Dodger senior returns with 11th-place showing

CEDAR FALLS – Ryan Wagner will return to the state cross country meet for his senior season, as the Fort Dodge runner placed 11th here Thursday in a Class 4A qualifying meet.

The Dodgers finished sixth overall, a point behind Mason City. Dubuque Hempstead was the team champion, with Cedar Falls and Dubuque Senior also advancing to state.

The meet is next Saturday in Fort Dodge at Lakeside Golf Course.

“Ryan ran his heart out,” FDSH head coach Tim Hanson said. “Going into about the last half-mile, he was 16th overall. He just gutted out that last half-mile stretch.

“Before the race, I told him I could see him finishing anywhere between 10th and 18th. For him to get 11th – I am extremely happy and excited that he will get to run at state.”

Wagner was part of the 2014 Dodger squad that competed at state and finished 11th overall. He placed 65th for FDSH individually that fall, finishing in a time of 16:59.6.

“Ryan has put in a lot of time and effort over the last three years,” Hanson said. “He deserves this.”

Justin Vaughan and Jason Halverson placed 22nd and 26th, respectively, while Maxwell Hanish was 46th and Brady Read 48th. Brennen DeCoursey crossed in 54th, and JR Brandt was 59th.

“Justin also ran a heck of a race,” Hanson said. “He was with Ryan until about the last half-mile. He has nothing to be disappointed about because he saw just how good he can be if he continues to work hard.”

Sam Schillinger of Cedar Falls was the individual champion, with Hempstead’s Addison Kalb placing second.

On the girls side, Cedar Falls placed four in the Top-8 to claim team honors, including individual champion Cassidy Christopher.

Fort Dodge was led by junior Gabby Estlund, who finished 23rd in a time of 20:42. Anna Taylor was 51st, Kayla Smith finished 58th and Christyn Nichols was 60th.

“Gabby was just off her personal best, but I saw a different Gabby these last two weeks of the season,” Hanson said. “I hope this showed her that she can compete with the top girls in 4A if she continues to put in the effort consistently.”

The 4A girls race will begin the state meet at 11 a.m., while the boys hit the course at 11:30 a.m.