IOWA CITY -- Neither Wilton's Zach Hein nor Wapello's Aiden Housman were strangers to the cross country course at the Iowa City Kickers Soccer Complex when they competed in the Class 1A state qualifying meet Thursday.
Both have ran the course before, several times, and both are headed back to the state meet in Fort Dodge.
Now seniors, both seek to improve on those performances at state. They got there this time by finishing 4th (Hein, in 17:21.62) and 7th (Housman, 17:42.17).
"There's a lot of fast runners here," Wapello coach Micah Peck said. "You just have to hold on, you never know what the pace is going to be when they go out."
Last season, Hein placed 37th at state with a time of 17:26.2 while Housman was right behind in 39th at 17:28.8.
Though several area boys teams came close to going to state as a team, none will send full squads. Columbus finished 8th, Wilton 7th and Wapello 6th in the team categories. Only the top three teams – Calamus-Wheatland (first), Pekin (second) and Maquoteka Valley (third) – advance to the state competition.
The area girls teams weren't quite as successful.
Wapello, Durant and Wilton finished in order 12th through 14th in the team standings. Columbus did not register a team score. No individuals on the girls side made it though, either. Iowa City Regina, Pekin and Cascade were the top-three teams on the girls side.
"I'm very proud of all our runners," Wilton coach Nick Dohrmann said. "It's not an easy sport ... every day, your whole day is running. In other sports, you can do some scrimmaging, things like that, but here you run."
The bright spot for the area girls teams, though, was that the top finisher, Wapello's Madi Lundvall, is just a freshman. Lundvall scored 30th with a time of 23:00.11.
But for Hein and Housman, getting back as seniors is pretty sweet, but they both have eyes on a bigger prize.
"I'm pretty proud of (the finish), qualifying for third year in a row," said Housman, "I would have liked to finish top-five, up there with a few of the guys I ran with most of the season, but I'll take seventh."
"It went pretty well," Hein said, "just kind of pushing with everybody.
"For the the most part, it (went as anticipated), I was just trying to stay with the guys up front."
The course is generally flat, but does have one area that required some navigation of inclines and slopes. But the openness also contributes to it generating slower times.
"It is a little slow since it's an open course, so you're kind of staring down the next angle," Hein said.
The Wapello state-qualifier agreed, but noted that having experience with the course was beneficial.
"We knew it was a slower course," Housman said, "and it was really good to know that coming in."