Columbus boys, both Pekin teams to state

Hillcrest's Bontrager, Van Buren's Neely qualify as individuals

Brady Millikin of Pekin runs alone in second place Thursday in a cross-country meet at Ottumwa’s Wildwood Park where the Pekin boys and girls team qualified for state as did the Columbus boys. (Doug Brenneman/Union)
Brady Millikin of Pekin runs alone in second place Thursday in a cross-country meet at Ottumwa’s Wildwood Park where the Pekin boys and girls team qualified for state as did the Columbus boys. (Doug Brenneman/Union)

OTTUMWA — Second place never felt so good. The Columbus boys cross-country team will advance to state by virtue of its finish in Thursday’s Class 1A state qualifying meet at the Wildwood Park.

Pekin was the first-place team in both the boys and girls races. Hillcrest’s Leah Bontrager and Van Buren County’s Faith Neely will both run at state as individuals after their finish. Both are juniors and will make their third appearance in Fort Dodge.

Brady Millikan finished second and teammate Zach Wise was fourth to carry Pekin to a 56-77 win over Columbus, who was led by Isaac Acosta in eighth place.

“We trained before the summer, during the summer, during the Covid times, we kept training and it paid off,” Acosta said of his Wildcats, who kept No. 8-ranked Valley Lutheran from advancing.

“I under performed today, but now I have more motivation for Fort Dodge,” Millikin said of where the state meet will be conducted.

“I thought about the race all day at school and the competition that would be here,” Wise said. “I know how hard we train, so I wanted us to do good because I felt we deserved it.”

Pekin girls dominated with finishers at fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth.

Bontrager’s goal coming into the race was to finish ahead of one of the three Pekin girls she had never finished better than. Instead she made it a clean sweep.

“It was a really hard race, both mentally and physically and I don’t know how I did it,” Bontrager said. “At one point, I heard my dad telling me that I was ahead of all the Pekin girls and I did not believe him at first.”

The race was draining because of the 82 degree temperature and the hills. Regina had a girl finish second, but collapsed 50 yards from the finish and was helped up, thus disqualified.

Neely finished sixth, using the hills to her advantage.

“It’s really sad to see so many girls drop,” said Neely. “I struggle on the flats, which is the opposite of most everyone else.”

Neely overcame a dislocated hip at the beginning of September. “I kept running and would do striding after practice to get my form back.”

Lauren Dershied took fourth by not worrying. “Strategy is not my thing, I just go out there and run. I know for a lot of girls the heat is not a good thing, but for me I can adjust pretty well to it.”

Freshman teammate Lauren Steigleder was fifth.

“All the practice I did in the summer has helped me,” said Steigleder, who ran shorter races in junior high. “The longer distance was tough, but I got used to it this summer.”


BOYS TEAM SCORES 1. Pekin 56, 2. Columbus 77, 3. Valley Lutheran 93, 4. North Mahaska 108, 5. Iowa City Regina 120, 6. Winfield-Mount Union 146


Pekin — 2. Brady Millikin 17:38, 4. Zach Wise 17:46, 11. Jaedon Wolver 18:44, 12, Isaac Gentry 18:52, 31. Ben Guise 20:09

Columbus — 8. Isaac Acosta 18:17, 14. Mason Hills-Carrier 18:59, 16. Freddy Vergara 19:15, 17. Damian Vergara 19:19, 27. Alex Rivas 19:55

Winfield-Mount Union — 13. Gabriel Hemsworth 18:52, 19. Brody Barton 19:24, 34. Dane Sweezer 20:15, 38. Lane Scorpil 20:43, 54. Ty Scorpil 21:45

Hillcrest — 49. Collin Millers 21:19, 51. Will Kolck 21:28

WACO — 46. Wyatt Dennis 21:15

Van Buren — 21. Ian Peacock 19:34

GIRLS TEAM SCORES 1. Pekin 28, 2. Iowa City Regina 38, 3. Twin Cedars 65, 4. Wapello 102


Pekin — 4. Lauren Derscheid 21:57, 5. Lauren Steigleder 22:07, 7. Audrey Fariss 22:34, 8. Lily Fariss 22:39, 14. Mia Clark 23:42

Hillcrest — 3. Leah Bontrager 21:52, 36. Julia Boiler 28:28, 42. Kennedy Roth 30:32

Van Buren County — 6. Faith Neeley 22:13, 29. Emma Cochenhour 26:49

Winfield-Mount Union — 21. Avery Maeder 25:21, 40. Bayla Thomson 29:54, 41. Emma Richardson 29:54, 43. Maggie Hutton 31:18

WACO — 25. Mckenzie Vradenburg 26:16, 39. Hannah Dennis 29:35

Columbus — 30. Averi Sipes 26:59, 34. Kimberly Gonzalez 28:03, 45. Alexa Alcala 32:01