Perry cross country battles in Leon Fox Invitational in Perry

Sean Cordy - Correspondent
Gannon Meis runs in the 2020 Leon Fox Invitational on Thursday, Oct. 1 in Perry.

After last year's meet was canceled due to bad weather conditions, the Perry's Leon Fox Cross Country Invitational was back on this season with a little nip in the air on Oct. 1. 

With 13 teams including a number of top 10 programs like the ADM, Ballard and Roland-Story girls, and the No. 8 Des Moines Christian boys teams, competition was fierce and pushed Perry to the back of the pack as a whole. 

As one Jayette was out due to a doctor's appointment, the Perry girls fielded only four runners and were unable to qualify for a team ranking. The Bluejays put forth five runners, just enough to qualify for placement as the 11th overall team of the 11 team field.

A rare experience

Perry head coach Ryan Marzen said he feels the whole experience of the Leon Fox Invite is similar to the state meet and hopes to see it continue to grow.

Jaylene Karolus runs in the 2020 Leon Fox Invitational on Thursday, Oct. 1 in Perry.

With a baker's dozen out on the Perry Golf and Country Club course, Marzen said it was exciting to see the hundreds of fans migrate across the green as a big herd to cheer on everyone much like the buzz at the state meet in Fort Dodge. There's still room to grow, though, as Marzen said he hopes to add two more teams for next year to keep building that atmosphere.

Setting the stage

The size of the competition isn't all that made Oct. 1 feel like a high-stakes affair. It's also the quality of opponents that make for a top-flight evening for Jaylene Karolus' return to action.

Out for the previous two meets due to the swim team's coronavirus quarantine, Karolus was cleared to re-join the team on Wednesday. Despite her hiatus, the star junior clocked in at a season-best 21 minutes 3 seconds for seventh place overall after a fighting finish with a couple of other girls eyeing a spot at State.

Down the home stretch, Winterset's Darci Wiseman was able to surpass Karolus after running in her drift for most of the last leg. Once she passed up, Karolus kicked into another gear to catch up and passed Creston's Paige Davis to maintain her place at No. 7 overall.

"I didn't really know she was there until the end when I could her right behind me sprinting," Karolus said. "It actually helped me. She passed me by and I started sprinting and passed another girl in front of me."

Jayson Chavez runs in the 2020 Leon Fox Invitational on Thursday, Oct. 1 in Perry.

Not only did Karolus pick up her stride running in her preferred cold weather, but she also noted how her first mile's tone was set by two of the state's top runners in Ballard's Shewaye Johnson (1st, 18:41) and ADM's Geneva Timmerman (2nd, 19:18). Once they found a new gear, Karolus was left largely on her own to keep up the pace until those final moments.

Overall, Marzen said he was happy with her performance and pace, noting how well she responded to her situation, training on her own and "nailing every workout." With this performance keeping her right on pace where she left off earlier this season, Marzen said he has no doubt Karolus will qualify for Fort Dodge.

Looking for improvement

Karolus wasn't the only Perry runner to hit a new season PR. Senior Kennedy Tunink (41st, 23:14) lopped off a good minute from her time to Marzen's delight.

Rounding out the Jayettes' card were Cris Gomez (83rd, 25:58) and Misty Gomez (117th, 35:05).

On the boys' ticket, Jayson Chavez (64st, 20:35) led the Bluejays' pack followed immediately behind by Gannon Meis (65th, 20:45) and Jeb Stewart (67th, 21:04). Johnathan Munoz (72nd, 22:10) and Bryce Anliker (76th, 24:12) wrapped up the list.

Perry's next opportunity comes Thursday at Saydel.

Jeb Stewart runs in the Leon Fox Invitational on Thursday, Oct. 1