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Ballard girls make first meet count: Bombers win Class A title at Mike Carr Invite

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune
Ballard sophomore Paityn Noe (front) runs with Carlisle senior Ainsley Erzen during the Class A girls' race at the Mike Carr Invitational in Huxley Monday. Noe, the third-ranked runner in Class 3A, took second to Erzen, who is ranked first in 3A. The No. 1 Ballard girls won the team title over No. 2 Dallas Center-Grimes, 39 points to 51.

HUXLEY - Ballard’s Paityn Noe was happy to finally be back out on the course.

Roland-Story’s Reece Johnson is happy to simply be running cross country.

Both runners turned in outstanding individual performances to lead their teams to strong finishes at the Mike Carr Invitational cross country meet Monday.

Running on the Ballard Golf and Country Club course, Noe led Ballard to a team victory in its first meet of the season during the Class A competition. Johnson and freshman teammate Elizabeth Ihle carried a surging Roland-Story team to a runner-up finish in Class B.

Ballard had to endure a long wait to finally get in a meet. 

The Bombers’ first meet, the Gilbert Invitational, has been postponed twice and their second meet at Winterset was canceled. With the prestigious Heartland Classic held at Pella coming up this weekend and the uncertainty everyone is facing regarding COVID-19 it was a relief to finally get out and run.

“I wanted to get one in just to see how it felt - rip the bandaid off,” Noe said. “Finally got one in so we’re really excited.”

The first meet couldn’t have gone much better. Ballard, ranked No. 1 and the defending state champions in 3A, defeated No. 2 Dallas Center-Grimes, 39 points to 51, to win the Class A girls’ team title. 

“We went head to head with No. 2 DC-G and managed to get the win,” Ballard head coach Scott Barth said. “I can tell the maturity on this team by their response after the race. They were pleased with the win but not satisfied. We still have things we can work on and will get better as the season progresses.”

Noe was the standout performer for Ballard. Ranked third individually in Class 3A, she hung with top-ranked Ainsley Erzen of Carlisle for nearly the entire race.

Ervin gained a little bit of separation on the final hill to win the race in a 5-kilometer time of 18 minutes, 28 seconds. But Noe was right behind her in 18:30.7.

“It feels pretty good,” Noe said. “I know there’s a lot to improve on, but I’m excited for the rest of the year and excited to see what I can do.”

Noe’s sophomore running mate and last year’s state runner-up Shewaye Johnson - ranked second individually in 3A, didn’t have her best outing. She placed fourth in 19:32.1.

“I don’t think I did that good,” Johnson said. “There’s just something this course, I just don’t like it. But I tried my best and the result is what happened.”

Johnson is looking forward to running again this Saturday at the Heartland Classic.

“There are more meets,” Johnson said. “I have one Saturday and I’ll do better for sure.”

Great depth helped Ballard beat DC-G. 

Caitlin Maher placed 10th, Brooke Loewe 11th and Josie Fleischmann 12th as the other runners to score points for the Bombers and freshman Ava Vance took 14th in her first varsity race.  DC-G top six finished fifth, seventh, eighth, 13th, 18th and 21st respectively.

In Class B competition Johnson and Ihle helped Roland-Story, the 12th-ranked team in 2A, score 69 points to take second out of nine teams behind the 46 points scored by a Solon squad rated seventh in 3A.

Johnson, a junior, finished individually with a time of 21:09.7. It was just the second meet of her high school career - she played volleyball her first two years of high school.

“I’ve done volleyball the last four years and I really like volleyball, but I just felt if I came out for cross country I could make much more of a contribution to the team,” Johnson said. “I do like running since I’ve run track since middle school, so I just thought I’d try it since I only have two more years of high school.”

She admits running cross country has been challenging at times. But having an outstanding freshman class led by Ihle to run with has eased the transition.

“I love running with Elizabeth,” Johnson said. “It makes it a lot more bearable.”

Reece Johnson (left) and freshman Elizabeth Ihle took fifth and sixth respectively for Roland-Story in the Class B girls' race at the Mike Carr Invitational in Huxley Monday. Roland-Story placed second as a team.

Ihle came in right behind Johnson with a sixth-place time of 21:36. She was the first of four freshmen to cross the finish line from Roland-Story.

“We trained really hard over the summer and all the freshmen - we work together really well,” Ihle said. “I’m really excited for this season.”

Moriah Bates placed 16th, Lauryn Kilstofte 23rd and Makanna Carlson 24th as the other freshman runners competing for Roland-Story. Junior Baylie Janssen took 22nd and sophomore Caden Thoreson 35th for the Norse.

Gilbert and Nevada also competed at the race on Monday.

Gilbert ended up placing fifth out of 12 teams in Class A with 144 points. Junior Sophie Vanderpool and sophomore Abby McGuire took 15th and 16th respectively for the Tigers.

Nevada finished sixth out of nine teams in Class B after also scoring 144 points. Freshman Tori Meinecke turned in a top-10 individual performance for the second time in as many meets by placing ninth to lead the Cubs.

Iowa Falls-Alden/AGWSR’s Ellie Meyer, the fifth-ranked runner in 3A, easily won the Class B individual title with a time of 19:31.9.