A standout freshman emerged to be one of southwest Iowa’s top girls’ cross country runners.

Audubon’s Stefi Beisswenger used her performances to earn a spot on the all-News-Telegraph’s cross country team, announced earlier this month.

She’s one of eight named to the girls’ team, just as there were eight named to the boys’ team.

Captains were ACGC senior Trevin Suhr, among the top runners statewide regardless of class, and whose team built off a top-5 team finish a year ago to win the state title, and Atlantic junior Ava Rush, who successfully balanced two sports this past fall.

Take note in the number of underclassmen on each eight-member squad, one for boys and the other girls. While there’s strong leadership at the top, the accomplishments of the underclassmen should mean a strong foundation for the 2022 season and beyond.

The teams were named based on season-long performances, with emphasis on conference and state qualifying meets, and state placement.

Normally, captain honors are reserved for seniors, but as there were no senior girls who qualified for state, the honor went to the most consistent and top-finishing runner in the judgment of the News-Telegraph.

Here’s the honoree list:

BOYS

CAPTAIN

Trevin Suhr, sr., ACGC: The key cog in the Chargers’ Iowa Class 1A state team championship, the school’s first in history, on the strength of his solid fourth-place individual finish at the state meet. Was the SQM champion at Panora, and a top-5 finisher in a stacked West Central Activities Conference meet. Captained the Chargers to a fourth-place finish a year ago, setting the stage for a strong 2021.

THE REST OF THE TOP EIGHT

Zane Berg, sr., Atlantic: Illnesses and injuries hampered his season, but showed grit, leadership and determination throughout the season. Finished 34th at the Hawkeye Ten Conference meet at Glenwood.

Gavin Clayton, soph., CAM: Of the area’s non-state qualifiers in Class 1A, had the best state-qualifying meet finish, placing 24th at the Class 1A meet at Panora. Placed seventh at the Rolling Valley Conference meet.

Drew Engler, sr., Atlantic: After just missing the Class 3A state meet a year ago, earned his spot at Fort Dodge with a ninth-place finish at the state qualifying meet in Winterset, and went on to finish 40th to cap off his senior year. Went from 23-24 minute finishes his freshman year to the 16-18 minute timeframe by the end of his senior year.

Andrew Mahaffey, soph., ACGC: Eighth-place at the Iowa Class 1A state qualifying meet and a key part of the state championship Chargers team. Was 14th at the West Central Activities Conference meet and 17th at the state meet.

Mason McCready, soph., Riverside: Finished sixth at the Class 1A state qualifying meet in Corning, continuing the Bulldogs’ recent run of state qualifying success. Finished sixth at the Western Iowa Conference meet and 67th at the state meet.

Justin Reinhart, jr., ACGC: Like Mahaffey, a core member of the team that won the school’s first team championship in any sport. Placed ninth at the state qualifying meet. Placed 13th at the West Central Activities Conference meet, and 19th at the state meet.

Bennett Wheststone, soph., Atlantic: The consistent No. 3 runner for the Trojans at meets throughout the past season. Finished 39th at the Hawkeye Ten Conference meet, which he matched at the Iowa Class 3A state qualifying meet in Winterset. Will be counted on to anchor the Trojans in 2022 and 2023.

* * *

GIRLS

CAPTAIN

Ava Rush, jr., Atlantic: Just one of two overall upperclassman state competitors from the News-Telegraph area, followed up a strong sophomore season where she just missed the Class 3A state meet, placing fifth at this year’s Winterset SQM this past fall, and finished 48th at the state meet. Solid two-sport athlete this past fall, also balancing volleyball in her busy schedule.

THE REST OF THE TOP EIGHT

Stefi Beisswenger, fresh., Audubon:

  • Overall the top area finisher from the News-Telegraph coverage area, finishing a strong 18th in her first state meet. Was her home-meet champion and a fifth-place finisher at both the Western Iowa Conference and SQM meet in Panora.

Adalyn Benson, fresh., ACGC:

  • The Charger girls’ second-place finish and team state meet berth was secured with Benson’s individual qualifying ninth-place finish at the Class 1A state qualifying meet in Panora. Was 22nd at the West Central Activities Conference meet, 82nd at the state meet.

Ava Campbell, fresh, ACGC:

  • Charger freshman had a breakout season, at one time ranked in the Iowa Track Coaches Association’s Class 1A top 25. Her fourth-place finish was a team best at the state qualifier in Panora. Finished third at the West Central Activities Conference meet, 27th at the state meet.

Hayden Coffman, soph., ACGC:

  • A part of two state qualifying teams for the Chargers, her eighth-place finish was good for an individual spot. Was 14th at the West Central Activities Conference meet, 49th at state.

Becca Cody, soph., Riverside:

  • After two years of not having a state qualifier, the Lady Dawgs’ sophomore placed seventh at the Class 1A state qualifying meet in Corning to return her school to the state meet, a nice rebound from a 16th-place finish at the Western Iowa Conference meet, and ran 84th at the state meet.

Rylie Knop, soph., AHSTW:

  • Grabbed the 10th and finial state qualifying meet spot at the Class 1A SQM at Panora, keeping the Lady Vikes’ multi-year run at state intact, a year after shadowing several state meet veterans. Finished seventh at the Western Iowa Conference meet, 72nd at state.

Claire Pellett, soph., Atlantic:

  • Followed up a strong track season this past spring with a solid No. 2 role for the Trojans this past fall, and also made up for just missing a state meet berth in 2020 with a solid 11th-place finish this past fall at Winterset, and an eventual 87th-place finish.

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

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