MOVILLE, Iowa – Tears of happiness flowed for Suzanne Putze following her final prep cross country race.
The Woodbury Central senior had just posted her fourth top-15 finish at the Iowa High School State Cross Country Championships in Fort Dodge and was also leaving Lakeside Municipal Golf Course with a team trophy.
Putze joined teammate Rylee Wright in finishing in the top 10 as seniors, helping the combined Woodbury Central/Kingsley-Pierson cross country program, co-coached by Jill Gallagher and Dean Harpenau, finish third in Class 2A, the first team trophy in the program’s six-year history.
The Sioux City Journal’s Female Cross Country Runner of the Year got emotional during a post-race interview, the overwhelming satisfaction coming not only from a strong senior campaign, but a four-year career that culminated with this final race.
“It’s just happiness,” Putze said while wiping away tears. “The feeling of knowing that you successfully completed four years free of injury, being healthy. I haven’t missed a meet, I haven’t been sick at all. That’s just like a great feeling knowing that not only you have been able to accomplish placing well at meets, but you stayed healthy.
“That’s just something that you can’t always control and I’m just so grateful for that,” she concluded.
Putze toed the line 43 times in a stellar four-year career that produced 23 individual race victories. Her lowest finish was 14th, which came at the state meet her junior year. As a senior, Putze won six races, finished second three times, earned a third-place medal once and cracked the top 10 with a ninth-place effort at state.
Putze ran 19:39.7 in her final time around the Fort Dodge 5,000-meter layout while teammate Wright, a Kingsley-Pierson senior, came home in 19:31.5.
“What a way to go out, I’m extremely happy for them, they deserve it,” said Gallagher. “Rylee kept getting stronger and stronger and Suzanne just puts in the time all summer long, so they both really deserved it (top 10 finishes), and I was happy for them.”
The WC/KP varsity seven included three seniors in Putze, Wright and KayLynne Bechen, who were all part of the program’s first state-qualifying team in 2014.
“Coming out here freshman year we kind of did something similar, it was definitely an experience being able to run on a team at state, freshman year and then to be able to do it again senior year was really special,” Putze said.
The addition and the continued improvement and growth from the team’s four freshmen played a role in the team carting home a team trophy.
It capped a strong season that saw WC/KP claim team titles at every regular season meet but the season-opening Heelan Invite, while also capturing the state-qualifying meet title.
Putze got to share in it with her twin sisters, Mary and Sarah, half of the freshman quartet that also included Makayla Archer and Kalyn Cameron.
“I don’t know if it’s ever been done that three sisters have run together on a team (at state), but it makes the whole experience more special,” said Putze, the daughter of Matthew and Angie Putze, of Moville. “Not only are my teammates my friends, but they’re also my family, too.”
Outside of the state meet, the three-time Western Valley Conference champion's only loss -- besides the three to teammate Wright -- came in the Marsha Koebernick Invitational to Crofton High School senior Haley Arens, who wrapped up her career with a state runner-up finish in Nebraska Class D.
Putze displayed strength and consistency throughout the season, only once running over 20 minutes, that coming on a tough Woodlyn Hills layout in Milford, Iowa. She holds course/meet records at the Heelan Invite (SYA Complex), Okoboji Invite, Le Mars Invite (Brunsville), Woodbury Central Invite (Meadows), Kingsley-Pierson Invite (Brookside) and Western Valley Conference Meet.
“Going into state we really thought we had a chance (at the podium),” said Gallagher. “But, when you’re never done it before you always have in the back of your mind 'Oh, I don’t think we will do it.'
“It was really amazing," Gallagher said. "These girls deserve it. They put in extra time. They were so excited about it and I’m happy for them.”