Brenna Godfread and Mitchell Jones were named Shenandoah cross country’s Most Outstanding Runners during the annual Friend of Youth/Cross Country Banquet, sponsored by the Shenandoah Optimist Club, Monday, Nov. 11.
The banquet was held at the Shenandoah Elks Lodge and catered by Lu and Al’s Nishna Valley Café.
Kim Leininger was honored as this year’s Friend of Youth recipient by the Optimists, who are celebrating their 45th year in Shenandoah.
Shenandoah boys cross country coach Andy Campbell said this was Jones’ first year out for the sport as a sophomore and he led the Mustangs from the outset. He was the top Mustang runner in all but two meets and didn’t run in one of those due to illness.
Godfread qualified individually for the state meet for the third consecutive year as a junior and “picked up where she left off last year,” according to Fillies coach Liz Skillern. Godfread improved her time at the state meet by more than one minute from last year. She placed in the top 12 in seven meets and was the team’s top runner every meet. She also earned a Leadership Award and the Hardest Worker Award for the third straight year.
Godfread and sophomore Sarah Gilbert running at the state meet was the highlight of the season for the Fillies. It marked the 17th time in the 22 seasons Skillern has coached that the Fillies have had some kind of representation at the state meet.
Gilbert started the season well, but then sat out three weeks with a hip injury that caused her to miss half of the meets during the season. She was able to grab the last spot at the state qualifying meet, and then beat last years’ time at the state meet by 44 seconds. She earned the Paul Bengtson Courage Award.
Skillern wished she could have had another month with this group, because she felt the younger runners were just starting to realize their potential at the end of the season.
The varsity and junior varsity programs both won a meet this season and the team also earned the Distinguished Academic Award from the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union for a Grade Point Average of 3.25 or higher.
Christene Johnson, who broke her personal best by one minute at the state qualifying meet only to be outkicked by Gilbert down the stretch for the final spot in the state meet, was named the Rookie of the Year.
Hasin Tabassum, a foreign exchange student from Bangladesh, earned the Most Improved Award.
The Fillies return six that ran at the state qualifying meet in Godfread, Gilbert, Johnson, Hadlee Kinghorn, Kelsey Franklin and Lauryn Dukes.
They lose two seniors, however, in Hannah Mulligan and Lydia Morales.
Mulligan earned a Leadership Award. She was a consistent scorer on the varsity at the start of the year and then turned her ankle in practice and it never healed causing her to miss the remainder of the season. Skillern said Mulligan showed great leadership still being right there cheering on her team down the stretch.
Morales went out for the first time since her freshman year, but stepped in and ran varsity at a few meets during the season. Morales and Mulligan both earned the Hawkeye 10 Conference’s Academic Award. Mulligan was given the Captain’s pin.
Campbell had 13 athletes in his boys program this year and all of them ran well. The varsity finished second at a meet in Audubon for the highest finish of the season while the junior varsity won two meets.
The Mustangs earned the Distinguished Academic Award from the Iowa High School Athletic Association for a GPA of 3.25 or higher.
Campbell referenced the 1986 team that finished last in the Hawkeye 10, just like this year’s team, and then won the state championship two years later, telling his athletes that hard work can turn a program around very quickly.
The Mustangs had four seniors in the program in Levi Detrick, Nick Mather, Blake Son and Adrian Raynaud, who is a foreign exchange student from France.
Detrick and Son earned the Hawkeye 10 Academic Award and both worked hard starting with great summers. Campbell said Detrick’s summer was his best yet and he was second fastest on the team. Detrick also earned the Paul Bengtson Courage Award.
Son continued to improve all season and ran his best race at the state qualifying meet.
Mather was named the Hardest Worker while Raynaud was voted as Most Improved. Campbell added Mather was very consistent all season and Raynaud saw it all come together late.
The rest of the team was made up of juniors and sophomores. Sam Martin earned the Leadership Award with Campbell calling Martin “an asset to any program he is a part of.”
Eli Schuster and Josh Schuster were highlighted as sophomores who have raced varsity in every meet they have been in over their two years in the program.
There are six athletes that have run varsity that will return to the program. Campbell adds the eighth grade class coming in is a strong one that should boost the program as well.
There were several middle school cross country athletes also in attendance as they were honored by coach Brian Daoust.
The boys had more than double the numbers they had the year before and won two meets. Individually, they had 25 top 20 finishes, paced by Alex Razee, who won a meet during the year and finished third at the conference meet.
There were only five girls in the program and they were “on again, off again,” competing as a team, according to Daoust. Even with the low numbers, they had 17 individual top 20 finishes. Hailey Egbert was a highlight, winning the Shenandoah meet.
As a team the girls took 1:08 off their average time from the first meet to the last.