FORT DODGE - For the second year in a row, the North Polk girls’ cross country team came in eighth in Class 3A and Jacob Wilcox ended his career with a personal record for the Comet boys at the state cross country meet Saturday in Fort Dodge.
The North Polk girls scored 201 points to finish just two points behind Humboldt’s seventh place score in the final 3A standings. Last year, North Polk won a tiebreaker with Humboldt for eighth after scoring 212 points.
“I was initially disappointed in our team placement — we were ranked as high as third at one point in the season — and I really wanted to at least crack the top five this year at Fort Dodge,” North Polk head cross country coach Steve Leach said. “However, we were only two points behind Humboldt, and they went into the meet ranked third. We scored eleven fewer points than we did last year, so this is technically the best finish we have ever had for a North Polk girls’ team at state cross country.”
Three runners ran a personal-best time and a fourth came within four seconds of her best effort. North Polk also had one runner step up to score points filling in for Addie Cooper, who was unable to compete due to an injury.
Amelia Lesher put the finishing touches to a tremendous career with a 16th-place individual showing for the Comet girls.
Lesher ran the best 5-kilometer time of her career at 19 minutes, 27.2 seconds. Lesher achieved that fantastic time by doing what she has done all season — pushing herself to the absolute limit so that she was in complete exhaustion after crossing the finish line.
“Amelia gave a great effort to nearly nab all-state honors,” Leach said. “She missed that recognition by less than two seconds. She struggled to sprint at the end of the race because her pace for the first mile (5:49) was so very fast.”
Lesher topped her 20th-place performance at last year’s state meet by over 21 seconds.
“I am so proud of the way she developed over the course of the last two years, following the health difficulties she experienced during the last two races of her sophomore season,” Leach said. “She was a great front runner for our team.”
Emily Patterson and Sophie Blanchard were the next two Comet runners to complete the course. Patterson came in 45th and Blanchard 53rd and they gave Lesher credit for pushing them to perform well on the big stage.
“We’re just so thankful to have a teammate as good as her,” Blanchard said. “She’s helped us be who we are.”
Patterson ran a strong time of 20:03.6 on Saturday. Her time beat the 20:12.9 she ran at state in 2015 and easily topped last year’s 21:16.8 performance at state when she was battling injuries.
“It felt good,” Patterson said. “It was fast and the weather was actually perfect for us — our team does much better in the cold.”
Blanchard just missed her personal record on Saturday after running a 20:13.9.
“It was a good race,” Blanchard said. “I’m just thankful to have such a great team that’s come (here) four years. It’s just been a great experience.”
Kennedy Wendel was the third Comet to run a personal record Saturday. Wendel placed 78th in 20:46.7.
Sophie Schaffer was the Comet runner to step in for Cooper. She responded by scoring points for her team by coming in 105th with a time of 21:14.6 in her second state meet.
Abi Zimmer ran a 21:37.2 to finish 118th in her first state experience for North Polk. Jessica Weis came in 122nd with a time of 21:45.2.
Dubuque Wahlert was the 3A girls’ team champion Saturday with 72 points. Pella took second with 104, defending champion Decorah came in third with a score of 150 and Dallas Center-Grimes scored 157 points to place fourth.
Center Point-Urbana sophomore Adrianna Katcher repeated as the 3A girls’ individual champion with a time of 18:23.5. Grinnell’s Mary Blanchard came in second with an 18:35.7 showing and Wahlert’s Gabby Moran placed third in 18:44.7.
Wilcox was the lone state participant in the 3A boys’ race for North Polk. He made it count — getting a 5-kilometer time under 17 minutes for the first time in his career.
“I felt I wasn’t running my best during the race, probably because it was very cold so I was very frozen. But I’m very happy with how I performed.”
Wilcox finished the course in 16:50.6 to place 28th. Last year at state, he came in 58th at 17:22.3.
“He stuck with his strategy, and he built on his pace throughout the competition,” Leach said. “His yearly improvement (18:58-freshman; 17:30-sophomore; 17:05-junior; 16:50-senior) is exactly the result I am striving for with my male athletes.”
Wilcox said running with Bondurant-Farrar’s Drake VanBaale helped push him on Saturday. VanBaale came in 53rd in 17:07.4.
“I got my rival that I was really close with,” Wilcox said. “He did an amazing job, but I got him.”
Center Point-Urbana also crowned the individual boys’ champion in 3A with Myles Bach winning in 15:49.1. Marion’s Jeremy Fopma came in second at 15:54.8 and Decorah’s Andrew Kephart took third in 16:04.5.
Gilbert won the 3A boys’ team championship with 75 points. DCG took second with a score of 113 and Decorah placed third with 115 points.
Final Class 3A girls team scores: 1. Dubuque Wahlert 72 points, 2. Pella 104, 3. Decorah 150, 4. DCG 157, 5. Charles City 177, 6. Bishop Heelan Catholic 184, 7. Humboldt 199, 8. North Polk 201, 9. Anamosa 207, 10. Ballard 227, 11. Benton Community 240, 12. Grinnell 258, 13. Denison-Schleswig 280, 14. Glenwood 294, 15. Spencer 324.
Individual results (5-kilometer) - North Polk: 16. Amelia Lesher, 19:27.2; 45. Emily Patterson, 20:03.6; 53. Sophie Blanchard, 20:13.9; 78. Kennedy Wendel, 20:46.7; 105. Sophie Schaffer, 21:14.6; 118. Abi Zimmer, 21:37.2; 122. Jessica Weis, 21:45.2.
Individual 3A boys results (5-kilometer) - North Polk: 28. Jacob Wilcox, 16:50.6.