Depleted squad of five runners leaves WCHS girls with no room for error at Ballard Invite

HUXLEY – The effort is there and the attitudes are strong, but the Webster City girls’ cross country team has not had luck on its side so far this season.

Already a small team even before the uniforms were handed out, injuries have put even more strain on the group through its first four meets.

With junior leader Haley Johnson having to watch for the second straight race as she attempts to heal from a nagging ankle injury, the Lynx were down to five total runners for Monday’s Ballard Invitational.

The lack of depth and zero room for error were factors in the team’s back of the pack 11th-place finish in the Class A field at the Ballard Golf and Country Club.

“It’s certainly not what we had hoped for at the beginning of the season, but we just need to find a way to keep getting better and getting faster as the season goes on,” WCHS head coach Joe Lambert said.

Johnson’s absence was certainly felt and Lambert is uncertain on when – it may be if – she will be able to return this season.

“It’s taking its sweet time to get better … we’ll hope she’s able to run strong at conference and districts,” he said “We’ll work with her in the pool and on bicycles to try to maintain her fitness level so that she’ll be in running shape when she is able to return.”

WCHS tallied 269 points during Monday’s meet. Fourth-ranked (Class 3A) Pella topped the big-class field with 31 points, while host Ballard (59) was a somewhat surprising second, ahead of third-place finisher and third-ranked (3A) Dallas Center-Grimes (65).

Larae Ebrecht, the Lynx most veteran competitor, pushed the pace during the middle stages and created distance between herself and her teammates. She completed the 5K course in 24:14 to place 36th overall.

Kaitlyn Wagner maintained a steady pace throughout and came home in 25:36, good for 49th place. Emma Piper, who had led the Lynx in the two previous meets, didn’t have her best performance, but still managed to settle into 57th in 26:36.

The lack of bodies put the pressure on Sharina Desroches to step up in her first varsity race and Lambert felt she did exactly that by placing 64th in 27:57.

“Sharina ran a minute and 10 seconds faster than she ever has, so that was great,” he said.

WCHS will have a few days off before it makes the trek to Carroll on Saturday for the Kuemper Catholic Invite at Swan Lake State Park.