REINBECK - It came as no surprise that Denver-Tripoli, Hudson and Union hoarded the girls' awards at the NICL Conference Cross Country Meet on Saturday at Oak Leaf Country Club.
The way the final team standings shook out, however, was a bit of a stunner for three-time defending state champion Union.
Class 3A No. 4 Denver-Tripoli claimed the NICL team title, unseating the Knights for the first time since 2007 as the three-team domination went about its way.
The three aforementioned cross country powerhouses comprised the top three spots in the final NICL meet standings for the fourth year in a row, leaving little room near the top for admiring programs from the Marshalltown area. Denver-Tripoli's 51 points narrowly outdistanced 2A No. 3 Union's 56, with 2A No. 4 Hudson (67) filing in line. Jesup, rated 10th in 2A, was fourth with 90 points, while formerly ranked Dike-New Hartford took fifth (139).
Leading the chase pack was East Marshall, which got a pair of second-team all-conference performances from underclassmen Kristen Amendt and Paige Miller as the Mustangs took sixth (174).
Gladbrook-Reinbeck won a tie over West Marshall for seventh place with 219 points on the strength of its sixth runner, while Grundy Center (223) was ninth, South Hardin 10th and BCLUW 11th.
East Marshall's postseason hopes were given a boost from Amendt, a freshman, and the sophomore Miller, as the top two Mustangs came in 11th and 14th respectively. Amendt crossed the finish line in 15 minutes, 58 seconds, while Miller was close behind at 16:02.
Of the 21 all-conference recipients, only six of them were not from Denver-Tripoli, Union or Hudson. East Marshall had two of them, both in their first year of cross country.
"One thing is for certain when you talk about those top teams, they were giving it their all today," said East Marshall head coach Christian Grandgenett. "They all have a lot of senior and junior leadership, and I think our girls might have been thrown for a loop by that. Paige beat all of the Union girls Tuesday night (in La Porte City), but now all the Union girls are competing for a conference title and they brought it.
"But two girls getting second-team all-conference in our conference? That's good, we have a very tough conference on the girls' side."
Gladbrook-Reinbeck had the smallest average time spread between its five scoring runners (29 seconds) and snuck up on a couple teams it had targeted before the conference meet. Sonya Beichley (39th, 17:38) and Shelby Oelschlager (40th, 17:40) helped the Rebels finish ahead of Grundy Center for the first time this season, save for one meet when the Spartans' top runner Zoe Johanns did not run, as well as West Marshall.
The sixth scoring runner for the host Rebels finished just four places ahead of West Marshall's to break the tie for seventh.
"I'm pretty pumped about the girls today, we've been after Grundy Center all season long so just getting them by four points wasn't enough, but a win's a win," said G-R head coach Cathy Storjohann. "We haven't seen West Marshall much, but the last time we did I think they finished ahead of us."
West Marshall was paced by senior Toni Proescholdt in 25th in a time of 16:24, while sophomore Victoria Pothast was 27th in 16:32.
Saturday's result marked Proescholdt's best finish by 10 places in West Marshall's three seasons in the NICL. Pothast was 26th a year ago.
"We were a little disappointed on the girls' side, we thought we'd have a better day," Trojans head coach Brian Weig said. "Toni sure responded, she got to go out with a good time. She's steadily moved up each year, we were hoping to get her that 21st spot for honorable mention but look at the competition."
Holly Halstead, ranked second in Class 2A, took first place for Hudson in 15:05. The top seven finishers all clocked in at 15:36 or faster.
South Hardin senior Catherine Penning was unable to collect an all-conference honor for the second year in a row, finishing one spot out of honorable mention distinction in 22nd (16:20).
Johanns was a second-team all-NICL finisher in 2008 and just missed out on the top-21 last year. On Saturday she was 26th in 16:25 to pace Grundy Center.
Kate Sams, a two-time all-conference performer, led the BCLUW contingent in 36th place in a time of 17:35.