Hawks out of title hunts at muddy HOIC

AMES – Nobody physically punched Kayla Lucas in the stomach as she reached the finish line at yesterday’s Heart of Iowa Conference cross country meet.

It just felt that way.

After sloshing through swampy conditions and plenty of mud for 21?2 miles, the South Hamilton senior finally reached the finish line at the Iowa State University course to find out she missed a medal by one place.

One. Stinkin’. Place.

“This whole year hasn’t been my best and the fact that they handed out the last medal right before me, that was kind of a hit you in the gut moment,” Lucas said after she placed 15th in a time of 17:35.88. “That wasn’t a lot of fun.”

Nobody had much fun in the miserable conditions that featured temperatures in the low 50s, a good bit of wind and, oh yeah, rain showers before, during and after the meet was completed.

Neither South Hamilton squad was in the hunt for the team titles. Truthfully, every school not named Gilbert was in the same boat.

Gilbert’s Grace Gibbons defended her individual league title and the fourth-ranked (Class 3A) Tigers seized the top four spots en route to 17 points and a commanding team win. No. 5 (2A) North Polk and No. 9 (2A) Greene County were well back in second and third with 99 and 120 points, respectively. South Hamilton occupied the sixth-place slot with 185.

The top-ranked Gilbert boys’ team seized individual gold, silver and bronze, and finished with 27 team points. CMB (94 points) nipped Saydel (95) by one point for the second-place slot. Missing No. 3 runner Josiah Brown, South Hamilton slipped back to ninth in the field of 10 with 224.

Gilbert’s Bradley Richard was the individual winner ahead of teammates Wesley Greder and Thomas Pollard. The No. 1 ranked individual in the state and one of the nation’s premier runners, Pollard appeared to have plenty left in the tank near the finish line, but opted not to jump past his teammates.

Ninth a season ago, Lucas wanted to claim a fourth all-conference medal in her final HOIC race, but fell three seconds short. As for the conditions, well, she summed it up in one word.

“Terrible,” she said. “We did our run out a couple of times and our shoes were soaking and our socks felt like they weighed 10 pounds. My feet were numb most of the race, so it was tough. But I think it could have been worse.”

Hawks’ head coach Darrell Paulsen says the weather and course were tough for everyone.

“It didn’t surprise me where we finished up,” he said. “We just have to regroup and hope for the best next week (at the 1A State Qualifying Meet) at Panorama.”

Allyson Ervin passed teammate Rachael Huegerich midway through the race and sprinted down the final straightaway to place 24th in 18:23.82. Huegerich crossed in 18:57.57 to finish 32nd.

Sarah Rueger (19:28.01) and Kali Lucas (20:29.65) finished out the scoring in 41st and 50th, respectively.

Drake Thompson led the Hawk boys’ team from start to finish. He passed two runners down the final straightaway to grab 32nd in 20:29.85.

Devon Fisher (36th, 20:38.71) and Jacob Ratzke (42nd, 20:56.01) followed Thompson’s lead and picked off competitors as they climbed the final hill and reached the finish line.