Take three: Trifecta of Panthers advance

Cody Mertens, Dalton Moyle and Abby Ryon to represent Mt. Pleasant at state XC

GTNS photo by Andy Krutsinger

Dalton Moyle keeps his stride after the first time around the lake during Mt. Pleasant’s state qualifying meet in Fairfield on Thursday evening.
GTNS photo by Andy Krutsinger Dalton Moyle keeps his stride after the first time around the lake during Mt. Pleasant’s state qualifying meet in Fairfield on Thursday evening.

FAIRFIELD — Three Mt. Pleasant cross-country runners will represent the maroon and gold at the state meet next weekend. Cody Mertens and Abby Ryon will be back in Ft. Dodge and Dalton Moyle will make his state meet debut.

Mertens and Moyle both advanced in the boys’ race. Mertens, who came in as the clear favorite, ran away with the win by over 29 seconds.

Mertens finished the race in 16:10.09, which was well ahead of second-place Jack Sexton of Clear Creek-Amana (16:39.51).

“I really look forward to racing good competition, so today was excellent that way,” Mertens said after the race. “Hats off to everyone running here.”

After finishing, Mertens didn’t take much time to turn around and look for Moyle, who came in on the state bubble. The top 15 runners advance to Ft. Dodge and Moyle sneaked into the field with a 14th-place 17:20.12.

“This was probably the best race of the year so far, (and) I think it’s just going to get better next week,” Moyle said after the awards ceremonies. “I’ve just been sick all season basically, but I think I’m over it and just getting stronger and faster.”

Mertens, who had to run the boys’ race alone last year, described his feelings when Moyle was coming to the line.

“I was hoping to see him come in, (and) I was trying to count, but I was too tired,” Mertens recalled. “I was just really hoping he got in. He did, which is awesome. It’ll be really nice to have someone to room with up there. It will be a lot of fun.”

Before the boys’ race, it was time for Ryon to run for her third-straight state appearance. Ryon came up just short of winning the district, but finished just behind Grinnell’s Mary Blanchard, taking second.

“I was so nervous before I started,” Ryon said. “I don’t usually get this way, but it was full-on freaking out!”

Ryon and the Panther girls are coming off a second-straight Southeast Conference championship and had an outside shot to make it as a team, but the Panthers came up short, finishing sixth place with 120 points.

All seven of the Panther girls placed in the top 40. Maggie Jennings was 21st. Cristina Carthey finished 28th. Kendall Dascher and Monroe Swain were 34th and 35th respectfully. Abby Blint placed 39th and Claire Holtkamp finished 40th.

None of the varsity girls are seniors, setting the Panthers up for a promising 2019. Ryon says she’s already excited to see what they can do next year.

“The potential is massive,” Ryon says. “I’m so excited for next year. Maggie Jennings, I’m pretty sure got sub-21, (and) a lot of the team got sub-22. If we train hard next summer and really put our minds to it, we definitely can make it to state.”

Drake Snavely was the third Panther to cross in the boys’ race, finishing 43rd. Dakota Triska was 48th. Thad Brooks finished 50th. Logan White was 54th. Nick McCormick was 60th.

Ryon and Mertens are both ranked heading in to state meet week. Ryon is sitting in seventh on the girls’ side. Mertens is all the way up to No. 2 on the boys’ side, meaning a lot of eyes will be on the Panther senior when the state race starts.

When asked what his goals are for his final state meet, Mertens said his eyes were on gold.

“Definitely to win, is my goal,” Mertens said. “If I don’t, as long as I give 110 percent… I’m going to do whatever I can to win, but if I don’t, as long as I give it my all.”

The state meet will begin at noon on Saturday, Oct. 27.