Knepp, Spartans give it their all at state cross country meet

Senior+Jacob+Mumey+runs+by+his+teammates+during+the+state+cross+country+meet+in+Fort+Dodge%2C+Iowa.

Isaiah

Senior Jacob Mumey runs by his teammates during the state cross country meet in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Isaiah Steele, Site Manager

In the early afternoon of Oct. 29, 2022, PV boys’ and girls’ cross country teams toed the line at the legendary state meet location in Fort Dodge, Iowa. For decades, Spartans have run the same course, establishing a reputation for themselves as  good—not only as a team, but individually as well. Despite some trouble in both teams, Saturday was no exception.

The girls’ race went first at 2:00 p.m., and two spartans immediately gravitated towards the lead: senior Lydia Sommer and sophomore Grace Boleyn. Ranked second heading into the meet, the Spartans had high expectations. Sommer and Boleyn ran with the chase pack, in 12th and 22nd respectively, through the first half mile.

The mile went out hard, as is characteristic of championship-level races. But behind their frontrunners, the other five Spartans kept the aggressive pace, placing the Spartans in fourth at the mile with 153 points. Every team’s total is made up of their top five runners’ places together, making the lowest point total the best. After that, Boleyn joined Sommer, and the rest of the team moved up, dropping 16 points to be placed third at the two-mile, an impressive feat. 

Unfortunately, the last mile was a different story. Sommer ran an even race and finished well in 17th with a time of 19:01, just missing all-state by two spots. Boleyn finished in 18:44, managing all-state with 14th. Boleyn, who had been aiming to stay in the top-10, was not satisfied with her race. She said, “I definitely did not run to my potential, but I did definitely give all of my effort.”

That sentiment was echoed by the rest of the team as they came across the line. As sophomore Sophia Foad closed on the finish, she struggled to make it to the end and was helped by her teammate, sophomore Josie Case. Because Case helped Foad to finish, both of them were disqualified from the race, adding to the Spartans’ score. The team officially finished 6th with 196 points. 

Even as the girls were finishing and nervously watching the scores tally up on a large screen in the middle of the mass of finishers, the boys were lacing up their spikes for their own race. Their teammates who made the drive separately stood near them, giving their teammates final encouragement before the race.

The boys launched off of the starting line at 2:45, but the leaders ran a slower first mile than usual. When Jacob Mumey, the Spartans’ frontrunner and top-10 ranked senior, realized this, he prepared for a fast finish. 

“My race strategy was to go out in the pack of like 6-7 guys who were all competing for those top 5 spots and just see where it went from there. We were out slower than expected so I knew I could push the last mile hard and secure a top 5 finish,” Mumey said.

Mumey did just that, placing 4th in the race and running a blazing-fast 15:31 for 3.1 miles, winning himself all-state honors. He continued, “The team did solid, we had some really good days and some not so good ones, but it was a good time nonetheless.” The Spartans came into the state meet ranked 9th and finished as expected.

However, the most exciting part of the day for the Spartans—and one of the most exciting moments of the year—was the Spartans’ second runner, Luke Knepp. Knepp has been an asset to the Spartans since junior high, winning the 7th grade state cross country meet and holding the Spartans’ second all-time sophomore 5k time. However, having battled injuries throughout his entire high school career, he struggled to run to his full potential this season. 

Today, in the last race of his high school career, that didn’t matter. Knepp decided that he was going to give it his all, no matter what it took.

Early in the race, it was obvious to his teammates that he meant business. Soon after going through the mile in 59th, he started dropping runners so fast that he moved up 44 places in 1 mile. No boy in any race that day dropped more runners in the second mile than Knepp. But he didn’t stop there. Knepp proceeded to pass more runners in the last 1.1 miles, leaving no doubt about his all-state status of 13th.

Even coming down the final stretch, Knepp, not a natural short-distance talent like Mumey, continued to hold his own against the fastest closers in the state, cementing his place in Iowa state history as an all-state runner. He ran 16:00, the best race of his life. Even 30 minutes after the finish, he still struggled to walk because of his effort. 

He said after the race, “My mentality going into the race was that it is my last race, so I’d better make it a good one. My goals for the race were that I wanted to get into the top 30 and run a season’s best.” He said that in the middle of the race, he realized that 15th was “only about 5 seconds ahead.” In the final kilometer, he “just gave it everything [he] had and ended up running the best race of my life for 13th place.” 

Despite members of the Spartans’ pack running slower than planned, their woes were soon forgotten as they rallied around their two all-state teammates, watching them stand up on the deck to honor their performances. The loudest and longest cheers were heard from the Spartans’ teammates when the names “Luke Knepp” and “Jacob Mumey” were announced at the conclusion of the event.

The trip to state in 2022 marked the boys’ 20th in a row, the longest active streak in the state of Iowa. The girls’ winning tradition extends even farther back than that. But none of those trips were handed to the Spartans. They had to earn each and every one of them, just like they will have to next year if the returners want another chance to run at Fort Dodge. But they are earned with a special determination, grit and a certain love for the sport that was shown today by the Spartans, all of which were put on magnificent display by Knepp.