Many happy returns

Smith makes it to state for second-straight season

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING - Marshalltown High School senior Conner Smith nears the finish line on his way to fourth place at Wednesday’s Class 4A state-qualifying meet at Marshalltown Community College. Smith qualified for state with a time of 16 minutes, 30.2 seconds.

With a faster time, a better finish and another opportunity to run in the state cross country meet, it could hardly have been a better way for Marshalltown senior Conner Smith to conclude his home career.

The Bobcat star finished in fourth place in the team’s Class 4A State-Qualifying District site, exactly where he was seeded prior to running. In 2020, Smith finished 12th — still comfortable but a few seconds behind the lead pack. His time of 16 minutes, 30.2 seconds (at times into a strong wind) was faster than his state-qualifying time from 2020 (16:42.9) and kept him with the top three runners for much of the race.

Smith said he was happy to make it to the big meet again — but what made it even better was doing it in Marshalltown.

“It’s my last meet here so I wanted to make it something special,” Smith said. “Glad it was here.

“Just shows the improvement I’ve made, just training by myself and with the team.”

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING - Marshalltown junior Micah Blevins runs her way to 24th place during Wednesday’s Class 4A state-qualifying cross country meet at Marshalltown Community College.

After nearly a decade without a state qualifier, it’s now two-straight seasons with an individual qualifier for Chad Pietig’s Bobcats program.

Pietig said it all comes down to the hard work Smith has done during his Bobcat career.

“He deserves every accolade he gets this season because he has done the work,” Pietig said. “He’s really matured as a racer. Last week, he kind of tried a different strategy. Today, he ran more conservative and finished fourth, exactly where his seed was.

“I’m proud of him, he deserves it. He just works so hard at it and puts so much time into it.”

As a team, the Bobcats finished seventh out of nine with a score of 196. Without No. 2 runner Jason Strand, who missed out for the second straight meet with injury, it was a very youthful group of runners for Marshalltown. Alongside Smith was junior Anthoneih Kopsa, who finished in 45th, and the first of three freshmen in John Moellers, who finished 46th with a time of 18:52.1 — one second behind Kopsa. Senior Marco Herrera finished in 48th place at 18:59.3 and sophomore Diego Tejada ran 53rd after a 19:38 time. He was followed by two more freshmen — Jett Jansen and Isaac Benscoter — in 54th and 55th place. Jansen finished in 19:41.9 and Benscoter came in with a time of 20:05.2.


Pietig said the reasoning for putting in those freshmen was to give them a chance to experience a meet of this level heading into their sophomore seasons.

The season also came to a close for the Marshalltown girls’ cross country team. Leading the way for Marshalltown was junior Micah Blevins, who finished in 24th place with a time of 20:45.6.

Coach Stacy O’Hare said this season has been key for Blevins to improve her confidence heading into next season.

“I think it’ll be a huge boost for her,” O’Hare said. “She got a good taste of how close she could get to making it to state, and that’s just a matter of putting in a few extra miles in the summer and she has a chance to turn around next year and maybe make it to state.”

Blevins was 26 seconds short of making state and nine spots away.


Following her was senior Rachel Smith, finishing in 30th with a time of 21:18.8. Smith is one of three seniors who ran Wednesday, along with Sydney Hotchkiss in 44th place and Taylor Hoffman in 46th place (running times of 24:02.3 and 27:33.7, respectively).

O’Hare was very thankful for the seniors, including Phoebe Hermanson and Veronica Herrera. Hermanson missed the season with injury and Veronica was not able to compete in the final two meets of the season.

Junior Grace Rasmussen finished 41st with a time of 22:48.5. The Bobcats finished last out of the seven teams competing with a score of 185.

The Class 4A state meet takes place Friday, Oct. 29 in Fort Dodge.

State-Qualifying Cross Country


At Marshalltown

(* — denotes state qualifiers)


Team Standings — 1. *Johnston 26, 2. *Ames 50, 3. *Urbandale 70, 4. Southeast Polk 83, 5. Waukee Northwest 133, 6. Mason City 172, 7. Marshalltown 185.

Individual Qualifiers (top 15) — 1. Olivia Verde, JHN, 18:15.2; 2. Claire Helmers, AMES, 18:39.9; 3. Aleah Tenpas, JHN, 19:27.0; 4. Abigail Wharton, JHN, 19:33.4; 5. Norah Seeley, URB, 19:40.6; 6. Lauren Risdal, AMES, 19:43.8; 7. Bailey Vaughan, JHN, 19:44.8; 8. Jenna Francois, SEP, 19:51.2; 9. Marley Turk, AMES, 20:03.6; 10. Payton Stewart, AMES, 20:06.6; 11. Marissa Pewe, JHN, 20:07.7; 12. Janae Hansen, MC, 20:10.6; 13. Jacie Mitchell, SEP, 20:11.5; 14. Crystal Ruden, URB, 20:12.8; 15. Sophia Huber, URB, 20:19.3.

MARSHALLTOWN (185) — 24. Micah Blevins 20:45.6, 30. Rachel Smith 21:18.8, 41. Grace Rasmussen 22:48.5, 45. Sydney Hotchkiss 24:02, 48. Taylor Hoffman 27:33.7.


Team Standings — 1. *Johnston 38, 2. *Urbandale 57, 3. *Waukee Northwest 60, 4. Southeast Polk 113, 5. Ames 141, 6. Mason City 164, 7. Marshalltown 196, 8. Des Moines East 250, 9. Des Moines North 277.

Individual Qualifiers (top 15) — 1. Jaxson Plumb, JHN, 15:53.6; 2. Carson Owens, SEP, 16:10.8; 3. Carter Eckhoff, JHN, 16:21.3; 4. Conner Smith, MHS, 16:30.2; 5. Tommy Hensley, URB, 16:35.9; 6. Carson Lane, JHN, 16:37.6; 7. Cole Leggett, URB, 16:39.2; 8. Ethan Smith, URB, 16:39.4; 9. Kal Hoppe, WNW, 16:40.3; 10. Drew Lehman, NWN, 16:42.1; 11. Joel Bloomer, WNW, 16:42.2; 12. Charlie Bennett, AMES, 16:42.4; 13. Jack Coen, JHN, 16:42.6; 14. Kon Dut, WNW, 16:45.6; 15. Jake Wagner, JHN, 16:50.5.

MARSHALLTOWN (196) — 4. Smith 16:30.2, 45. Anthoneih Kopsa 18:51.1, 46. John Moellers 18:52.1, 48. Marco Herrera 18:59.3, 53. Diego Tejada 19:38.0, 54. Jett Jansen 19:41.8, 55. Isaac Benscoter 20:05.2.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.38/week.

Subscribe Today