Cade Messer is the first Bobcat boy to be a three-time state cross country qualifier.

Two state qualifiers topped off a solid season for the Western Dubuque boys’ cross country season.

“I thought it was a great season,” coach Mark Digmann said. “We weren’t sure coming in what we were going to look like. We lost 13 of our top 15 and a couple of kids were going to run and play football, but COVID-19 protocols didn’t allow for it and they chose football.

“At the beginning of the year, we knew we were going to have Cade (Messer) and Eli (Naumann) to compete, but none of the other boys that ran varsity this year had much (if any) varsity experience coming in.

“They continued to work hard this season, trusted in the process of what we were doing, and we saw great improvement in all of them this fall. As a result, we have a group of kids that will come back next fall with a lot of varsity experience, an understanding of what it will take to improve, and some success in terms of where they were a year ago compared to where they are now.”

The runs of Messer and Nauman at the state meet were key for the Bobcat program.

“For the first time in school history, we had a three-time individual state qualifier in Cade Messer. Eli Naumann was a first-time qualifier. I thought the group of varsity kids we had did a great job of coming together and competing every time we ran. It didn’t matter to them who we were running against, they gave their best effort every night out. Our sophomore boys winning the grade level title at Waverly was an example of how our young kids went after it every time out.”

WD will loser six seniors to graduation — Messer, Jacob Gottschalk, Ethan Hoefler, Will Lopez, Michael Kemp and Ben Soppe.

“Our seniors did a great job this year,” Digmann said. “Cade did a wonderful job as a captain this year. Jacob quietly got better and got into the low 19s by getting in a great off-season. Ethan was a pleasant surprise in the varsity mix.

“Will, Michael, and Ben did a great job late in the year competing at the JV level with just the three of them, which wasn’t enough to count as a team, but they still went about their business and competed with everything they had. Each of them brought something different to the table, which will make this group difficult to replace.”

Steady improvement was a key factor for the Bobcats this year.

“I saw their times continue to drop during the season. I saw them finishing behind kids early in the season that they were able to close the gap on those same kids or get to the point of beating those kids,” Digmann said. “I saw them come together as a team — working hard in practice, supporting each other, helping each other when they were injured, joking around with each other. This will help us heading into next fall as the cohesiveness of the team will already be in place.”

According to Digmann the future of Bobcat cross country looks bright. “I like where we are. We lose Cade and Jacob out of our top seven and Ethan in our top-10. We have Eli coming back as a state qualifier. Caden Coyle and Brady Horsfall will be back as seniors, and we have Isaiah Hammerand, Derek Fangmann, Drew Meyer and Levi Meyer coming back as juniors. We also had solid JV seasons this year from Jagger McCool, Austin Hagerty, Thomas Blair, and Nathan Casey when he wasn’t battling injury. This will give us a solid top seven coming back and we also have some other kids in the mix that will add some needed depth to our line-up.”

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 Bobcats this year were: Nauman 16:24; Messer 16:31; Fangmann 17:40; Hammerand 17:42; Drew Meyer 18:28; Levi Meyer 18:37; Gottschalk 19:13; Coyle 19:35; Hoefler 19:43; Brady Horsfall 19:52; Kemp 20:41; Blair 20:43; McCool 21:01; Soppe 21:10; Hagerty 21:24; Lopez 21:31; Casey 23:10; Zane Heiderscheit 23:53; Timmy Horsfall 24:39; Maddox Bries and Sam Krapfl 24:58; and Brandon Vaske 28:23.