HAMPTON – With nothing left in the tank, it took Tyler Bultena more than a few minutes to catch his breath as he hung around the finish line at Maynes Grove Tuesday evening.

But that was a good thing. Why? Because it told Bultena that he had given his all. And, really, what more could he ask for?

“The best you’ve got, leave it all out there. That’s what we wanted to do,” Bultena, Webster City’s leader, said after his pulse had returned to normal. “You finish where you finish … we gave it our all, so we have to be happy.”

Yes, the Lynx certainly did.

Not content to settle for anything but the top of the perch, WCHS pushed the pace and refused to back down during the 5-kilometer North Central Conference meet on the scenic course. A third-place finish for the second straight year wasn’t what the Lynx had in mind, but knowing they had done all they could helped to ease the disappointment.

“They went out and hustled,” WCHS head coach Joe Lambert said of his athletes. “We ran well and it was close.”

No. 11-ranked (Class 3A) Humboldt utilized its depth to win its first league title since 1995; the Wildcats compiled 39 points. Eighth-ranked (2A) Clear Lake posted 59 points to eek out the narrow win for second over WCHS (61). Algona (102) was a distant fourth.

Clear Lake’s Eric Faught won the individual crown in 17 minutes, 17.97 seconds. He was the conference runner-up in 2015.

WCHS claimed three top-10 and all-conference honors for Bultena, Dawson Hjelmeland and John Piaszynski. The trio, along with teammate Trey Nelson, pushed the pace early and had the Lynx in title contention during the opening half of the race.

“We wanted to stay as a pack early and keep it going as long as we could,” Bultena, who placed seventh for the second straight year, said. “As the race went on we slowly broke apart, but it was one of our better races all year and we have to be happy with that.”

Bultena broke 18 minutes for the first time; he sprinted past the finish line in 17:59.55.

“We’ve been looking forward to this day for Tyler,” Lambert said.”He had a really nice race.”

Hjelmeland wasn’t too far behind, as he coasted to the line in 18:16.28 for ninth. Piaszynski (18:18.95) put on a furious finish to get on the left shoulder of Humboldt’s Denny Pederson, and the WCHS runner earned the final spot in the top 10 by just a few inches.

Evan Mark also ran the best race of his career for the Lynx; he turned in a time of 18:23.69 to place 13th. Nelson (18:52.04) came through in 22nd.

“It was just an outstanding race on Evan’s behalf,” Lambert said. “He really came through strong for us.”

Max Harfst (24th, 19:00.58) and Matt Johnson (26th, 19:02.01) also finished in the top half of the race.

Humboldt placed three runners inside the top 10, led by silver medalist Ryan Courtney (17:24.72). Clear Lake also received a bronze medal performance from Sam Pedelty (17:38.50).

WCHS will now turn its attention to next Thursday’s 3A State Qualifying Meet at Spencer Municipal Golf Course. Bultena is confident the crew will be able to build off Tuesday’s showing.

“This was a good starter for getting ready for (the state qualifier),” he said. “We should be ready to go.”