Hawks just average in first run of season

AMES – The ISU course is a beast in pristine conditions. Throw in plenty of mud and it can be downright miserable.

Welcome to the cross country season.

South Hamilton got its first taste of competition in a large and loaded Class B field at yesterday’s Gilbert Early Bird and the early reports were mixed. The Hawks certainly have potential, but the first meet and course weren’t exactly kind.

“I don’t know if they were disappointed, but they were glad it’s over,” South Hamilton head coach Darrell Paulsen said of his 11th-ranked (Class 1A) girls’ squad that placed sixth in the pool of 11 with 138 points. “This is a tough course to race in the first meet and there were a lot of bigger schools here. We just need to make a lot of progress and get in better quality shape.”

The boys’ squad fell two rungs further down the ladder into eighth with 215 points.

“We’ve got seven boys out and we’re going to need to count on five of them, so we’ve got to make a lot of progress,” Paulsen said. “But I think eventually the boys are going to be good.”

No. 13-ranked (1A) Panorama took the girls’ team title with 52 points behind three runners in the top five. West Marshall was close behind in second with 61.

Earlham’s Kristen Weber out-kicked North Polk’s Amelia Lesher up the final incline to win the individual crown in 16:52.69.

South Hamilton senior Kayla Lucas put together a solid final mile – her energy exerted was evident when she collapsed into the arms of meet workers at the finish line – on the familiar terrain to finish 11th in 17:56.28. She trailed teammate Rachael Huegerich, a junior, for much of the race until the late push. Huegerich was right on her heels in 12th in 18:02.96.

“Kayla works hard and she’s a gamer, but I know running isn’t one of her favorite things to do,” Paulsen said. “(Lucas and Huegerich) have been our top two in practice and they’re just going to make everyone else better.”

Senior Allyson Ervin gave the Hawks a quality No. 3 with a 24th-place finish (18:58.03). Katie Austin (19:58.81) was 48th and Kali Lucas (20:04.66) was right behind in 49th.

Sophomore Devon Fisher (19:45.59) pulled away from classmate Drake Thompson (20:23.11) over the last third of the boys’ race to lead the Hawks in 14th place. Thompson placed 23rd.

Freshman Josiah Brown (20:56.41) put up a 34th-place result in his first varsity meet. Seniors Jacob Ratzke (22:14.82) and Sam Spicer (23:46.51) were 74th and 97th, respectively.

Unranked Eagle Grove owned the boys’ field. The Eagles tallied 59 points – a 43-point edge on runner-up and fourth-ranked (2A) Shenandoah-Essex.

Shenandoah-Essex senior Joe Blake was the individual winner in 17:57.71.