When Maria Kruse jumped 10 spots from last week’s race to place third (21:41), she helped the Beckman girls’ cross country team finish eighth, a slim point out of a tie for sixth, at the Vinton-Shellsburg Invitational, Sept. 22.

Kruse trailed only Hudson’s Addison Grady (20:40) and Benton’s Jaida Lyons (21:02) in the meet. In 30th was Abby Knepper (24:41), followed by Isabelle Kluesner 41st (25:25), Kennedy Recker 42nd (25:28) and Ellie Recker 52nd (26:00), just in front of Sydney Reiter 53rd (26:05). Savanah Oberbroeckling ran as well, placing 63rd (28:05).

Hudson grabbed the team title with 42 points and three runners in the top 10. Benton was next with 54 and also three top 10 runners. Third went to Cedar Rapids Jefferson with 132, followed by Vinton-Shellsburg 140, West Delaware 144, Union 163, Xavier 163, BHS 164, Independence 167 and South Tama 184.

Coach Tyson Squiers added, “Almost all of our returning runners were quite a bit faster than last year. Maria’s third place time is the highest overall finish of any athlete, boy or girl, during my coaching years. Sydney had our biggest improvement, almost four minutes, which was a 44-second PR for her. Abby ran a PR as well, missing our girls’ top 10 list by three seconds. Jordan (JV race), Isabelle, Ellie and Kennedy all ran season bests. This girls’ team is very strong this year and I still think there will be more PRs earned and more times dropped in the near future.”

On the boys’ side, the Blazers finished 12th in the team race, paced by Jacob Schlarmann’s 62nd (21:29). Also counting were Spencer Rea 63rd (21:43), Auden Recker 65th (21:55), Joe Schneider 67th (22:00) and Nate Schaefer 73rd (22:39). Running as well were Ryan Schlarmann 75th (22:51) and Cassius McGrane 77th (23:37).

In the team race, West Delaware won with 41 points, just two ahead of Jefferson at 43. Both schools had three top 10 runners. Third went to Hudson 85, followed by Benton 118, Xavier 142, South Tama 146, Columbus 167, V-S 208, Alburnett 238, Independence 272, Union 307 and BHS 330.

Squiers said, “We had seven of eight returning runners faster than their 2019 time on this course. Auden and Joe ran almost 3.5 minutes faster, with many of the rest over two minutes faster. Nate, Cassius, Spencer, Ean and JP all earned their fastest times of the season. Our varsity boys are still working on perfecting our pack running. As the season progresses and we get into conference and district time, we will spend more time on consistent pacing throughout the race as well as learning how to call teammates up if they start to fall off the pace. Even at this point of the season I can already see our running form looking stronger and our mentality during the race is more positive and focused.”

In the JV race John Paul Grebner led the team in 47th (23:30), followed by Sheldon Corkery 56th (24:16), Max Oberbroeckling 67th (25:06), Sean Hinerichsen 68th (25:07) and Isaac Westhoff 70th (25:12). Tyler Salrin came in 71st (25:24), Andrew Salrin 72nd (25:25), Riley White 77th (26:10), and Ean Brown 84th (27:12).

Jordan Thier ran 24th in the girls JV race (28:26).

In the middle school boys race, the Blazers placed third with 53, just behind West Delaware 20 and Alburnett 44. Andrew Schlarmann ran to eighth place in 14:05, Cooper Klas 11th (14:14), Alexander Kerper 22nd (15:17), Brenndan Engler 23rd (15:35) and Parker Domeyer 24th (15:37). Brody Hageman was 37th (19:17).

For the middle school girls, it was Rachel Schwarten 33rd (21:28) and Cheyenne Geistkemper 43rd ( 24:25).

“Coming off two meets last week, one on a very tough course, I was excited to see what we could do on fresh legs at a fast course like this. The meet is almost like a small conference meet for us, so I’m always curious to see how we will compete. The weather was perfect and the course conditions were great as well,” concluded Squiers.