Veteran cross country dominators descend on Marshalltown
Fleets of runners will gather in Marshalltown Friday and Saturday for a reunion and a chance to reminisce about their numerous victories achieved with former Marshalltown Bobcats Coach Tim Bell leading the way.
During Bell’s time as a coach to 541 athletes from 1981 to 2013, boys cross country runners amassed 25 state meet appearances, two individual state champions and an 84 percent winning percentage with a 2,391 – 470 record.
While he looks forward to seeing everyone once again, Bell said the reunion is not about him, but rather about the legendary Bobcats cross country program. Plus, reunion co-organizer and Marshall County Treasurer Jarrett Heil said the event might inspire other Marshalltown Community School District athletic programs to do the same.
“This could be the blueprint of what different sports programs can do for a get-together,” Heil, who ran in 1996-98, said.
At least 100 people will attend the gathering – past runners, family members, volunteers, people associated with the cross country program. Not all of them are residents of Marshall County anymore. Heil said one runner will arrive from Colorado and yet another from Arizona.
“Whoever can get here will get here and be a part of it,” Bell said. “Regardless if it is 10 people, 100 people, five people, just the connection is great.”
The connection between the athletes, no matter their standing in the races, was evident whenever a race was held. Heil said it did not matter if a guy was in first or last place, whether varsity or junior varsity, they cheered everyone on.
Bell said the teams also received tremendous support from Marshalltown residents.
“Another positive thing I really want to emphasize here is that our community was really behind our running,” he said. “They would come out to our meets and when these guys ran the streets, people would be honking, saying ‘Keep it up!'”
While there was a great deal of support in the team, there was also fierce competition between each athlete. Heil said they all wanted to be the best and challenged themselves.
“It was a friendly, good competition between all of us and we had a great leader,” he said. “That’s why I want to see a lot of people come out for this weekend. When you have that opportunity to remember that and celebrate it together, it’s a good event.”
Because of that drive to be the best, Bell and Heil said the runners had a tendency to dominate the meets. As a result, other teams began to deny participation in meets.
“There were several cross country meets we were forbidden to come back to,” Bell said. “Other teams didn’t want to come, so we had to find other meets to go to.”
“Our varsity would finish 1 through 7 and the JV would take the top 15 places,” Heil said. “We got kicked out because we were too good, but we thrived on that. We enjoyed it.”
Heil said on Friday, athletes will gather at Legends Bar and Grill at 6:30 p.m. Saturday will feature more activities as they walk or run the Marshalltown Community College cross country course, tour the Roundhouse at noon and gather at the American Legion for a short program. There, Heil will make a small speech and Bell said some other attendees have requested the chance to speak.
“I’d like as many people as possible for the short program because that will be a chance to say hello and thank you, that sort of thing,” Bell said. “There will be a lot of good stories these next few days.”
Contact Lana Bradstream
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