WEBSTER CITY - Quality individuals and teams will set up camp and make the Webster City Links Golf Course their home for a couple of hours this evening, as the Webster City cross country teams host the Lynx Invitational in an early-season meet.
A total of 15 schools will invade the relatively flat course for the meet that is scheduled to begin with the girls' junior varsity race at 5 p.m. The girls' varsity race will follow at approximately 5:30 p.m., with the boys' varsity and boys' junior varsity races next up and set to start in half-hour intervals.
Rain is in the forecast however, and Lynx head coach Tony Bussan said that the schedule could be altered should the clouds roll in. The contingency plan for rain calls for the girls' and boys' varsity races to take off first, followed by the junior varsity races.
Webster City senior Mason Hedeen (front) pushes through the last few meters as teammate Andrew Laird gives chase during the Marshalltown Bobcat Early Bird last week. Both will be in the boys lineup at the Lynx Invitational today at the Webster City Links.
Joining Webster City will be Algona, Belmond-Klemme, Boone, Clarion-Goldfield, Eagle Grove, Fort Dodge Senior, Fort Dodge St. Edmond, Hampton-Dumont, Humboldt, Manson-Northwest Webster, Prairie Valley, Roland-Story and Southeast Webster-Grand.
"It should be a really good meet," Bussan said. "The girls field looks to be a little deeper, but there are some really good teams that will compete in both races."
Three boys teams will toe the line with bull's-eyes on their backs - targets that come once you enter the rankings. Boone sits at No. 9 in the Class 3A poll released by the Iowa Association of Track Coaches, a spot ahead of Algona. St. Edmond checks in at No. 11 in the 2A rankings.
Webster City begins the season on the outside looking in when it comes to rankings, but that means little to Bussan. The coach knows the recognition will come if his squad continues to perform like it did last week at the Marshalltown Bobcat Early Bird when it finished third behind the host school and Waterloo West.
"We're extremely excited about our season and our depth, and we certainly intend to go after it (today)," Bussan said. "But it's going to be tough because Algona is good, St. Edmond won a meet last week and ran extremely well, and Boone may have gotten hit by graduation, but on the other hand they've got some very good kids coming back."
Bussan will send a lineup consisting of Alex Lamp, Mason Hedeen, Andrew Laird, Nick Thilges, Ben Mossman, Ethan Glenn and Austin Elm out onto the course. Lamp, a senior, made an early statement last week when he smashed his personal best time by 29 seconds en route to a runner-up result at Marshalltown. He'll be out to challenge Algona senior Ryan McMahon a two-time Lynx Invitational champion and one-time runner-up for the gold medal.
"Alex isn't going to back down from Ryan, but he's also got a pretty level head,"?Bussan said. "He knows that if Ryan goes out and throws down a (4-minute, 45-second) hammer on the front, he's just not going to go there. He'll run around a five-minute mile and go from there, and it should be a great race."
Boone's tandem of Nick Yaeger and Andrew Thiel, along with Manson-Northwest Webster's Taylor Huseman and St. Edmond's Nate Kolacia should challenge near the front as well.
Brenna Paukert, Morgan Moline, Alicia Long, Brittney Dodge, Megan Hughes, Rachel Kauffman and Erica Just will make up the Lynx girls' varsity lineup. They will be out to push pre-meet favorites St. Edmond (2A, No. 6), Humboldt (2A, No. 7), Prairie Valley (1A, No. 10) and Boone (3A, No. 12).
"Humboldt and St. Edmond both placed in the top 10 at state last year, and Humboldt has all but one girl back and St. Edmond brings everyone back," Bussan said. "Algona also won the meet up at Spencer last week, so they're obviously very good as well."
The coach understands that a team title probably won't be in the cards, but that doesn't mean there's nothing for his girls to work for.
"If we can finish somewhere in the mid-pack range, that would be a good performance," Bussan said. "The key for us is to close down our gaps. We'll look for Paukert and Moline to lead us, and then for Long and Dodge to try to close down that gap between them."
Fans that are planning to attend the meet are reminded that there will be a $5 per carload charge upon entering the course.