The Albia Blue Demon cross country team tied the best team finish in history at the state championship meet with a 9th place finish Saturday, far exceeding the expectations of the rankings committee who picked them to finish in 14th.
Landon Noe would lead the way with his state medal winning race finishing 15th with Brock Ratliff finishing 20th overall in the field of 138 runners.
The state meet has a dual scoring method. There is scoring in the individual side, the overall placing of the athletes as they finish and there is a scoring of the team runners. From each qualifying meet, 15 individuals qualify, as well as the top three teams. To figure the team scores, the runners who are not on the 15 teams in the team scoring are removed and just the team runners figure into the scoring are used to determine team placings. All placings for Albia runners will state both.
Noe, a sophomore, set his goals on a top 20 finish in his second state meet competition (he and Brock Ratliff qualified in 2017 as freshmen individual qualifiers) and raced his way to an elite finish in the top 15 places, earning all-state honors and medaling in 15th place.
His time of 17:04 was 10 seconds in front of 16th place and left him upsetting 10 runners ranked in front of him going into the meet. “Whenever you flirt with breaking into the 16’s you know you will be at the front of the field at the finish,” said Coach Todd Ratliff. “Landon ran a gutsy race, taking out with the lead chase pack, then hung on for the duration of the 5K race.”
It was actually better than the 15th place medal suggests. “I ran with a pack of guys from around sixth place to 17th,” he said after the race. “At one point I was eighth and then was passed and passed a bunch back.”
He came in ranked 25th and left in 15th. (Noe placed 47th as a freshman, an increase of 32 places).
Sophomore Brock Ratliff also took a goal into the state championship meet, to be in the top 30 and showed that he was worthy of a ranking in 2A. He beat 11 ranked runners. Ratliff would race his way from 62nd position at the 600 meter mark of the race all the way to the top 20 coming down the final stretch of the course prior to finishing in 20th place with a time of 17:19.
“Brock races very differently than Landon, but like Landon, understands his race,” said Coach Ratliff. “At the mile mark he was in 39th and just gradually moved his way past 19 of the state’s best 2A runners before crossing the line. It was a great statement race for him today.” (Ratliff placed 72nd as a freshman, an increase in performance of 52 runners in his sophomore campaign.
“After our first two runners, we had just 21 team points with Landon scoring eight with his finish and Brock 13 with his,” said Coach Ratliff. “This was vital in our team finishing in the top 10 for the third time and in 9th for the second time in school history (In 2014 the Blue Demons finished 9th behind a 14th place finish from Colton Dorpinghaus).
Finishing third for the Blue Demons as he has all season was freshman Dawson Bonnett. Bonnett would finish in a time of 18:09 and finish in 62nd place overall and 42nd in the team points. “This young man seemed pretty unphased with it being the size of stage that it was,” said Coach Ratliff. “I am still in awe when I see him around the much taller and stronger competitors that he races with and in front of.”
Cody Dalman, a junior, who has come on very strong over the last four meets raced his way to a sub 19 time finishing in 18:55 and bringing in 78 team points (110th place overall). “Cody ran a 19:19 at state qualifying, and blew that out of the water at state,” said Coach Ratliff. “He led our pack of four runners through two miles, then separated towards the front.”
Freshman CJ Ratliff and Max Teno stayed stride for stride throughout the 5K race with Ratliff edging him in a sprint out to the finish. Ratliff would finish with a time of 19:16 with Teno at 19:18. They would score 87th and 88th in the team scoring and 120th and 121st overall. “It was a big race for these two young men, and they fought through a very fast take off at the beginning of the race,” said Coach Ratliff.
Ratliff would run a near identical time as in the state qualifying with Teno stepping up and running 21 seconds quicker.
Rounding out the Blue Demons was senior Bradley Yenger. Yenger would nip on the heels of Ratliff and Teno finishing just four seconds back with a time of 19:22 and finishing with 90 team points and 122nd placing overall. “Bradley really pushed these two younger guys throughout the race, motivating them to continue to push while doing the same for himself,” said Coach Ratliff. “I thought his performance today was a great way to end a three-year running career.” Yenger’s time would be a 36 second drop from the state qualifying meet, the most of any Blue Demon.
The Blue Demons were ranked 14th heading to Fort Dodge, and like the Lady Dees would exceed all expectations. “I told the guys if we had an elite day, I thought we could finish in the top 11 teams. I hate to admit it, but they even exceeded the expectations that I thought they could hit under perfect racing circumstances. I’m so proud of the effort throughout the lineup,” said Coach Ratliff.
Team finishes would be as follows: #1 ranked Tipton would finish the season that way with 82 points, Bellevue 100, Sioux Center 102, George-Little Rock 108, Roland Story 170, Monticello 198, South Hardin 205, Camanche 210, Albia 228, Davis County 230, Okoboji 245, Grundy Center 258, Des Moines Christian 272, Unity Christian 300, Williamsburg 307.
With the exception of Yenger, all of the state competitors are underclassmen.
More photos from the state meet in Thursday’s Union-Republican.