Lynx challenged by large, talented field at Ballard

HUXLEY – It doesn’t matter if the field is big or small, the course flat as a pancake or loaded with hills, Webster City head cross country coach Joe Lambert always knows what he’s going to get out of sophomore John Piaszynski.

Consistency.

The terrains and conditions may be different, but Piaszynski’s 5K times haven’t faltered through the first four meets of the season. His latest effort led the Lynx to a fourth-place finish behind three Class 3A ranked teams in the Class A division at Monday’s Ballard Invitational.

Piaszynski flew down the final straightaway and leaned across the finish line in a time of 18:31 to place 21st in the large field. It was the same time he put up at last Thursday’s Waverly-Shell Rock Invite and just a second slower than his clocking at the Lynx Invite earlier this month.

“It doesn’t matter which course he runs on, his times are almost always identical,” Lambert said of Piaszynski. “It’s a credit to him … he just locks into a pace and he knows where he’s going.”

Piaszynski took the team lead over the final half of the race on the breezy evening at the Ballard Golf and Country Club. Webster City had a gap of just 31 seconds between its five scoring runners, which led to 129 team points.

Second-ranked Dallas Center-Grimes dominated the class with 27 points, 30 ahead of runner-up and eighth-ranked Pella (57). No. 12 Carlisle (84) was third.

“It was a good day and I thought the kids performed pretty well,” Lambert said. “To finish behind three ranked teams, we have to consider that a success.”

Piaszysnki may have been the leader on Monday, but others have taken that role in earlier meets. Lambert is waiting for someone among his lead group to grab the reins and guide the team, hopefully closer to the front.

“They’ve been a bunch of boys who have run as a pack for a couple of years now and it would be fine with me if one of them took charge and broke away from the pack or challenged the rest of the pack to move up,” Lambert said. “I will be pleasantly surprised with whoever that could be. Several of them have proved they have the talent to do that.”

Piaszynski’s pace paid dividends on the elevation changes during the final mile on Monday, as he passed teammates Dawson Hjemeland and Tyler Bultena.

Bultena gutted out the difficult closing stretch to finish in 18:37, which placed him right behind Piaszynski in 22nd. Trey Nelson was the next Lynx runner to reach the end in 26th with a time of 18:51.

Hjemeland pushed the pace early, but was unable to sustain it and wound up in 29th in 18:59. Closing in on him during the final sprint was teammate Evan Mark, who occupied the 31st-place slot in 19:02.

Max Harfst (19:39, 39th) and Kyle Porter (21:12, 59th) rounded out the WCHS varsity lineup.

Up next for the Lynx will be a trip to Swan Lake State Park in Carroll for Saturday’s Kuemper Catholic Invitational.