AMES - Kayla Lucas admits her summer cross country training regimen was nothing to write home about, but what she lacked in preseason miles she made up for with guts and determination yesterday at the Gilbert Cross Country Invitational.
Mental toughness simply trumped physical exhaustion on the Iowa State University course, as the South Hamilton sophomore picked up right where she left off a year ago - leading her team to a solid overall performance.
Lucas set the pace for the Hawks from the start, and despite temperatures in the 90s and wind gusts that couldn't have been fun to deal with, she managed to cover the 2 1/2-mile race in 17 minutes, 23 seconds to place fourth in the Class B field of 75 competitors. South Hamilton - ranked No. 14 (Class 2A) in the Iowa Association of Track Coaches preseason poll - totaled 85 points and settled into third in the team race behind class champion Earlham (59) and runner-up Roland-Story (71).
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
South Hamilton sophomore Kali Lucas (center) leans on classmate and teammate Allyson Ervin for support moments after the completion of the girls’ race at yesterday’s Gilbert Invitational at the ISU course in Ames. The Hawk girls placed third in Class B at the opening meet of the season.
"I felt good (yesterday)," Lucas said. "It was a lot more mental than physical out there ... you just have to go out there and tell yourself that you're not as tired as you think you are. You tell yourself you can keep doing it and you push yourself as hard as you can."
Lucas also uses another trick - pushing the pain completely out of her mind.
"I space out during half of the race and just watch the girl in front of me," she said. "I focus on that and my breathing, and if I feel like I'm slowing down I just get by breath up and go again."
Class B Team Standings
1. Earlham 59; 2. Roland-Story 71; 3. South Hamilton 85; 4. Collins-Maxwell-Baxter 93; 5. Panorama 115; 6. Van Meter 136; 7. Eagle Grove 139; 8. West Marshall 192.
South Hamilton Results
4. Kayla Lucas 17:23; 14. Allyson Ervin 18:24; 20. Kali Lucas 19:00; 21. Meghan Fisher 19:02; 26. Rachael Huegerich 19:39; 32. Jessica Zoske 20:22; 37. Sarah Rueger 20:52.
Class B Team Standings
1.Woodward Academy 22; 2. West Marshall 82; 3. Earlham 124; 4. Roland-Story 131; 5. Van Meter 139; 6. South Hamilton 140; 7. Panorama 145; 8. Eagle Grove 177; 9. Colo-NESCO 231.
South Hamilton Results
6. Jacob Heeren 19:05; 34. Caleb Olson 21:10; 42. Jordan Lutjen 21:33; 48. Jordan Toillion 21:41; 55. Alex Bristow 22:19; 58. Zach Coster 22:35; 63. Luke Jacoby 22:53.
Fellow sophomores Allyson Ervin and Kali Lucas also claimed top-20 medals. Ervin used her long stride to fly by several runners down the homestretch and placed 14th in 18:24. Kali Lucas crossed in 19:00 to take 20th, just two seconds ahead of teammate and 21st-place finisher Meghan Fisher (19:02).
Rookie Rachael Huegerich factored into South Hamilton's team total in her first varsity race; she was 26th in 19:39.
The Lucas twins, Ervin and Fisher all ran on the Hawks' 10th-place team in 1A at last fall's state meet.
"The girls ran well and, quite honestly, they probably didn't even need me there," South Hamilton first-year head coach Darrell Paulsen said. "They've been running well in practice, and the good thing is they've got experience."
Eagle Grove's Tiffany Christensen (16:33), a junior, owned the Class B field by more than 30 seconds to grab the top spot.
Heeren shines for Hawk boys
Sophomore Jacob Heeren made the unique decision to train on the ISU course last Sunday in preparation for the opening meet of the season, and it's a move that paid off yesterday.
Heeren - who upped his preseason training in an effort to vault up meet leaderboards - intentionally started slow as the large mob of runners made its way down the course, but it didn't take him long to navigate his way towards the front of the boys' Class B field.
Heeren improved his time by more than two minutes from the 2011 opener on the same trek and sprinted through the finish line in 19:05 to slide into sixth in a field of 113 competitors.
"That was amazing," Heeren said. "The hills (on the back of the course) killed me, but I've just got to keep pushing myself, and improving by over 2 minutes on this course from last year, that's awesome."
The Hawks were sixth overall in the small class, as they posted 140 points, just nine behind fourth-place finisher Roland-Story and one in back of fifth-place Van Meter.
Woodward Academy (22) dominated with five runners in the top 10, including gold medalist Juanito Hernandez, and seven in the top 13. West Marshall (82) and Earlham (124) sat in the silver and bronze medal spots.
South Hamilton's inability to pack up behind Heeren moved it back in the standings. Caleb Olson (21:10) was next across in 34th, more than 2 minutes in back of Heeren. Jordan Lutjen (21:33) was next in 42nd, Jordan Toillion (21:44) finished 48th, and Alex Bristow (22:19) took 55th.
Jacob Ratzke (20:34) was the Hawks' No. 2 runner by time, but he's unable to participate at the varsity level after transferring from Northeast Hamilton.