Maquoketa Valley’s cross country program had a season that will long be remembered. A runner-up finish in the Class 1A Boys State Meet was the culmination of a fantastic year.

“Most would say that the highlight of our season was placing second at the state meet. I can’t argue with that. But another highlight that comes close in my mind is our Anamosa meet,” co-coach Sara Dever said. “George Livingston and Matthew Schaul had huge races for us. It was the first time I felt like we could actually be a podium team. We had our senior front runners, but you can’t show up in Fort Dodge and do much of anything without solid four and five guys. Coach (Pat) Meehan looked at George after this race and said, ‘George. Where have you been all my life?’ This moment wasn’t all about George and Matthew necessarily. It was exciting because of what it meant for the team as a whole.”

Cy Huber, a senior, was MV’s lead runner at the state meet. He earned a ninth-place medal with a time of 16:56. Nolan Ries, also a senior, earned a 12th-place medal with a clocking of 16:59. Rounding out the scoring was senior Michael Schaul (32nd, 17:36), sophomore George Livingston (60th, 18:02) and freshman Matthew Schaul (75th, 18:16). Freshman Arion Rave and sophomore Toby Grimm placed 96th (18:40) and 147th (20:10), respectively.

Huber, Ries, Michael Schaul all bettered their 2020 state runs by 30 seconds or more. Grimm bettered his 2020 state time by almost two minutes.

After the state meet, Meehan said, “The boys ran just like they have all year in that they competed as best they could. It was definitely an advantage to have four of the seven who ran there in the past. This helped settle the younger guys down. This has been a special team who did things champions do. We are proud of them.”

Dever was quick to point out how much the seniors meant to this year’s boys’ squad.

“The success we had this season was due to many things, but maybe the most valuable piece was our senior leadership. Michael Schaul, Cy Huber and Nolan Ries have been running since seventh grade, and they have created a monumental shift in the team culture at Maquoketa Valley. It didn’t happen overnight. Every year, their steady dedication changed things just a little bit. Things add up after six years of pushing forward.

“The program is lucky to have been taken care of by those three for so long. Caleb Livingston is also a senior. He came to cross country later in his career but proved to be a devoted teammate. This makes all the difference in team chemistry. I’d rather have one more devoted teammate than one more fast guy. It’s chemistry and culture that brings out the best in people.”

Dever credited her runners’ work in the off-season for helping them reach new heights in 2021.

“This team proved that out-of-season work is more important than in-season work,” she said. “Collectively, we put in more time this summer than any other. Injury rates were down. Our racing was more consistent. That’s what happens when you run your summer (and winter and spring) miles. Yes, we improved throughout the season, but our overall steadiness is what gave us an edge. Nothing can shake a team with proper summer miles.”

While four seniors are graduating, the MV boys return several runners next year including Frasher, a junior, sophomores George Livingston and Grimm, and freshmen Rave, Matthew Schaul, Brady Eike and Sebastian Charles.

The season-best times for the MV boys’ were: Huber 16:32, Ries 16:59, Michael Schaul 17:25, George Livingston 18:02, Matthew Schaul 18:13, Rave 18:33, Grimm 19:41, Frasher 20:07, Caleb Livingston 20:39, Eike 21:04 and Charles 29:14.

The Maquoketa Valley girls’ squad was unable to earn a team score most of the year, as the Wildcats only had five runners at the first meet of the season. At MFL MarMac, the team placed fifth overall.

“The girls gained confidence throughout the season. Some of them ‘raced’ for the first time. When a 5K is an overwhelming distance, it’s hard to wrap your head around racing that far. I saw the girls change from people who completed the distance to people who competed the distance.”

There were two senior girls — Jordan Hogan and Emma Doyl. Rounding out the squad were sophomore Isabel Imler and Allison Hogan, along with freshman McKenna Bush.

“Jordan Hogan was a tremendous leader to this team. She was present throughout the summer and was consistently positive for the team. She exceeded in making everyone feel welcome. I am so thankful for the culture she has created on the girls’ team,” Dever said. “Emma Doyl was unfortunately unable to complete the season.”

A highlight to the girls’ season was when Imler earned a medal at the Tri-Rivers Conference Meet in Guttenberg with an 11th-place finish.

Another highlight according to Dever was “watching Jordan Hogan crush her personal record at the district meet. She worked for it and earned it.”

Dever sees some excitement in the future of the MV girls’ team.

“The girls’ team will only improve. We have a few eighth-graders coming up who will fit in just fine on this high school team. I would like to see the team and/or individuals qualify for the state meet next year on the girls’ side,” she said.

The top times run by the girls were: Imler 22:28, Doyl 24:30, Bush 25:07, Jordan Hogan 26:39 and Allison Hogan 27:09.