennedy Park in Fort Dodge on Friday, Oct. 28. The 1A girls will race at 10:30 a.m., and the 1A boys will follow at 11:15 a.m.


Pella Christian Cross-Country Team runs for Ryan

The Pella Christian Cross-Country Team began its season just days after hearing the heartbreaking news that one of its own runners had suffered a terrible accident. Ryan Natelborg was on a trip in Wisconsin when he hit his head while swimming in a lake with his friends. The incident left him paralyzed. Natelborg and his family have had to digest the fact he now has limited mobility in his body. However, the Natelborg family has not had to go through this difficult time on its own. Pella Christian’s cross-country team made the decision early on in August to dedicate its whole season to Natelborg. The Eagles made the 2022 season’s theme “Run for Ryan.”

The decision to support Natelborg and his family was not a difficult one. Head coach Mike Buchheit said, “I knew early on after Ryan’s injury how hard it is emotionally on a person.” Buchheit’s brother had suffered a C5 spinal-cord injury years before, very similar to Natelborg’s. Because of this, Buchheit felt especially connected to Ryan’s situation.

Buchheit had the opportunity to visit Natelborg while he was still in Madison, WI. While he was visiting, he had the opportunity to ask Natelborg to do two things for him: 1. To continue to always work at strengthening himself and having a positive attitude; and 2. To send videos back and forth with the cross-country team.

Natelborg agreed and the results have been amazing and inspiring ever since. The cross-country team and Natelborg have sent countless videos back and forth throughout the course of the season. They film videos talking about daily life and encourage each other to keep persevering. The Eagles watched a video from Natelborg before every race. All of the athletes were motivated by Natelborg’s endurance through his struggles to persevere in the races that they ran. Natelborg’s positive outlook on his life and his unique perspective has had a huge impact on the Eagles. Natelborg’s story gave the Eagles a purpose to why they were running. The sport of cross-country is an amazing opportunity to use our God-given talents to bring God glory. Throughout this season, the Eagles have been able to put things into perspective and realize the blessing they have to be able to race and compete.

The cross-country team, along with the rest of the community, will continue to pray Natelborg might be healed and someday be able to run again, but, perhaps Natelborg himself said it best, “Walking isn’t everything.” Natelborg has impacted so many lives and his faith in Jesus continues to shine, despite the circumstances he is in. We can all learn a valuable lesson from Natelborg: The way you act today towards others, the more grateful you are for every single blessing, choosing to be positive even when everything around you is negative, all of these things that may seem small, can have a huge impact on the people around you.

Both the boys and girls team advanced to the state cross-country tournament, which will be held Friday, Oct. 28, in Fort Dodge.

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