Norse girls have breakout season in 2020: Limas stands out for R-S boys

Joe Randleman
Story City Herald
Reece Johnson joined the Roland-Story girls' cross country team as a junior this fall and led the Norse to a HOIC title and state meet berth.

The Roland-Story girls turned in a phenomenal season that ended with a trip to Fort Dodge and the Norse boys pushed one runner through to state and had a solid fall overall during the 2020 cross country season.

The Roland-Story girls won six meets and placed second twice. They were ranked as high as fourth in Class 2A, claimed the Heart of Iowa Conference championship and qualified for state, where they placed 14th in 2A.

“We had a wonderful season!” Roland-Story head coach Brad Dedic said. “The injury and flu bugs put a little damper on the very end of the season, but overall, it was a great success.”

The Norse girls emerged victorious at the Webster City and Gilbert Invitationals to start the season. They also won their home meet at the River Bend Golf Course in Story City and took first at the Nevada and South Hamilton Invitationals.

At the HOIC meet Roland-Story scored 29 points to easily beat South Hamilton’s 64 points for the conference team title. Junior newcomer Reece Johnson was the individual conference champ with a 5-kilometer time of 20 minutes, 53.28 seconds and freshmen Elizabeth Ihle (fourth place, 21:55.72), Moriah Bates (seventh, 22:11.91), Lauryn Kilstofte (eighth, 22:23.82) and Makenna Carlson (ninth, 22:32.49) also made all-conference.

At the qualifying meet in Panora Roland-Story placed third after Ihle was injured and struggled to finish the race. But Roland-Story still managed to punch its ticket to state.

“It's always nice to be able to win conference and it's also a great rush to qualify for state,” Dedic said. “Winning so many meets this year was definitely something I have not been able to enjoy ever as a coach. Central Iowa is so competitive in cross country for both guys and girls, so the team success was great fun to be a part of.” 

At state Ihle was still battling her health issue and Johnson and varsity competitor Baylie Janssen were also not in top form. The Norse scored 312 points to edge out Des Moines Christian by three points for 14th in 2A.

“We were all really worried about Elizabeth's health and Baylie was hurt with an ankle sprain,” Dedic said. “Reece fell ill a couple of days before state and so we just were not able to finish the year at 100 percent.”

Johnson and Ihle were constantly in the top 10 at meets. The other three freshmen also had their share of top-10 and 15 performances.

Janssen and Caden Thoreson also ran varsity regularly and senior Jordyn Ramus also participated in multiple varsity meets, including state.

“These ladies have been competitive all year and it's pretty much on their own talent and desire,” Dedic said. “We certainly put forth a program this year that tried to allow them to get better over the season and then peak at the end. For the most part, we did that.”

 Johnson’s fastest official time was 19:52.58, tying the school record set by Kylie Tjernagel last season. Ihle peaked at 20:49, Bates 21:23, Carlson 21:29 and Kilstofte 21:34.

Janssen’s fastest time was 22 minutes flat. Thoreson peaked at 23:18 and Ramus 24:30.

The Norse girls will miss the leadership of Ramus, Natalie Omundson, Olivia Heithoff, Courtney Wuebker, Meghan Kepler and Dana Vinson. But with the regular top seven runners all returning next year’s team has the potential to turn in a historic season.

“I do know we were capable of placing higher at state,” Dedic said. “We will just have to come back next year and prove it.”

Nathan Limas provided a storybook year for the Roland-Story boys. He gradually got better as the season progressed, placing sixth at the HOIC meet in 18:30.98, eighth at the qualifying meet in 18:13 and 25th at state in 17:52.4

“Nathan put in a great offseason and really worked hard during the season,” Dedic said. “He pushed himself each and every practice and was really driven to have success. Earning state was well-deserved and I am looking forward to seeing how much better he is next year!”

Limas ran his fastest time of the season of 17:48 at the Gilbert Invitational. That meet also saw the fastest times for Zane Haglund (17:51), Sam Skaar (19:45) and Gabe Slifka (19:51).

Isaiah Bates and Jarod Hart peaked at the conference meet with respective times of 20:01 and 20:06. Jay Sanderson ran his fastest time of 19 minutes flat at Perry, Levi Webb ran a 20:02 at Perry, Lucas Wuebker ran a 20:12 at both Perry and South Hamilton and Xander Webb also ran a 20:12 at South Hamilton.

Jay Sanderson was a valuable contributor as the regular third runner for the Roland-Story boys' cross country team in 2020.

Dedic said COVID-19 made it tough to maintain continuity on the boys’ team.

“We had a few varsity guys that were sick or had to quarantine over several races this year,” Dedic said. “The ones that were actually sick took some time to get back into the swing. When your actual season is only about 10 weeks and you get sick right in the middle of that time, it's difficult to peak at the end of the season. I hope this won't be an issue for us next season.”

The Roland-Story boys placed fourth at both Webster City and the Gilbert Invite, eighth at their home meet, fourth at conference and seventh at the qualifying meet.

“The Webster City meet at the very beginning of the year was a nice start,” Dedic said. “Everyone ran well and they were healthy. I think this meet at least showed an inkling of what the guys could accomplish when firing on all cylinders.”

At the HOIC meet Haglund took 11th, Sanderson 14th, Bates 24th, Skaar 26th, Xander Webb 27th and Slifka 28th. At the qualifying meet Haglund was 23rd, Sanderson 27th, Bates 55th, Levi Webb 65th, Skaar 73rd and Xander Webb 76th.

The Roland-Story boys must replace Haglund, Bates, Skaar, Xander Webb, Hart, Noah Britten, T.J. Hocraffer, Jesse Rechkemmer, Cael Schreier and Trey Sievers off this year’s team.

“All of these guys are very fine young gentlemen that make coaching them a true pleasure,” Dedic said. “As a coach, that makes me prouder than any other accomplishments on the course.”

But with Limas and Sanderson back to lead the way the Norse boys have the potential to take a big step forward as a team in 2021.

“We have a strong core coming back and I am hopeful we will be even better next year,” Dedic said. “Offseason training will certainly play into that success, so I am hoping to have good numbers again next summer. We have several guys that seem motivated, but only time will tell.”