ATLANTIC — The annual installment of one of southwest Iowa’s biggest and most competitive cross country meets is set to take place Thursday.

The place for the annual Trojan Cross Country Invitational is Atlantic’s Nishna Hills Golf Course, with starting time set for 4 p.m.

As always, six divisions — junior high, and boys’ and girls’ divisions in junior varsity and varsity — are set to take place.

And as always, the field is filled with the area’s top teams, representing all four classes. Six teams are ranked in the boys side, seven on the girls side. Individually, nine boys are ranked, while the girls have 11 in the latest state poll.

As of Monday, the field had 25 teams. Besides Atlantic, competing will be ADM, Clarinda, Council Bluffs Jefferson, Council Bluffs Lewis Central, Council Bluffs Lincoln, Council Bluffs St. Albert, Creston, Dallas Center-Grimes, Denison-Schleswig, Glenwood, Griswold, Harlan, LeMars, Lenox, Missouri Valley, Nodaway Valley, Norwalk, Red Oak, Riverside, Sergeant Bluff-Luton, Shenandoah, Stanton, Treynor, Tri-Center, Winterset and Woodbine.

Many of those same teams will also be competing in the junior high division; also coming for that division only are ACGC, CAM and Kirn Middle School of Council Bluffs.

2018 RECAP

Last year’s winners of the varsity races went on to place high in their respective divisions and classes.

Treynor’s Jerry Jorgensen nudged by ADM’s Nate Mueller by 13 seconds to claim the boys’ title. Treynor went on to take third at the state meet in Class 2A, the same placing as Mueller; both qualified as individuals.

A competitive three-way race developed on the girls’ side, with a pair of state champions finishing in the top 2. Glenwood’s Janette Schrafft went on to a five-second win over Tri-Center’s Peyton Pogge. Then-sophomore Taylor McCreedy finished just four seconds behind Pogge to take third and pace Atlantic.

McCreedy paced the Trojan girls to a fifth-place team finish, with Pluma Pross finishing 28th and Maddie Botos coming in 31st. On the boys’ side, the Trojans finished eighth as a team, behind an 11th-place finish by Jalen Petersen, who has graduated. Evan Brummer and Brad Dennis were the Trojans’ next-highest finishers.

A LOOK AT THE FIELD

* Girls: Six teams from Class 3A are either ranked or were at one time as part of a very strong field that could be a mini-state preview. Dallas Center-Grimes, Harlan and Norwalk rise to the top, ranked third through fifth, respectively, in the latest Iowa Track Coaches Association poll. The host Trojans were on the watch list as of the latest IATC poll but with McCreedy back in the mix could be back among the team title contenders. Glenwood and Winterset, ranked 13th and 15th in Class 3A, along with Tri-Center of Neola, 13th in Class 1A, are also in the picture.

Individually, Pogge, a junior and defending state champion, is a strong favorite to win her second title, after also winning the meet as a freshman. DC-G had two runners in the Class 3A top 30 rankings: Megan Sterbenz (fourth) and Hannah Little (18th), while McCreedy — despite a two-week layoff to nurse an injury — was ranked eighth.

As of press time Tuedday, it was undecided whether McCreedy would be running Thursday night.

Other possible contenders are Geneva Timmerman (ADM, No. 20 Class 3A), Braelyn Baker (Creston, 27th Class 3A), Liza Shaffer (Norwalk, No. 26 Class 3A), Lucy Borkowski (Harlan, 30th Class 3A), Tori Castle (Treynor, Class 2A No. 14) and Mayson Hartley (Clarinda, Class 2A No. 17).

* Boys: A year ago, Atlantic didn’t have Craig Allan Becker in the lineup.

This year, they do, and already as one of southwest Iowa’s top runners in his first year in the sport, the Trojan junior has only gotten stronger. Proof came last week when he placed in the top 5 amongst a strong field of Class 4A runners at the Southeast Polk Invitational. Becker is currently at No. 8 in Class 3A as of the latest IATC poll.

The boys’ race could be a battle, too, between two No. 1s: Muller, No. 1 in Class 3A, and Nodaway Valley’s Josh Baudler, who just moved into the penthouse in the IATC Class 1A’s individual rankings. Besides Becker, the two could get their strongest pushes from from Gilo Wimach of Council Bluffs Jefferson (Class 4A No. 13).

Listed as “very good” are Norwalk’s Patrick Foster (Class 3A No. 21) and Derek Webster (Class 3A No. 22); Dallas Center-Grimes’ Aiden Ramsey (No. 4 Class 3A) and Brad Ramsey (Class 3A No. 16); Bennett Heisterkamp of Council Bluffs St. Albert (Class 1A No. 4), Juan Martinez of Council Bluffs Jefferson, and the Nodaway Valley duo of Toby Bower (Class 1A No. 25) and Ben Breheny (Class 1A No. 29).

Team favorites are Norwalk (Class 3A No. 3), Dallas Center-Grimes (Class 3A No. 5) and Council Bluffs Jefferson, with Nodaway Valley (Class 1A No. 2) and Atlantic (Class 3A No. 13) also in the mix. Also look for Sergeant Bluff-Luton, Lewis Central, Harlan, LeMars, Tri-Center and St. Albert to make strong pushes.

To reach Brian Rathjen, send correspondence to sports@ant-news.com or phone (712) 243-2624.