Weather issues may have made the 2018 cross country season a frustrating one for Nevada, but they didn’t stop the Nevada girls from taking another step toward contending for state or the Cub boys from turning in another quality campaign.
It was more difficult for the Nevada runners to gradually reduce their times this season after constant rain resulted in the cancellation of five meets. This included both their home meet at Hickory Grove and the Heart of Iowa Conference meet.
“The races give you ways to measure your growth, as well as help you to get faster,” Nevada head cross country coach Mike Christiansen said. “The lack of races really held us back.”
But Christiansen was happy with the way both teams handled the adversity to still produce successful seasons.
The Nevada girls made some progress last season, and made sure to continue it through 2018. They finished second at both the South Hamilton and South Hardin Invitationals and ended up eighth at the Class 3A state qualifying meet in Pella.
“They did a great job,” Christiansen said. “The girls kept growing and getting better every meet. Finishing second at Eldora and South Hamilton was a huge step forward for the team.”
Christiansen was impressed with newcomers Elie Tuhn and Gabby Sampson. He also liked the development of Madison Davis and Natalie Thompson.
Tuhn was a top-two runner on the team most of the season, alongside Eliana Hornbuckle.
In her freshman year, Tuhn ran a 5-kilometer time of 23 minutes, two seconds at the Gilbert Invitational, 22:11 at Pella, 23:39 at Kuemper Catholic, 22:19 at Roland-Story and 22:03 at South Hardin. She finished the qualifying meet in 32nd place with a team-best time of 22:30 and her fastest showing was 21:10 at South Hamilton.
Sampson finished in 23:49 at Gilbert, 23:46 at Pella, 24:57 at Kuemper Catholic, 24:03 at Roland-Story and 23:16 at South Hardin. She placed 44th at the qualifying meet in 23:11 and peaked at South Hamilton with a 21:46 showing.
Davis completed the Gilbert meet in 25:51, Kuemper Catholic in 26:44, Roland-Story in 25:50 and South Hardin in 25:27. She finished 73rd at the qualifying meet in 25:46 and the best effort of her junior year was also at South Hamilton in 23:56.
Like the other girls, Thompson’s fastest showing came at South Hamilton in 24:27. She ran a 25:28 at Gilbert, 25:22 at Pella, 25:24 at Kuemper Catholic and 24:39 at South Hardin.
Junior Eliana Hornbuckle was the top returning runner from last year and, along with Tuhn, the girls’ most successful runner in 2018.
Hornbuckle completed the Gilbert meet in 22:47, Pella in 22:16, Kuemper Catholic in 23:25, Roland-Story in 22:20 and South Hardin in 22:41. Her best effort was 21:10 at South Hamilton and she placed 36th at the qualifying meet in 22:48.
Senior Mady Farmer and sophomores Eleanor Elliott-Rude and Grace Cahill were the other runners to compete in the qualifying meet for the Nevada girls.
Farmer ran a 24:14 at Gilbert, 24:19 at Pella, 27:00 at Kuemper Catholic, 25:51 at Roland-Story and a season-best 22:30 showing at South Hamilton. She took 45th at the qualifying meet in 23:15.
Elliott-Rude completed the Gilbert course in 24:48, Pella in 24:20, Kuemper Catholic in 25:03, Roland-Story in 24:12, South Hardin in 24:31 and South Hamilton in a season-best 22:40. She placed 51st at the qualifying meet in 23:49.
Cahill finished Gilbert in 24:51, Pella in 24:57, Kuemper Catholic in 25:25, Roland-Story in 23:58, South Hardin 24:41 and South Hamilton in a season best 22:34. She placed 55th at the qualifying meet in 24:02.
Ryanne Barker ran five varsity meets in her senior year. Barker finished Gilbert in 25:10, Kuemper Catholic in 26:33, Roland-Story in 26:14 and South Hardin in a season-best time of 24:37.
Junior Meredith Harter ran her fastest time of 25:23 at Gilbert. She also finished in 25:48 at South Hamilton.
Losing Farmer and Barker leaves the Cub girls with a couple voids to fill next season. But with five of their qualifying meet runners returning, including their top three, the Cubs will have the potential to finish near the top of the HOIC standings and make a run at state.
“Next year looks very promising,” Christiansen said. “The girls’ hard work and great effort has made them a very competitive team with a very bright future.”
