Abby Knepper ran into the gym between games of the Beckman-Mount Vernon volleyball match Sept. 21 with a huge smile and a big trophy.

She and her teammates had just returned from winning the team title at the Vinton-Shellsburg Cross Country Invitational. Their 54 points topped runner-up Hudson by 14 (68), as well as Benton Community 76, Union 78, West Delaware 113, South Tama 154, V-S 190, Independence 191 and Cedar Rapids Jefferson 227.

All five counting Blazers placed in the top 20. Maria Kruse led with a sixth-place finish in 21:07, followed by Julia Mertz eighth (21:24), Madelyn Reiter 10th (21:41), Knepper 11th (21:46) and Maria Dudzik 19th (22:38).

Also running for the Blazers were Ellie Recker 50th (25:03), Jordan Thier 60th (25:32), Sydney Reiter 65th (25:48), Mary Reed 71st (26:35), Mallory Rea 79th (27:17), Marie Grebner 81st (27:18), Paula Braun 82nd (27:18) and Chloe Goedken 97th (28:39).

Union’s Ellie Rathe won the individual title with a time of 18:51, leading Hudson’s Addison Grady at 19:22.

Coach Tyson Squiers was very pleased. “This was the best meet of the season for both teams but a huge turning point for the girls in particular. It was the first meet win for the girls in probably 20-25 years. It’s a testament to the hard work the girls have put in this season. Earlier today we were actually added to the Class 2A rankings, No. 17, the first time in years.

“Maria continues to lead the team, finishing sixth and cutting 30 seconds from her time at this race last year. All of the other runners, Julia, Madelyn, Abby and Maria, PR’d and made our top times list. Ellie also earned a PR, cutting 1:00 off her 2020 time. Jordan and Chloe also PR’d while Sydney earned a season-best time.

“Obviously, this makes for a very successful night. On big days like this, it’s always great to see the outpouring of support and congratulations from the community. The social media shoutouts, text messages and emails are greatly appreciated.”

In the varsity boys’ race, the Blazers finished ninth with 233. Jefferson won with 56, followed by Benton Community 74, South Tama 79, West Delaware 99, Hudson 109, V-S 115, Independence 176, Alburnett 199, BHS, and Union 286.

Jacob Schlarmann took his accustomed spot at the top of the team with a 26th (19:28). Joe Schneider 41st (20:07), Spencer Rea 54th (21”08), Parker Domeyer 55th (21”18), and Auden Recker 57th (21:46) rounded out the counters. Also competing were Shawn Brunsman 62nd (22:03), John Paul Grebner 63rd (22:04) and Cassius McGrane 67th (22:53).

The JV boys finished third in their field with 94 points, trailing only West Delaware 17 and Jefferson 57. Fourth went to Independence 106, fifth to Alburnett 110 and sixth to V-S 134.

Running for the Blazers were Erik Koopmann 20th (21:52), Ryan Schlarmann 26th (22:28), Sheldon Corkery 31st (22”49), Andrew Salrin 34th (223:29), Isaac Westhoff 47th (25:20), Devin Burlage 48th (25:30) and Zach Helle 51st (26:03).

“Our boys raced extremely well with a number of season bests and PRs as well. They looked more comfortable and confident racing. Jacob beat his 2020 time by 2:00, a new PR. So did Joe. Spencer ran his best of the season and Parker PR’d again. John Paul, Erik, Ryan, Andrew and Zach all ran their best times. Things are starting to fall in place for the boys.

“Saying that, we still have work to do this season and a lot of season left. Our goals are always shifting and progressing. We are looking forward to the second half of the season,” concluded Squiers.