FORT DODGE - Kayla Lucas learned from her mistakes, and the key was portion control.
A year after leaving her pre-race breakfast in a stomach-turning pile just a few feet from the finish line at the Iowa High School Cross Country Championships, the South Hamilton sophomore was able to keep her food down - it was a cheese, egg and sausage casserole, for those keeping track - and laugh about the past incident a little following the girls' Class 2A race on Saturday at Kennedy Park.
"I heard a lot about that this morning and all the girls told me to eat less," Lucas said with a smile on her face. "I was hungry too, but I ate less."
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
South Hamilton sophomore Kayla Lucas (293) sprints towards the finish line during the girls’ Class 2A race at the Iowa High School Cross Country Championships at Kennedy Park in Fort Dodge on Saturday. Lucas placed 36th to lead her team, as the Hawks slipped back to 14th in the field of 15.
Lucas didn't leave her food, just every ounce of energy she had, on the 4-kilometer course, leading to her first top-40 finish at the state meet. She broke away from her team pack on the initial straightaway and pushed her pace throughout to keep up with the fast field.
Lucas sprinted across the finish line in 16:09 - one of her better times of the season - to place 36th in a field of 126 competitors.
"I definitely felt like the pace was faster than usual," Lucas, who was 58th in the 1A race as a freshman, said. "I tried sticking up as far as I could for as long as I could, but there are some fast girls here and they pulled way."
The quicker-than-normal pace didn't bode well for the No. 8-ranked Hawks, however. They fell back to 14th with 289 points, beating only Panorama (347).
Rookie head coach Darrell Paulsen had more questions than answers after he learned his team's fate.
"I don't know if it was nerves or if I didn't prepare the girls well enough ... I just don't know," he said. "I can't fault the girls because they ran their hearts out, but it's just a faster pace up here and you've got to get out and go. Unfortunately (on Saturday)," we didn't do that."
South Hamilton was one of five Heart of Iowa Conference schools in the 2A field. Gilbert (174) placed fifth, North Polk (205) took ninth, Roland-Story (218) finished 11th and CMB (233) landed a spot in front of the Hawks in 13th.
Gilbert was the HOIC champion, South Hamilton the runner-up.
North Polk's Sybbie Sears was the league's lone medal winner. She cruised to sixth in 15:22.
Gilbert's Sadie Timms, the 2011 individual state champion, was unable to make a push for a repeat. She fell out of the top 10 early and eventually placed 15th in 15:43.
Meghan Fisher, a junior, played the part of the Hawks' No. 2 runner throughout the race and she was the only other team member to break 17 minutes. She trucked across the finish line in 16:58 to place 79th.
Freshman Rachael Huegerich hung on Fisher's heels for much of the race and fell off only slightly over the final half-mile. She was 87th in 17:16.
Sophomore Allyson Ervin (17:22) placed 90th and Jessica Zoske (17:23), the lone senior on the squad, was 92nd.
Sophomores Kali Lucas (17:28, 95th) and Sidney Alsager (17:58, 106th) didn't factor in the Hawks' team total.
This marked the 18th consecutive season that South Hamilton was represented by either a team or individual at the state meet, and Kayla Lucas already has her sights set on making it 19 in a row next fall.
"This is my favorite course and you're running with the best of the best here, so it's awesome," she said. "We're definitely looking forward to next year."