Biere leads in 17th; Slight, Humboldt own field

WEBSTER CITY – A little friendly competition inside the team huddle certainly helped Courtney Biere kick off her junior season on a positive note on a near-perfect day for running Tuesday afternoon at the Webster City Links.

Second on the same 4-kilometer course during Webster City’s final team trial last Thursday, the lanky veteran had her sights set on the leader of the purple and gold pack at the Lynx Invitational and she went out and made it happen.

Biere ran alongside teammates Larae Ebrecht, Haley Johnson and Ashley Flaws over the first half of the race, but then kicked it up a notch and took over on her way to a 17th-place finish in a time of 18:14.96 against a field of 78 other runners.

“The race was really good. The time trial got me motivated to run here and I was really ready mentally to get it done,” Biere said after helping WCHS jump up to fourth in the team standings with 113 points. “(The time) was good for the first meet. It’s not close to my (personal record), but I’ll get better each race.”

Eighth-ranked (Class 3A) Humboldt overwhelmed the rest of the field with three runners in the top 10 and five in the top 13 en route to 42 points – a 49-point advantage over runner-up and 2013 Lynx Invite champion Algona (91). So good were the Wildcats that adding all seven of their runners into the mix would’ve still been good enough to beat Algona’s top five by six points.

“Humboldt looked very dominant and very strong,” WCHS head coach Tony Bussan said. “I knew they were going to be good.”

Maddie Kampen chugged her way to a runner-up finish for Humboldt in 16:28.02. She was never able to pose a serious challenge to individual champion Dianna Slight of Boone, who was in front by the 400-meter mark and only increased her lead as the race went on. Slight, just a sophomore, cruised the final mile and won in 15:58.02.

No one else in the field broke 17 minutes.

WCHS never challenged near the front of the field, but its pack mentality paid dividends. The Lynx placed four in the top 24 and their Nos. 2-4 runners were separated by just 12 seconds.

“Overall, as a team, we had a huge improvement (over last year),” Bussan said. “We ran particularly well the last 800 to 1,000 meters of the race. I thought we really stepped it up and finished strong.”

Still, Bussan says he’ll have a challenge for his athletes as they look for continued improvement down the road.

“I still think we’re capable of a more aggressive race with our top four or five runners and that’s a confidence thing,” he said. “The opportunity is there to become a better team.”

Ebrecht, the Lynx leader at last week’s time trial, wound up in 20th in 18:43.24. Just two spots and seven seconds in back of her was Johnson (18:50.50), one of two freshmen in the lineup. Flaws settled for 25th in 18:55.49.

Cassidy Bultena, still looking to get back into form following an injury that stopped her training for three weeks over the summer, completed the team score with a 41st-place result in 20:00.87.

Sarah Paukert (52nd, 20:49.68) and rookie Haley Flaws (65th, 22:05.55) also competed for the Lynx.