"Clap!" Head cross country coach, Erin Flynn, high fives each of her seven varsity athletes. Toes on the line, they take their last deep breaths before pushing their bodies to the limit.
Deep breaths... In and out, in and out.
Nobody speaks; all focus lies on the ATV rumbling ahead, prepared to lead the way through the course. The ATV goes by many names: “rabbit,” “pace car,” and “gator.” Whatever you call it, your goal is to be right behind it.
On Sept. 8, the Bettendorf girls cross country team participated in its second meet of the season in Cedar Rapids. Completing the night only four points behind state favorite, Pleasant Valley, Bettendorf's varsity came in fourth. The team is looking to keep competing and improving throughout the season.
“I want to focus on how we, as a team, and how I, as an individual, are performing now,” junior Trinity Borland said.
Sydney Spranger, senior co-captain, said, “I think our team has a good chance of qualifying for state; we just need to close some gaps and then we will be good.”
Senior co- captain Ally Gallagher finished first for Bettendorf, placing fourth of 120 competitors. Borland and Spranger were fifth and 20th, rounding out the top 20.
“I especially liked running with my teammates, Sydney Spranger and Ally Gallagher. I ran with Sydney for the first half of the race and ran near Ally the second half. I loved having my teammates to push me,” Borland said.
Though the varsity had a strong performance, Bettendorf's freshmen/sophomore team had the most success of the evening. Placing second overall, the team beat MAC conference favorite, Pleasant Valley. If Bettendorf's fresh/soph team wins the conference this season, it will be the first time in 11 years that PV will lose the title.
Maggie Dixon, third place finisher in the fresh/soph field, ran a fast enough time to qualify for the varsity squad.
“I would be really excited and honored to get to run varsity, but also very nervous because I have never run a varsity race in cross country before and I don't want to let my team down,” Dixon said.
In addition to the varsity and fresh/soph races, Bettendorf put many girls on the line to compete in the junior varsity race. Victoria “Tori” Tappa, a junior, ran her first 5k for the team.
“Before the race I was nervous. At the start of the race I focussed on my breathing and during the remainder of the race it felt great,” Tappa said, “On the last part of the race I passed 13 girls and felt so proud of myself.”
The Bettendorf squad of about 40 will be competing at Scott County Park next week. With a high five from Coach, toes on the line, a few deep breaths, and a pace car just ahead, the girls will be off on another 5000 meter contention.