Licea’s best race of season gets her eighth at WM Invite

Jensen also in top 10, Hawk girls finish fourth

South Hamilton freshman Yolanda Licea leads a pack of runners, including teammate Abby Ervin, down a small incline at Tuesday’s West Marshall Invite in State Center. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

STATE CENTER — Yolanda Licea is still in the infancy of her cross country career and, race by race, she’s learning the tricks of the trade.

It all came together for the South Hamilton freshman on the steep hills of Lincoln Valley Golf Course Tuesday evening, as she fought through the rough terrain and breezy conditions to turn in her finest performance of the season.

Licea pushed towards the front of the field as the large pack made its way up the first incline and she never fell off the pace on her way to an eighth-place finish in 23:25.90 at the West Marshall Invitational.

“Yolanda ran her best race of the year,” South Hamilton head coach Darrell Paulsen said. “She went out strong and she stayed strong.”

Licea was one of two Hawks in the top 10 — fellow freshman Marissa Jensen steadily pushed past runners as the 5-kilometer race unfolded and sprinted through the finish line in 10th in 24:04.43 — and the team placed fourth with 85 points.

Emily Willadsen competes for South Hamilton at Tuesday’s West Marshall Invite in State Center. She placed 24th to fill the No. 4 slot for the Hawks. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Unranked West Marshall and 10th-ranked (Class 1A) Baxter combined to own the top six individual performances and duked it out for the team title. Led by meet champion Avril Sinning (21:16.76), who is the 20th-ranked individual (2A), the host Trojans claimed the winner’s plaque with 36 points. The Bolts settled for second with 49 points, followed by Collins-Maxwell (78).

South Hamilton was without three of its veterans — Ella Carlson, Natalie Johnson and Hannah Burkhart.

“Our fourth, fifth and sixth runners are banged up right now, so we had to use some other runners, but that’s good to get them some experience,” Paulsen said. “Our top three, they’ve been there all year.”

The third member of the freshman trio, Abby Ervin, earned a 16th-place finish in 24:59.11. She stuck on Licea’s heels over the first mile, but was unable to maintain the pace over the final two miles.

Emily Willadsen stepped into the No. 4 spot for the Hawks and placed 24th in 27:21.89. Brookelyn George was the final scorer; she crossed in 30:46.06 to place 27th.

Brookelyn George (left) heads down the course during the opening mile of the girls’ 5K at Tuesday’s West Marshall Invite in State Center. George placed 27th for South Hamilton. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

South Hamilton will head to the Roland-Story Invitational at River Bend Golf Course in Story City this afternoon.

West Marshall Invite

Tuesday at Lincoln Valley GC

State Center

Team Standings

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

1. West Marshall 36; 2. Baxter 49; 3. Collins-Maxwell 78; 4. South Hamilton 85; 5. Colo-NESCO 103.

Individual Top 5

1. Avril Sinning (WM) 21:16.76; 2. Brenna Thomson (BAX) 21:31.11; 3. Grace Girard (WM) 22:06.43; 4. Ashlee Johnson (BAX) 22:17.31; 5. Reyna Jorgenson (WM) 22:52.49.

South Hamilton Results

8. Yolanda Licea 23:25.90; 10. Marissa Jensen 24:04.43; 16. Abby Ervin 24:59.11; 24. Emily Willadsen 27:21.89; 27. Brookelyn George 30:46.06; 30. Hayley Bell 31:48.33; 33. Katelyn Ralston 37:25.46.