The attention clearly was on Mid-Prairie freshman runner Danielle Hostetler this season.
She was following in the quick footsteps of a pair of sisters who won state championships, four of them in a row combined.
Danielle made it five consecutive individual titles for the Hostetler girls with her victory by 23 seconds in the Class 2A girls state meet on Halloween in Fort Dodge.
But that isn’t what won a fourth consecutive team title for the Golden Hawks.
Cross country championships are won not by the lead girl on a team’s squad, but by the other six runners. And that’s what makes this Mid-Prairie streak so unique and so overwhelming.
Twin sisters Jaden and Sydney Yoder show up at every race knowing they aren’t going to win. The battle is for second and for third.
Mitzi Evans, a junior who finished eighth in the state meet and fifth in the River Valley Conference championships, was a top-10 finisher for the Golden Hawks all season.
Ana Fleming, a senior, finished 33rd at the state meet to help the Golden Hawks to the state title and become the first Mid-Prairie girl (I’m guessing, the first girl or boy in any sport) to win a team state title four times.
Freshmen Abby Fleming and Phoebe Shetler finished among the top 36 at state. Those finishes will get even better over the next three years.
There is no bickering or battling on this squad, even when the spots to make the varsity team for the state meet are decided by a few seconds. They are best friends.
Same thing for the Mid-Prairie boys team, which included a hobbling Thaddeus Shetler helped to his feet in the recovery area by his teammates after managing to finish the state meet while recovering from a bad ankle injury.
Sydney Yoder, who usually finishes a second ahead or a second behind her sister, collapsed as she came into the finishing area at the state meet. She finished 11th overall, but ninth in the team competition to deliver important points for the Golden Hawks. All of her teammates huddles around Sydney in the .received medical attention.
The focus was on Sydney.
The title celebration could wait.
The Yoder twins helped the Golden Hawks to multiple one-two-three sweeps this year. At the River Valley championship meet, one of those sweeps, Sydney beat out Jaden by one third of a second. In the Hillcrest Academy Invitational, it was Jaden by 1.72 seconds.
“She’s competitive, but she’s competitive in a good way,” Jaden said of Sydney. “It really helps me that she’s determined because then I follow her.
“We’re sisters,” Sydney said. “I guess we just both push each other, we both fight for each other.”
Next year, the Yoder twins and Evans will all be seniors as Mid-Prairie chases down a fifth consecutive state title after breaking a points record by scoring 45 in this year’s state race. Among those ready to take Ana Fleming’s spot on the state varsity team are freshman Annika Poll and sophomore Amara Jones, who finished among the top 24 at the River Valley championships.
It will be another fun ride in 2021.
Paul Bowker is sports editor of The News. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @bowkerpaul.