Leah Bontrager cut through the sea of red.
Hillcrest Academy hosted the Hillcrest Early Bird cross country meet in perfect conditions on the first day of September. Clouds helped cool the conditions for the runners. Spectators lined the course all around Hillcrest’s athletics complex and into the woods where the cross country loop went before it came back up a hill and around the school’s track.
The meet attracted teams from Highland, Lone Tree, Iowa City, Washington, Cedar Rapids, Wapello, English Valleys and Mt. Union, among others.
Bontrager, a junior at Hillcrest, battled an army of Iowa City girls, all wearing red uniforms, in the girls varsity race. She finished eighth with a time of 22:54.37, posting the best finish of any HIllcrest runner in the season opener and 50 seconds faster than she completed the Early Bird meet in 2019.
She followed seven Iowa City runners to the finish and was the first from any other school to finish.
Rowan Boulter of Iowa City won the race for the second consecutive year with a meet-record time of 20:23.10. Iowa City won the meet with a perfect score of 15.
Taylor Sublette, a senior at Highland, finished 18th with a time of 25:39.44.
Madeline Fox of Hillcrest found herself in the same situation as Bontrager in the girls JV race. Surrounded by Iowa City runners, Fox finished 14th with a time of 25:31.18. The first 13 finishers were Iowa City runners. Two of the three runners finishing behind Fox were also from Iowa City.
Also finishing among the top 20 in the meet was Lone Tree’s Nick Saltzman, who placed 18th in the boys varsity race with a time of 20:31.49.
Julie Boller of Hillcrest finished 26th in the girls varsity race with a time of 27:21.68, shaving off nearly two minutes from her 2019 race. Taryn Leichty of Hillcrest finished 36th.
Hannah Chalupa, competing in her first cross country race, finished 36th in the JV race.
Fiona Mahler of Highland finished 34th in the girls varsity race and Katelyn Waters was 37th.
Hillcrest junior Collin Miller finished 21st in the boys varsity race with a time of 21:15.54. It was a personal best time and he improved his time at the 2019 Early Bird by nearly three minutes.
Hillcrest’s Jorge Canchola finished 40th and Will Kolck was 41st.
Lone Tree’s Cal Christofferson was 23rd with a time of 21:30.55 and teammate Alberto Cortes was 32nd with a time of 22:47.32. William Rockafellow was 44th and Joey Bircher was 46th.
Carlos Valenzuela, a sophomore, led Highland with a 30th-place finish, competing the run in 22:43.85. Following him were teammates Bryce Thompson, 34th, 23:07.11; Jacob Roling, 37th, 23:23.32; Ethan Paisley, 39th, 23:34.60; and Brendan Schnoebelen, 43rd, 24:19.42.
GIRLS TEAM SCORES: City High 15, Washington 61, CR Jefferson 65.
BOYS TEAM SCORES: CR Jefferson 19, City High 52, Washington 83.