The Central DeWitt boys and girls cross country teams did not have to go far to get their first taste of competition this fall.
Just outside their own high school doors.
The Sabers hosted five other squads — Bellevue, Dubuque Senior, Dubuque Wahlert, Maquoketa and Rivermont Collegiate — for Tuesday’s Saber Early Bird held on the Central DeWitt campus.
The Sabers girls led the way, putting a pair of runners in the top 10 to finish second in the team standings with 53 points.
Dubuque Wahlert — last year’s state champion and the preseason No. 1 team in 3A — put all seven of their scoring runners in the top 10 to win the meet with 15 points (Maquoketa was third with 75).
Balance carried the Central boys to a fourth-place finish. Less than a minute separated the Sabers’ top-five finishers, helping the team post 94 points.
Wahlert made it a title sweep by taking the boys crown with 26 points, while Dubuque Senior (44) and Bellevue (84) rounded out the top-three.
The first six runners across the finish line in the girls race were Golden Eagles before Central senior Kyleen Irwin produced the first non-Wahlert finish with her seventh-place clocking of 22:07 — 13 seconds better than her season-opening clocking a year ago.
Joining Irwin in the top 10 was sophomore Mason Lange, who finished right at 10th with her clocking of 23:28.
Senior Hannah Payne was 12th with a time of 24:02, while junior Madi McAvan also broke 25 minutes with her 15th-place time of 24:41.
Fellow junior Kami Zeimet rounded out Central’s team score with a 20th-place finish in 25:05.
Freshmen EmmaGrace Hartman, Reagan Hofer and Zoey Tiefenthaler made strong debuts with top-30 finishes, while junior Colleen Klostermann joined them in the top 30.
Junior Jack Campbell led a parade of close-finishing Sabers in the boys race.
Campbell took 18th with his time of 20:10 and four of the next eight finishers behind him were Sabers.
Senior Karsen Kettwick was 19 seconds back in 21st with fellow senior Ezra Onken taking 22nd in 20:36.
Freshman Matthew Watters finished 25th with a clocking of 21:05 — the same exact time posted by sophomore Blake Gerard, who was 26th (the two Sabers were separated by just over four-tenths of a second).
Sophomore Briar Baxter took 37th in 21:39, while Brandon Burken, Jackson Kutka, Logan Hansen and Hayden Kruse also finished in the top-50 (with another Saber, Trevor Yackle, finishing just one spot out).