Austin leader of SH girls’ pack, team eighth at HOIC

DES MOINES – The girls’ final leaderboard probably left some fans rubbing their eyes in bewilderment here following Monday’s Heart of Iowa Conference meet.

Second-ranked (Class 3A) Gilbert was the favorite before the race began, but it was unranked North Polk that stole the show and went home with the trophy.

Behind four top-10 performances, the Comets tallied 36 points to vault ahead of Gilbert, which settled for second with 45 points. Fifth-ranked Collins-Maxwell-Baxter (46) was in the hunt as well, but wound up in third.

South Hamilton was eighth in the field of nine teams with 255 points.

Gilbert’s Carly Rahn defended her individual title on the difficult course at Saydel High School, as she cruised to the finish line in 19 minutes, 58 seconds. North Polk’s Amelia Lesher secured the runner-up slot in 20:12, followed by CMB’s Brenna Thompson (20:27).

South Hamilton’s pack was well back in the field, but head coach Darrell Paulsen was encouraged by the fact that his top four runners were separated by just 44 seconds.

“I thought the girls ran really well and I didn’t hear one complaint from the girls about the course,” he said. “I was happy.”

As she has done all season, Katie Austin took the team lead for the Hawks and placed 58th in 25:06. Natalie Johnson (25:46), Annie Johnson (25:47) and Ella Carlson (25:50) all finished within steps of one another in 69th-, 71st- and 72nd-place. Emily Willadson (28:03) was the final scorer in 94th.

Katie Ralston (33:00, 117th), Lydia Spicer (33:01, 118th) and Hannah Burkhart (39:51, 124th) also competed in the monstrous field that included both the varsity and junior varsity runners.

South Hamilton will head to Atlantic for a 2A State Qualifying Meet next Thursday. Racing is scheduled to get underway at 3 p.m.