Lauren Klein races up a hill at state.

Alyssa Klein and Lauren Klein capped solid cross country seasons by earning individual berths to the Class 4A State Meet. Their trips to state were just two of the many highlights this year by the Bobcat girls.

“We won the junior girls title (Lilly Boge, Audrey Biermann and Leah Digmann) and the overall title at Waverly,” coach Mark Digmann said. “We won the varsity and the junior varsity meet at West Delaware. Lauren broke the school record with a 19:01, which is something she has been chasing since her freshman year. Alyssa jumped into the top-five all-time with a No. 3 time of 19:15. Alyssa can be a 4-time state qualifier in her career, and we have never had a girl qualify individually more than twice.”

Looking overall at the year, coach Digmann said, “It was up and down. We were excited to be able to add Alyssa to the top four returning state qualifiers from last year, but when we say you must stay healthy, this season was why. We didn’t have Elly (Burds) for most of the season. We thought she was going to be back at the Dubuque meet, which she wasn’t, but we lost Lilly starting at that meet.

“The only time we were able to run our best five runners was at the district meet and we came up short, which was disappointing. However, while we were going through those injuries, it gave Leah, Amelia (Klostermann), Olivia (Thul), Carson (Koerperich), Isabella (Graber), Delaney (Behning), and Kylie (Nauman) the opportunity to push a little more to get better to add to our depth, as one or two of them had to count at meets. Of that group, Delaney is the only one we lose, so while those injuries hurt us in the sense that we couldn’t run our best kids all the time, it helped us in terms of forcing us to build some depth.”

Western Dubuque has to say goodbye to eight seniors this year — Lauren Klein, Elly Burds, Klostermann, Behning, Macy Simon, Elizabeth Graber, Hannah Fangmann and Lexi Kramer.

“These girls did a great job while they were out. Most of them, unfortunately, were only out for a couple of years and we wish we could have had them all around for more,” coach Digmann said.

Throughout the year, coach Digmann was pleased to see a lot of growth from his runners.

“We really built depth with our injuries this season. Amelia went through a stretch of four consecutive meets where she broke her PR and took just short of a minute out of her PR from last year. Leah started running really well at Waverly and continued to the end of the season, taking over two minutes out of her PR and breaking 21:00 at districts. Delaney broke her PR at the end of the season. Getting Elly and Lilly healthy for districts helped us out a ton to give us our best chance to qualify. Audrey had a very solid season that will help for next fall. Olivia, Isabella, and Carson continued to improve throughout the season as first-year runners. We got better as a group as the season went on and had a wonderful race at districts.”

This year’s team will be remembered for running an average under 20:00 at districts (19:41), which is the fastest team average in school history at 5K, according to coach Digmann.

Looking toward next season, coach Digmann said, “While we will lose Lauren, Elly, and Amelia from our top seven, we still have Alyssa, Lilly, Audrey, and Leah back from our top seven and Olivia, Isabella, Carson, and Kylie back from our top 12. Like the boys, we will return a very good core of runners and look for our top JV kids to get a good summer in and take their turn at helping out at the varsity level next fall.”

Competing during the COVID-19 pandemic was different for coaches, athletes and parents. Digmann was appreciative of the way his team came together. “Our staff wants to thank the kids in their efforts to follow the guidelines and protocols that were in place this year to make sure that we were able to have, and more importantly, finish our season.

“We told them at the beginning of the year that we wanted our season to end on our terms by not qualifying at the district meet or by running at the state meet and not having it end due to a shut down due to the pandemic. Talking with most kids at the end of the season, they said they were hoping to be able to get a month in and compete in a few races when the season started, since most of them were part of the shut down in the spring. Most said they were surprised that we were able to finish.

“It is because of the things our administration put in place for us to follow, the coaching staff reminding kids what they needed to do, and the kids doing what they needed to and being willing to be corrected if they weren’t following the protocols that we were able to get through the season with very few problems,” he concluded.

The top times run by the WD girls this season were: Lauren Klein 19:01; Alyssa Klein 19:15, Elly Burds 19:53; Biermann 20:06; Boge 20:08; Leah Digmann 20:55; Klostermann 21:12; Thul 21:51; Isabella Graber 22:09; Behning 22:25; Koerperich 22:45; Kylie Nauman 23:30; Simon 24:44; Natalie Meyers 25:19; Carley Mausser 25:21; Elizabeth Graber 25:46; Maggie Scherbring 25:53; Maci Wessels 26:07; Emily Deutmeyer 26:10; Hannah Fangmann 26:37; Shelby Rice 27:20; Sammy Burds 27:57; Claire McGrane 28:06; Sammy Recker 29:39; Ella Fangmann 31:43; Hannah Wendling 33:07; Lillie Abitz 34:29; Ella McDermott 34:59; Dicey McCool 37:41; Belle Miller 42:33; and Lexi Kramer 44:34.