KEOTA — The Columbus High School boys and the Highland girls each triumphed as teams at the Keota Cross Country Invitational Monday at Lagos Acres Country Club.
“It was a hot and sticky meet, but the kids hung in there,” Highland coach Allison Stroebel said. “I’m happy with how everyone ran, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t continue to push for improvements. Despite a good showing, we are still not in racing shape and that will be a focus in practices going forward.”
The Wildcats placed five runners in the top 11 and all seven of their runners in the top 14. They were led by sophomore Isaac Acosta, who finished second. Senior Jesus Medrano was eighth, sophomore Freddy Vergara ninth, juniors Garrett Palmer and Alex Rivas were 10th and 11th, and sophomore Mason Hills-Carrier was 12th.
“I do this for my family,” Acosta said after a race last week at Wapello. “I started thinking of them and I started kicking it in. They do everything for me. Especially my father. He is a big part of my life. I love my team. My team is my family, too. They are the only reason I stay in cross-country. Them and my real family.”
“It was a really exciting night for the boys,” Columbus coach Steve Riley said of the Keota win. “We have been working very hard for this, and it’s paying off. We hope this is just the start of good things for our team this year.”
In all, Columbus runners took home 10 medals. The boys earned seven, and three girls earned medals: freshman Van Iang (10th), sophomore Juvixsa Valdez (16th), and junior Esther Lian (17th).
“The thing I noticed is if you run fast at the beginning, it will land you in a place and you can lock in that place and just continue that place and maybe even climb up,” Van Iang said after a race last week. “That really helped me. My sister (Esther Liam) and me like to challenge each other and I think that really helps us push each other. We keep telling each other to be better and pushing each other. Sometimes it’s not the nicest way, but it’s the most efficient way.”
“We just had a really fun night,” Riley said of the Keota race. “We have 33 kids on our team, junior high and high school, and every one gave a great effort tonight. And it was a tough night for running on a tough course.”
The Columbus boys victory was the program’s first team championship since 2015, when the Wildcats won the Mike Jay Invitational.
Boys team results — 1. Columbus 40; 2. North Mahaska 59; 3. Lone Tree 75; 4. Sigourney 79; 5. Highland 121. No team score — English Valleys, WACO, BGM, Keota.
Columbus — 2. Isaac Acosta 20:04; 8. Jesus Medrano 21:46; 9. Freddy Vergara 21:54; 10. Garrett Palmer 22:00; 11. Alex Rivas 22:08; 12. Mason Hills-Carrier 22:13; 14. Daniel Martinez 22:44.
Girls team results — 1. Highland 43; 2. BGM 46; 3. North Mahaska 51; 4. Columbus 63. No team score — Lone Tree, Sigourney, English Valleys, WACO, Keota.
Columbus — 10. Van Iang 27:45; 16. Juvixsa Valdez 29:15; 17. Esther Lian 29:36; 21. Averi Sipes 31:23; 34. Martha Garcia 37:26; 35. Julie Sosa 38:04.