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KNOXVILLE — The Knoxville Panthers hosted four other area teams Monday night for the Knoxville Early Bird Cross Country Invitational and it was different breed of Panthers from Pekin that took the team honors in both races.

The meet was run in less than ideal conditions as temperatures hovered in the mid-to-low 90s and a bit of smoke was in the air from the California wild fires. The conditions made it hard to run the times that the runners would liked to have run, but the races were very competitive.

The Pekin girls team showed the strength and balance that will put them high in the Class 1A rankings as they placed all seven of their runners in the top ten. The Panthers easily captured the top spot with 19 points and a Jefferson County neighbor, Fairfield took the runner-up spot with 63. Knoxville was third with 73 points and they were followed by Pleasantville with 99 and Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont with 119.

The black and gold Panthers were missing a few runners due to injury, notably last year’s fifth place winner at the State CC Meet, Norah Pearson. But some of the younger Panthers showed well in the meet. Leading the way was Taylor Jones in 11th place while Tanna Davis notched 13th place. Other Panther runners were; Dani Johnston 14th, Jalen Nelson 16th, Brooke Moore 19th, Hanna Linsley 23rd and Sophie Murphy 24th.

Top runners for Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont were Abby Jager in 18th place and Shelby Akers 20th. They were followed by Megan Lobberecht 21st, Nicole Edgren 29th and Samantha Rist 31st.

The boy’s team race was a tight three team affair with the Panthers from Pekin taking the top rung of the ladder with 42 points. Right on their heels were the Trojans from Fairfield with 43 points and the Panthers from Knoxville came in third with 45. EBF was fourth with 98 and Pleasantville did not have enough runners to figure in the team race. Pleasantville did have Devon Luing finish fourth and Jenkin Fullmer finish sixth, but they were not included in the team scoring.

Knoxville was led by a third place finish by Seth Walraven. Following Walraven were; Kaden McGill seventh, Max Purvis eighth, Henry Picard 10th, Peter Picard 17th, Carson Irving 18th and Emmett Schmidt 22nd.

The Rockets of EBF were led by a 12th place finish by Jackson Sheldon and a 16th place by Sam Seddon. Other places for the Rockets were; Reilly Fliag 21st, Cayden Hall 24th, Brooks Moore 25th, Carson Wade 26th and Noah Walker 27th.

Knoxville boy’s coach Michael Splavic felt that his team ran well in tough conditions.

“I though they did great,” Splavic said. “The heat made it hard and the middle mile was really tough. But they took it in stride and finished strong.”

Mikayla Splavic, Panther girls coach, felt that her new comers had a learning experience.

“We were not running with our full team,” Splavic said. “Norah is coming off an injury and we felt it best to hold her out of this meet. We have 12 new girls this year and it is a whole new experience for them. This was a tough opener, but I felt that they competed well.”

EBF Coach, Alexis Kauzlarich, is working to build a running tradition in Rocket land and she is finding that the baby steps have to come first.

“This is a new experience for many of our runners,” Kauzlarich said. “The weather conditions were very tough and the competition was good. The teams here were teams with good running traditions. We are learning and this kind of competition shows us where we want to be. Jackson Sheldon ran well and the boys showed some promise. Our girls have lots of work to do, but we will get better.”

The Eddyville teams host a meet Thursday afternoon, while the Knoxville teams will be at Albia next Monday.

Girl’s top 10 places and times: 1. Lauren Derscheid (PK) 22:38, 2. Lauren Steigleder (PK) 23:01, 3. Sarah Eubanks (PK) 23:49, 4. Melena Bloomquist (FF) 24:40, 5. Kelsey Pacha (FF) 25:00, 6. Audrey Farris (PK) 25:10, 7. Lily Reneker (PK) 25:16, 8. Sabrina Reneker (PK) 25:19, 9. Hailee McCormick (PV) 25:27, 10. Mia Clark (PK) 25:32.

Boy’s top 10 places and times: 1. Alex Forrest (FF) 17:48, 2. Brady Millikin (PK) 18:00, 3. Seth Walraven (KV) 18:55, 4. Devon Luing (PV) 19:34, 5. Zach Wise (PK) 19:52, 6. Jenkin Fullmer (PV) 19:57, 7. Isaac Gentry (PK) 20:11, 8. Kaidyn Mickels (FF) 20:24, 9. Kaden McGill (KV) 20:29, 10. Max Purvis (KV) 20:38.

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