Lynx success hinges on the pack

WEBSTER CITY – The Webster City cross country teams will be nothing if not prepared when they step up to the starting line at today’s North Central Conference meet.

Lynx head coach Tony Bussan ventured up to Joe Sheldon Park in Humboldt – the site of today’s festivities – on Saturday and ran the course himself in order to prepare his athletes for what they will face when the meet kicks off with the middle school races at 4 p.m.

Will it be difficult? Bussan says yes.

“I think it’s a great cross country course, but it’s going to be very tactical and it will be a strong test of running,” Bussan said. “It’s very fair … but that being said, you better be aware and you better be willing to pay the price early and get out and be competitive.”

With most of the girls’ 4-kilometer and boys’ 5K courses on trails deep in the trees, there will be few opportunities to pass or make up time on the field. And good luck finding the lead pack if you fall too far off the pace.

“There are going to be limited opportunities to pass and if you don’t get out with the lead group early it’s going to be difficult to move up,” Bussan said.

Everyone will be chasing the favorites and reigning champions – the sixth-ranked (Class 3A) Algona boys and No. 13 (3A) Humboldt girls. Fort Dodge St. Edmond has two ranked teams – the boys are No. 6 (1A), while the girls are No. 13 – but the front runners will most likely have to falter if they are to come back to the field.

“There are very solid favorites on both sides,” Bussan said. “The races have got to be run, but those teams are so strong and out in front of everybody, and with their depth they can still sub people in if they had to and still be plenty strong.”

The Algona boys’ team boasts three of the top runners in the league in Bo Hjelle, Nathan Stumme and Peter Hollinger. The Humboldt girls’ squad is led by Maddie Kampen, one of the favorites to claim individual gold.

WCHS might not be in the championship conversation, but Bussan says the opportunities are there to challenge for second.

Tyler Bultena, Jacob Perin, Cole Zahn, Seth Crouthamel, Connor Foster, Demar Lemus and Trey Nelson will compete for the Lynx boys. The squad has thrived with a pack mentality all season and that won’t change today.

With just 56 runners in the varsity field, Bussan says any of his seven athletes can compete for a spot in the top 10 and that will need to happen if the Lynx are going to top St. Edmond for the first time this season.

“It’s really going to come down to a pack race,” Bussan said. “Attacking the top 10 will also be really important if we want a shot at St. Edmond.”

Courtney Biere, Haley Johnson, Larae Ebrecht, Cassidy Bultena, Ashley Flaws, Haley Flaws and Faith McClain will venture out together for the Lynx girls. The group has put some of their better races together in recent meets and they’ll need to do so again today.

Biere and Johnson are both capable of challenging for a top-10 spot, Bussan said. The coach hopes the rest of the team will follow closely behind, otherwise the Lynx may slip back in the standings.

“We can’t separate … we need our whole pack to get out,” he said. “If we get fragmented early, it’s going to be very difficult to pull it back together.”