As the only Class 3A boys’ team with all seven runners returning from last year’s state meet, preseason optimism at Clear Creek Amana was justifiable.
So far, the Clippers have delivered. And ascended.
“We’re really running well,” Coach Ben Robison said Tuesday, a day after the Clippers captured the team title at the Solon Invitational. “It’s been a lot of work, but I’m really pleased with the direction we’re heading right now.”
The 10th-place team at state last year, CCA is ranked No. 2 in 3A behind a balanced quartet out front.
“That’s the beauty,” Robison said. “We have four guys that are interchangeable on any given day. They’re all training at a high level, and the depth of those four is just killing it.”
In this week’s Iowa Association of Track Coaches rankings, junior Jack Sexton, junior Nick O’Connor, sophomore Brandon Barker and senior Cole Liebe are ranked 12th, 18th, 20th and 23rd among 3A boys.
That’s a tight pack. And it’s a surefire translation to success.
Robison is in his seventh year with the program, his fourth as a head coach. Participation boomed this year, doubling to a roster of 30. The Clippers made their first state appearance in 2014, and the conditions are right for unprecedented success through the next few weeks.
“When we got to state last year, the kids didn’t really know what it was like to run in a big race, and they didn’t have a great meet,” Robison said. “Now everybody is back, and we’ve made some adjustments. The boys want to be on the deck (as a top-three team) this year.”
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Breaking in a new course
Wet conditions forced the cancellation of the Cedar Rapids Invitational earlier this month, and Kennedy High School athletics director Aaron Stecker didn’t want Thursday’s Eastern Iowa Classic to suffer the same fate.
Go-to courses Seminole Valley and Noelridge are still too soggy for heavy runner traffic, and the Tuma Soccer Complex is booked.
So Stecker improvised.
“I knew there have been some middle-school meets at Cherry Hill Park, so I started drawing up some possibilities out there on Google Maps,” he said.
So Cherry Hill (341 Stoney Point Rd. NW) will make its debut as a high-school race site. Ten boys’ teams are eight girls’ squads are entered. The varsity races are scheduled for 5 and 5:30 p.m. (girls first), though Stecker may opt to move them up an hour — and move the JV back to 5 and 5:30 — if more rain hits the area.
“I think this will make a fairly nice third or fourth option in town,” Stecker said.
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