Karolus qualifies third time for State in photo finish for Perry cross country

Sean Cordy
Perry's Jaylene Karolus runs in the state qualifying meet on Wednesday, Oct. 21 in Winterset.

The competition has been abnormally strong this year for high school cross country in Iowa. With a strong field of boys and girls competition, there was no guarantee that Perry would send a tribute to the state meet this year while competing Wednesday at the qualifying meet in Winterset.

A two-time state qualifier for Perry, Jaylene Karolus was up against a wave of over 20 other girls that have hit sub-21 minute times this season. As the junior was coming off a conference showing of 24th place and above the 21 minute mark, that third trip to Fort Dodge was all but written in stone.  

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With long strides exhausting every gram of air to the finish line, Karolus eked out her competition by a hair to secure her third ticket to State. With a time of 20 minutes 9 seconds, Karolus fought her way to 12th place in a photo finish with five other girls within two seconds of each other. The cutoff time was 20:10. As a sophomore, she qualified with a time of 20:21.

As Karolus caught her breath, Perry had another name to cheer on with hopes of doubling next week's itinerary. By complete luck, the Bluejays had a transfer student from the state's top-ranked team Sioux City North join the team this previous week. Fithawi Andemichael ranked fifth among his previous team and after just a week in Perry, his potential became immediately clear as the team's pacer. Clocking a time of 17:13, the new sophomore was narrowly edged out 12 seconds by the 15th place finisher. 

That was all she wrote for the Jayettes and Bluejays as the qualifying sheet was dominated by Dallas Center-Grimes, ADM and Glenwood. DCG also won both the boys and girls team events. Though Perry's top two finishers were primary attraction, the rest of the Bluejays and Jayettes were also on the course looking to cap their season on high notes. 

Cris Gomez competes in the state qualifying meet on Wednesday, Oct. 21 in Winterset.

Seniors Jayson Chavez (56th, 19:12) and Jeb Stewart (75th, 21:07) both ran their final career races, as did Kennedy Tunink (50th, 23:13), Cris Gomez (59th, 24:54) and Michelle Tobar (77th, 34:08).

Sophomore Gannon Meis (61st, 19:35) took nearly a minute off his time from last week's conference race while nearly two minutes slipped off Johnathan Chavez (70th, 20:36). Johnathan Munoz (78th, 21:19) and Bryce Anliker (83rd, 22:01) were also in on the action, each improving their times. Misty Gomez (74th, 32:54) was the last remaining non-senior for the Jayettes.

All that remains of the season for Perry is the state meet Friday, Oct. 30 at Fort Dodge.