A Silver Lining: No. 13 Hawk girls second, Lynx 7th at Ballard

HUXLEY – It’s like her body just knows when it has to function properly and when it can shut down.

For 2 miles Kayla Lucas grits her teeth and does her thing. But once that second foot is across the finish line the gas tank flashes red and announces it’s completely empty.

“I really am trying my hardest and it shows at the end,” Lucas, a South Hamilton junior, said after finishing fourth in the Class D field at yesterday’s super-sized Ballard Invitational at the Ballard Country Club. “I go out there and think I’m going to do everything I can and then when you’re done it’s almost like a reward because you know you can stop. It’s over.”

Lucas needed help to stay upright as she navigated her way through the finishing chute, but her time of 16 minutes, 28 seconds was one of the best performances of her career and it guided the 13th-ranked (Class 1A) Hawks to a runner-up result behind 14th-rated Lynnville Sully. South Hamilton finished with 47 points, four off the pace.

“That’s pretty good,” Lucas said. “We’ve had a great season so far.”

Webster City competed in Class A – the largest of the four classes – and put up 143 points to take seventh. But the team result meant little to head coach Tony Bussan, who gushed about his group afterwards.

“A year ago (2013 graduate) Morgan Moline was our top performer at this meet at 17:28. We had two girls beat that time (yesterday),” he said. “Last year we didn’t have a single girl other than Morgan below 18 (minutes), but we had four under 18 (yesterday). So I’m super excited.”

South Hamilton was looking for a third consecutive meet championship, but head coach Darrell Paulsen can live with silver after his top five runners all finished among the top 19.

“I thought the girls ran really well. I can’t take anything away from them,” he said. “We had a lot of times that were better than they were last year.”

No. 5 Earlham was the pre-race favorite, but opted to enter just four girls and therefore didn’t factor into the team battle.

After Eagle Grove’s Tiffany Christensen – the eventual winner – took off from the rest of the field, Lucas opted to stick with the rest of the front pack for much of the race. She fell back slightly over the final half-mile, but grimaced her way down the homestretch.

“I tried to hold myself a little bit back, but since the pace is so fast it’s hard to figure out how fast I need to go,” Lucas said. “I wasn’t even sure who was in our class, but knowing that some of the top runners are here makes it kind of easy to run with them.”

Megan Fisher (17:08) just missed a top-10 place; she crossed in 11th. The surprise was rookie runner MaKayla Monthei (17:14), who chugged home in 13th. The senior spent her first three prep seasons playing volleyball.

“It’s just nice that she came out,” Paulsen said. “She’s a Monthei … they’re all strong mentally. She’s getting used to the 2 miles and we can only expect better things from her the rest of the season.”

Rachael Huegerich (17:42) and Kali Lucas (17:52) placed 17th and 19th, respectively.

Sophomore Ashley Flaws took back ownership of the lead for WCHS. She led the team in its opening meet of the season, but fell back at last week’s Go-Hawk Invite in Waverly.

Flaws was out front for the team throughout the race and finished 20th in 17:13. Just six seconds back in 23rd was classmate Courtney Biere (17:19).

Fellow sophomores Allie Flaws (17:36) and Cassidy Bultena (17:57) closed strong to place 27th and 35th, respectively.

“We’re kind of a team of interchangeable parts,” Bussan said. “(Last night) it was the sophomores that set the standard.

“I thought Ashley Flaws ran an exceptional race.”

Senior Morgan Shannon (18:55) finished 49th in the field of 66 to close out the Lynx scoring.

Sixth-ranked (3A) Pella cruised to team gold in Class A with 37 points, 40 ahead of No. 8 Dallas Center-Grimes (77).