WEBSTER CITY - The gauntlet has been thrown down, and Webster City has a little over a month to come up with an answer.
Otherwise, a third consecutive North Central Conference championship will be nothing but a pipe dream.
League rival and third-ranked (Class 2A) Fort Dodge St. Edmond made an early-season statement yesterday at the Webster City Links Golf Course, pushing four runners into the top 15 and tallying just 68 points to finish second to fifth-ranked (3A) Boone at the Lynx Invitational. The Toreadors were even more impressive with five of the top 12 performances and a total of 31.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
Steven Smith (right) trots up a small incline during last night’s Lynx Invite at the Webster City Links. Smith placed eight to lead Webster City to a fourth-place team finish.
Webster City, which was second a season ago, was well off the pace of the frontrunners. The Lynx settled back into fourth with 106, 11 points behind bronze medalist Fort Dodge Senior (95).
"Boone is one of the premier teams in the state of Iowa, and that was one of the finest early-season team runs I've seen in a long time," WCHS head coach Tony Bussan said. "And St. Edmond looked really good and laid down the challenge in the conference. So we've got some improvements to make."
Steven Smith, a Northeast Hamilton senior, charged to the front of the Lynx pack for the second consecutive race. He settled into a rhythm with several teammates over the first half of the 5-kilometer race, but eventually picked up the pace and powered home in 18 minutes, 1.68 seconds to place eighth in the field of 88.
1. Boone 31; 2. Fort Dodge St. Edmond 68; 3. Fort Dodge Senior 95; 4. Webster City 106; 5. Algona 107; 6. Humboldt 150; 7. Manson-Northwest Webster 212; 8. Roland-Story 226; 9. Hampton-Dumont 257; 10. Eagle Grove 260; 11. Prairie Valley 331; 12. Belmond-Klemme 354.
Individual Top 10
1. Chandler Austin (B) 15:41.06; 2. Albert Meier (B) 16:46.67; 3. Seth Reel (SE) 16:56.03; 4. Alex Jackson (FDS) 17:32.64; 5. Thomas Thompson (FDS) 17:38.67; 6. Jacob Running Horse (B) 17:59.17; 7. Adam Poeppe (A) 18:01.27; 8. Steven Smith (WC) 18:01.68; 9. Nic Ganzeveld (FDS) 18:02.47; 10. Jordon Murray (B) 18:17.16.
Webster City Results
8. Steven Smith 18:01.68; 16. Jacob Clabaugh 18:41.35; 22. Lucas Poland 19:07.23; 29. Antrez Conley 19:26.70; 31. Brandon Arkland 19:30.21; 32. Ethan Glenn 19:39.96; 37. Seth Crouthamel 19:52.24.
It was just Smith's second-ever cross country race, and yet he looked right at home. He says the encouragement from his teammates is a big reason why he's finding success.
"I ran with these guys all summer and they really helped me out a lot," Smith said. "They've really welcomed me, so it's been fun. I think I'm built for cross country more than track, and I've got to make the most of it because this is my first and last year."
But while Smith stormed forward, his teammates were unable to keep up, and the loss of the Lynx usually strong pack pushed the squad out of the top three.
Jacob Clabaugh came up the final hill 40 seconds after Smith and leaned across the line in 18:41.35 to finish 16th. Lucas Poland was next in line; he was 22nd in 19:07.23.
"Steven had another phenomenal race, particularly in the last half, and Lucas Poland did a tremendous job of gutting it out at the end," Bussan said.
Antrez Conley and Brandon Arkland - running amongst the Lynx starting seven for the first time - completed the team's total. Conley (19:26.70) was 29th, while Arkland (19:30.21) was two spots back in 31st.
Regularly the Lynx leader, Ethan Glenn (19:30.96) pushed out hard over the first mile, but the frantic pace eventually caught up to him. He continued to lose positions over the final mile and finished in 32nd.
Seth Crouthamel (19:52.24) completed the squad in 37th.
Boone junior Chandler Austin - the top-ranked individual in 3A - lived up to, and maybe went even beyond, his reputation. He motored out to a huge lead over the first mile and left no doubt the remainder of the way, as he set a new course record of 15:41.06 to win gold easily.
Chad Rutledge of Algona previously held the record. He set the standard at the 2008 NCC meet, but Austin buried his time by more than 30 seconds.
"Chandler Austin's performance was amazing," Bussan said. "I can only think of one race that looked like that to me, and that was (WCHS record holder) Heath Moenck's race over at Fort Dodge against the Des Moines Roosevelt boys."
Teammate Albert Meier (16:46.67) was second, while St. Edmond's Seth Reel (16:56.03) took third.