Lynx, Hawks underdogs with nothing to lose

WEBSTER CITY – Impossible? No. Improbable? OK, maybe.

That’s the scenario that the Webster City and South Hamilton cross country programs face heading into today’s state qualifying meets, but neither is shying away from the underdog role.

In short, they’re ready to run.

“The goal is to run a great race, to be a great competitor and then you have to accept what that gets you,” WCHS head coach Tony Bussan said.

“Very honestly, I think we’ll run a lot better than we have at other meets,” South Hamilton head coach Darrell Paulsen said. “I guess we’ll find out (today) what our mental thinking is.”

Both schools will travel south – WCHS to the Perry Golf and Country Club, and South Hamilton to Panorama National Golf Course in Panora – to compete. The Lynx 3A qualifier will begin with the boys’ race at 4 p.m., while the Hawks’ 1A meet will get started with the girls’ trek at 4:30 p.m.

The 3A field is stacked with elite teams on both sides. No. 3-ranked Gilbert, No. 7 Algona and No. 8 Dallas Center-Grimes are the boys’ featured teams; No. 2 Gilbert, No. 11 Winterset, No. 12 Dallas Center-Grimes and No. 14 Humboldt anchor the girls.

The top three teams and top 10 individuals will all advance to next weekend’s state meet at Lakeside Golf Course, located on the outskirts of Fort Dodge.

The WCHS boys’ team holds maybe the greatest chance to punch a ticket to state. Bussan expects Gilbert and Algona to run away from the field, which is why he and his runners have set their sights on DC-G.

“It will take a race we haven’t run yet, but we think we’re close enough to have a shot at them if we run a great race,” Bussan said. “We’re going to race as a pack within our group and just ride them hard for the first 11?2 to two miles and then turn it into a one-mile showdown at the end, that’s the plan anyway. Maybe we can execute that and maybe we can’t, but if we do we’ve got a shot at it.”

Cole Zahn, Seth Crouthamel, Tyler Bultena, Connor Foster, Jacob Perin, Demar Lemus and Trey Nelson have run as a pack all season.

It will take an effort not seen yet this season for the WCHS girls’ team to advance, but Bussan hopes his runners – Courtney Biere, Haley Johnson, Larae Ebrecht, Ashley Flaws, Cassidy Bultena, Haley Flaws and Kenady Highland – will see the big picture.

“We’re trying to run a great race and we’re trying to run as a team,” Bussan said. “If it does end up being our final race of the year, you want to go out thinking you gave your best effort.”

The South Hamilton girls’ team has qualified for each of the past three state meets and seniors Kayla Lucas, Allyson Ervin and Kali Lucas don’t know what it’s like to finish a season anywhere else. Paulsen hopes that’s the boost of motivation they need to pull an upset against a field that features three ranked teams – No. 6 Panorama, No. 7 Griswold and No. 12 Underwood.

“I think they know they’re going to have to do really, really well to make it (to state), but they’ve been in this situation before,” Paulsen said. “And if we don’t (qualify), they’ve had three good years of making it to state.”

Griswold senior Rebekah Topham will have all eyes trained on her. She’s won the past three individual 1A state titles.

The boys’ field is anchored by three ranked squads – No. 3 Nodaway Valley, No. 8 Council Bluffs St. Albert and No. 10 Tri-Center.

Paulsen says his boys’ team is finally healthy, and he expects his three leaders – Drake Thompson, Devon Fisher and Jacob Ratzke – to run quality races.

South Hamilton has had either an individual girl or boy or team qualify for each of the past 20 state meets.