LOGAN, Iowa — When Riverside graduated five of its top seven from last year's seventh-place team at the state meet, including a pair of top-10 finishers, cross country coach Alex Oliver knew it was time to become a salesman.
He convinced sophomores Adam Hartman and Jacob Vogel to come out for the first time, and senior Brandon Sipherd rejoined the program after sitting out a year.
Those three joined holdovers Ean Patrick and Brady Ryun and others to earn Class 1-A No. 5 Riverside a Western Iowa Conference three-peat on Monday. The Bulldogs earned their third straight league title by a 41-62 margin over runner-up Missouri Valley at the Logan-Missouri Valley Country Club.
Riverside has achieved cross country excellence with guys who often don't consider it their favorite sport.
“It's a tough sport, and these guys come out and give me 100 percent every day,'' Oliver said. “It helps them with everything else that they do in their other sports.''
Top-rated sophomore Rebekah Topham repeated as the individual girls champion, and her No. 1 Griswold squad claimed its seventh team title in eight years by a 22-76 count over Underwood, which nipped Tri-Center by a point for the runner-up spot.
Tri-Center's Darrian Irlbeck won the individual boys title by 21 seconds over Riverside's Patrick.
Riverside's Oliver didn't know what soccer players Hartman and Vogel could do on the track. But Oliver, an assistant wrestling coach at the school, saw them in the wrestling room and knew that he needed them on the cross country team.
“I saw them never give up there,'' Oliver said. “If you get kids that won't give up in one sport, it usually carries over. For me, it was pretty easy to coach them up to where they're at now.''
Hartman finished seventh on Monday, two spots behind Sipherd, who continues to excel in his return to the sport.
“He had a heck of a race today,'' Oliver said. “We've been real happy with his progress.''
Also scoring for Riverside were Tim Brink (12th overall) and Ryun (15th).
The Griswold girls continued their dominance, with defending state champion Topham again leading the way. The Tigers put all five of their scorers in the top 10, with Jordyn Sindt placing second, Alyx Flippin third, Allison Young sixth and Larissa Backhaus 10th.
Griswold's biggest challenger has been itself. Topham has been battling a knee injury, and a hamstring injury prevented Sindt from completing a recent race at Atlantic.
“I was a little nervous about both of them going into today, but they looked great,'' Griswold coach Jane Challie said. “On the way here, I wasn't even sure if Jordyn was going to run. I told her 99 percent no, but we'll see how you warm up and you look. And she looked great.''
Topham has been unable to pinpoint the nature of her knee pain. But the home-schooled sophomore ran pain free on Monday, and she continues to enjoy running with her talented teammates.
“I love running, and I love all my teammates,'' she said. “They all do their best at everything.''
Tri-Center's Irlbeck, rated 22nd in the state in Class 1-A, looked strong throughout the boys race. He's also a returning state wrestling qualifier, but doesn't consider one sport clearly ahead of the other.
“It just kind of depends on my good days and my bad days,'' he said. “On my bad days, I like the other one. But today was a good day.''
Western Iowa Conference Meet
Boys team scoring: 1, Riverside 41; 2, Missouri Valley 62; 3, Treynor 85; 4, Griswold 87; 5, Tri-Center 90; 6, Underwood 135; 7, Audubon 195.
Boys top 12 (earn all-conference honors): 1, Darrian Irlbeck, T-C, 18:19; 2, Ean Patrick, Riv, 18:40; 3, Caleb Wilson, MV, 18:54; 4, Drew Pauley, MV, 19:02; 5, Brandon Sipherd, Riv, 19:12; 6, Matt Haijsman, Trey, 19:12; 7, Adam Hartman, Riv, 19:21; 8, Tyrel Peters, Gris, 19:25; 9, Jacob Pagel, MV, 19:30; 10, Kellin Chambers, Trey, 19:33; 11, Xavier Olivo, Gris, 19:40; 12, Tim Brink, Riv, 19:45.
Girls team scoring: 1, Griswold 22; 2, Underwood 76; 3, Tri-Center 77; 4, Treynor 109; 5, Treynor 109; 6, Audubon 139; 7, Riverside 190; 8, A-H-S-T 234.
Girls top 12 (earn all-conference honors): 1, Rebekah Topham, Gris, 15:34; 2, Jordyn Sindt, Gris, 15:58; 3, Alyx Flippin, Gris, 16:23; 4, Alex Larsen, T-C, 16:29; 5, Breezy Weaver, MV, 16:37; 6, Allison Young, Gris, 16:54; 7, Megan Deist, Aud, 16:57; 8, Michelle Mumm, T-C, 17:04; 9, Erin Shapcott, Und, 17:11; 10, Larissa Backhaus, Gris, 17:22; 11, Kaylee Grote, T-C, 17:29; 12, Robi Fanslau, Und, 17:29.
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