CLINTON — Seniors Carly Small and Andrew Hilgendorf have experienced the state cross country meet before.
And there would be no better way to finish their prep cross country careers than making one final trip to Fort Dodge.
The duo took a strong step to that goal Tuesday, leading the way for area squads at the Schoolhouse Open.
Representing Central DeWitt, Small charged to the individual title in the girls race, topping a field of 45 competitors with her clocking of 21:56.
Back at Emma Young Park a week after opening his season there, Hilgendorf, a Northeast senior ranked 18th in Class 2A, cut nearly 20 seconds from his debut time to finish second to third-ranked Dylan Darsidan of Camanche with a clocking of 17:31.
Small was the only competitor to break 22 minutes in the girls as she topped the Davenport Central duo of Merin Crowder and Lois Blackman by six and eight seconds, respectively.
The fourth runner across the finish line was Small’s senior teammate, Kyleen Irwin, who posted a time of 22:25.
Giving the area a third runner in the top five was Northeast freshman Cenady Soenksen, who finished four seconds behind Irwin in fifth.
Two other area runners added top-10 finishes — Central sophomore Mason Lange took seventh in 23:15, while Northeast freshman Grace Ketelsen was 10th with her time of 23:44.
Hannah Payne, (12th in 23:58), Kami Zeimet (17th in 24:54) and EmmaGrace Hartman (25th in 25:55) all had top-25 finishes for the Sabers, while Northeast freshman Faith Ketelsen was 16th overall with a clocking of 24:51.
Hilgendorf and Darsidan separated themselves from the rest of the pack.
Darsidan, who was seventh at last fall’s state meet, crossed the finish line in 17:11, while Hilgendorf’s time of 17:31 was 19 seconds better than his season-opening time and 20 seconds better than the third-place finisher.
A pair of Northeast teammates joined Hilgendorf in the top 15, as junior Thomas Machande was eighth overall in 18:55 — 24 seconds better than his debut clocking — and junior Nathan Ketelsen 12th in 19:21.
Jace Rathje (20th in 19:58) and Chad Williams (24th in 20:30) gave the Rebels five runners in the top 25 with a sixth — Joe Hasken — finishing just outside in 26th with a time of 20:44.
Senior Tanner Naeve led the way for the Sabers finishing between Rathje and Williams in 22nd with a clocking of 20:03.
Jack Campbell added a 27th-place finish in 20:48, while sophomores Briar Baxter (21:28) and Blake Gerard (21:29), freshman Matthew Watters (21:29) and senior Karsen Kettwick (21:44) all finished within five places of each other.
Area runners accounted for five of the top 12 spots in the girls JV race with Northeast sophomore Annika Regenwether leading the way with a fifth-place time of 26:29.
Central senior Anna Fielding was seventh in 26:57, while fellow Saber, Reagan Hofer, led a parade of area runners with a 10th-place time of 28:20.
Northeast sophomore Emi Feller was 11th in 28:36 and Central freshman Zoey Tiefenthaler 12th in 29:03.
Rebels senior Brandon House was the runner-up in the boys JV race, clocking in at 19:42.
Fellow Rebel, Carter Knutsen, was 10th in 22:12, while junior Trevor Yackle and freshman Colby Cornelius led the way for the Sabers, finishing 16th (22:59) and 18th (23:22), respectively.