Cross country teams already outpacing last year’s successful seasons

The men’s and women’s cross country teams showcased their seasons with the second meet of the year. The meet took place on Saturday, Sept. 2, at Oak Ridge Middle School in Marion. The meet featured two races: the men’s race and the women’s race. Everyone on both teams competed in the same race due to the heat that was expected later in the day.

The women’s race happened first, starting at 9 a.m. Senior Anna Becker led the way for the Tigers, finishing 10th overall with a time of 20:48, only 15 seconds off her lifetime best. This was Becker’s second top-10 finish of the year, following her 7th place finish at Prairie on Aug. 26. 

She was followed by junior Josee Simonson, a familiar name after her amazing track season, who finished 11th with a time of 20:50. Junior Zoe Zylstra followed closely, finishing 14th with a time of 21:00. Junior Emily Meyer finished 21st and freshman Emersyn Fonley rounded out the scoring five, finishing in 26th. This led the women’s team to a third-place finish, following their first-place finish at Cedar Rapids Prairie.

“Overall, the Linn Mar meet went pretty well. It was fun to run somewhere new, and we had a pretty challenging week prior to the meet, so it was good to come back and race. While it wasn’t my goal time, I was still happy with the race overall,” Simonson said. “A main goal of mine for the year is for both the team and me to qualify for State. Last year was the first time the women’s team had an appearance in the last few years, so it would be good to make another trip to Fort Dodge. Along with that, I want to continue to improve and get better but also just enjoy spending time with my teammates and doing what we enjoy.”

The women’s team will be gearing up for one of the toughest meets of the season, which will take place on Thursday, Sept. 7, in Marshalltown. The meet will feature three out of the top five teams in the state and will provide athletes with an opportunity to gauge their performance against others while preparing for the state meet. They are currently ranked 15th as a team, their highest ranking in the last few years.

On the men’s side, they won their second meet of the season. At Cedar Rapids Prairie on Aug. 26, they won the meet as a team, finishing with 21 points. On Saturday, Sept. 2, they finished with 23 points, securing another team win. 

They were led by sophomore Jaden Merrick, who finished first with a time of 15:37.3. This earned him the Cedar Falls sophomore school record. 

He was closely followed by transfer and senior, Ahmed Aldamak. Aldamak moved from Ames after his junior year and has been a tremendous asset to the team this year. He finished right behind Merrick, placing second with a time of 15:37.8. 

Senior Luke Hartman finished in 5th with a time of 16:09. Juniors Connor Martin and John Ferguson rounded out the scoring five with their 6th and 9th place finishes, respectively. Aldamak and Merrick rewrote Cedar Falls school history, running the second and third fastest times in school history. As the season continues, they will be chasing the 2017 CFHS graduate Sam Schillinger’s school record of 15:22.

“It was good to be able to compete in a Cedar Falls jersey. I was happy with my performance, and the year with a new team has been good so far. It’s hard moving schools and leaving the old one behind, but I am excited for the rest of the season,” Aldamak said. “My goal for the rest of the year is to keep getting faster and also to grow and build bonds with the team and the athletes. Overall, the team and I have the main goal of winning State. Obviously, that is what every team wants, but I think we have a good chance this year.”

The men’s team will be following the women’s path as they gear up for their toughest regular season meet, the 50th annual Bobcat Invitational on Sept. 7. After the Linn Mar meet, Merrick is ranked 2nd in the state individually, Aldamak was right behind him in 3rd, Hartman ranked 13th and Martin ranked 17th. This puts Cedar Falls with four runners, all ranked inside the top 20 individually, making them the only team with four runners inside the top 20. 

Thus, heading into week 4, the men’s cross country team is ranked 1st. They will be preparing to face Dowling Catholic at Marshalltown, who are the defending state champions two years in a row.

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