The Nevada boys entered the season with high hopes after qualifying for state a year ago. They had to replace multiple-time individual state qualifier Malachi Hornbuckle, but had a lot of veteran talent returning.
Injuries, along with the weather, ended up slowing the Cub boys down a bit. Two of their top runners — senior Noah Nusbaum and junior Carter Franzen — ran hurt at the qualifying meet.
But Christiansen was still happy with their overall performance.
“The strength of the boys’ team was our senior leadership,” Christiansen said. “The team is very senior-heavy, and we used them and their experience to help this team and guide the younger kids. Dalton Baker and Jacob Sanders were our team captains and they did an amazing job leading this team. If not for the injuries to Noah and Carter, this team could have done some fun things.”
Christiansen said the boys’ best effort was right off the bat before the injuries and the weather breaks took their toll. They came in third at the Gilbert meet behind eventual 3A state champions Gilbert and a powerful Dallas Center-Grimes squad.
Baker was remarkably consistent. He ran a 5-kilometer time of 18:15 at Gilbert, 18:33 at Pella, 18:42 at Kuemper Catholic, 18:18 at Roland-Story and 18:42 at South Hardin.
At the qualifying meet, Baker ran a strong time of 18:20, but was unable to return to state after placing 31st in a loaded field.
Sanders ran an 18:40 at Gilbert, 20:01 at Pella, 19:02 at South Hardin and a season-best time of 18:06 at South Hamilton. He also competed at Roland-Story, but his time was not officially recorded.
At the qualifying meet, Sanders clocked in at 18:39 to place 36th.
Nusbaum was hampered by an ankle injury during the season. He finished Gilbert in 18:27, Kuemper Catholic in 19:52, South Hardin in 18:59 and toughed out a 22:07 at the qualifying meet, where he placed 87th.
Franzen was dealing with a knee injury at the qualifying meet and he came in 63rd in 19:49. Franzen also ran a 19:20 at Pella, 19:58 at Kuemper Catholic and a 19:28 at South Hardin, and his best time was 18:45 at Gilbert.
Sophomore Elliot Frideres came on strong as a varsity runner at the end of the season for Nevada.
Frideres completed Gilbert in 20:16, Pella in 20:32 and South Hardin in 19:33 and South Hamilton in a season-best 18:39. At the qualifying meet, he clocked in at 19:07 to place 46th.
Junior Caleb Pawlovich and senior Hudson Vermillion also ran at the qualifying meet for Nevada this year.
Pawlovich took 58th at the qualifying meet in 19:37. He finished the Gilbert meet in 20:06, Pella in 20:38, Kuemper Catholic in 20:18, Roland-Story in 19:54, South Hardin in 20:07 and South Hamilton in a season-best 18:45.
Vermillion placed 71st at the qualifying meet in 20:09. He completed the Gilbert meet in 20:43, Kuemper Catholic in 21:21, Roland-Story in 20:40 and South Hardin in 20:49 and he also peaked at South Hamilton with a 19:43 showing.
Junior Dean Check ran in two races, finishing Pella in 20:59 and Kuemper Catholic with his fastest time of 20:42. Sophomore Bryce Sutherland ran a 20:09 at Gilbert and 21:35 at Roland-Story.
Marcus Nelson and Caelan Sullivan-Pecha were the top freshmen for the Nevada boys.
Nelson completed Gilbert in 21:25, Pella in 22:02, Kuemper Catholic in 22:20, Roland-Story in 22:08 and South Hamilton in 20:48. Sullivan-Pecha finished Gilbert in 23:16, Pella in 27:29, Kuemper Catholic in 25:36, Roland-Story in 25:04, South Hardin in 26:53 and South Hamilton in 21:29.
“I thought it was a good season,” Christiansen said of the boys’ effort in 2018. “(We) had a lot of kids show some great improvement.”
The Cub boys must replace some quality runners next season.
“Next year we have some big shoes to fill,” Christiansen said. “ Jacob, Noah and Dalton have been part of our varsity team for a long time. Jacob and Noah never ran a JV race — they have been varsity for all four years.”
But Christiansen said he is excited to see how much his returning runners can improve in 2019.
“(We) have Elliot Frideres, Dean Check and Carter Franzen back as our base,” Christiansen said. “Bryce Sutherland, Marcus Nelson and Caelan Sullivan-Pecha all have shown promise to step up next year and join the varsity. We will not be deep, so staying healthy will be the key.”