AMES – The North Polk boys’ cross country team came up a little short for the second-straight time in its ongoing battle with Gilbert Monday at the Heart of Iowa Conference meet in Ames.

Competing on a cool and windy day at the Iowa State cross country course, North Polk and Gilbert dominated the field as two of the top-three Class 2A boys’ cross country programs, according to the Iowa Association of Track Coaches. No. 3 Gilbert had a little better balance in the end to score 35 points and edge the 53 points put up by the No. 2 Comets.

"We probably didn’t quite come out and execute the way we wanted to do," North Polk senior Ryley Sandberg said. "We knew that winning the conference title was going to be a pretty tall task for us. We just didn’t quite come away with it today, but I thought we competed really well in the tough conditions."

Running on a mostly wide-open course, North Polk produced three top-seven times and four in the top 13. But Gilbert had the top two individual performances, plus two more in the top eight, and the Tigers’ fifth runner took 19th, which was eight spots higher than the Comets’ No. 5 runner.

Peter Smith has led North Polk individually all season and he continued to do so Monday by placing third with a 5-kilometer time of 16 minutes, 59.01 seconds. Sandberg ran a strong 17:29.62 to place fourth overall, Reed Smith was seventh in 18:07.49, Christian Berglund took 13th with an 18:35.54 showing and Corey Richards was the final runner to pick up points for North Polk with a 27th-place time of 19:33.54.

Peter, Sandberg and Reed were given all-conference recognition for placing in the top 12. Gilbert’s Thomas Pollard and Wesley Greder turned in the top two individual times in the boys’ race after clocking in at 15:52.13 and 16:37.82 respectively.

North Polk and Gilbert will likely have one final head-to-head competition as the Comets and Tigers are both heavily favored to qualify for state as a team.

"Because there are a lot more guys in the race to separate runners at state ,it could maybe skew the scores a little bit more toward us," Sandberg said. "We’ll just keep competing and see what happens. Our top four is better than it’s ever been since I’ve been here. The one thing we’ve been lacking all year is that fifth guy to move up just a little bit more. If we could just get that, we’d have a lot of success at state."

Collins-Maxwell-Baxter placed fifth out of nine scored teams in the boys’ competition with 145 points. The Raiders just edged past Roland-Story’s sixth-place score of 149.

Colin Thompson and Mark Deutsch both made all-conference for the CMB boys.

Thompson continued his breakout junior year with a ninth-place time of 18:14.10. Deutsch regained his top form after battling an illness the past couple weeks by placing 10th at the conference meet with a time of 18:28.09.

"The wind kind of threw a wrench in there, but I felt pretty good tonight," Deutsch said. "I’m pretty happy with the time and I’m happy I made all-conference."

Having Thompson there to push him made a big difference in Deutsch’s ability to recover from his health issues by the conference race.

"It’s real nice to be able to train with someone," Deutsch said. "Last year I always trained with Leo (state qualifier Aaron Ward) when he was there pushing me. I was worried I wouldn’t have anyone to train with this year, but Colin has really stepped up and we push each other back and forth all the time."

Calvin Jones ran a 40th-place time of 20:12.42 as the third runner for CMB. Brock Johnston was 60th in 20:48.93 and Eric Hall-Flooden came in 62nd at 20:52.55.

In the girls’ competition, North Polk placed fifth and CMB came in eighth out of 10 teams. The Comets scored 120 points to finish just 11 points behind South Hamilton’s runner-up score of 109 and the Raiders ended up with 186 points.

It has been a challenging year for the North Polk girls as they haven’t been able to match the pace of last year’s state-qualifying squad. But with head coach Steve Leach constantly offering encouragement the Comet girls are still hopeful of peaking at a high enough level at the state qualifying meet next week to make it back to state.

"All the girls have been working hard in practice," North Polk senior Samantha Sinclair said. "We’re doing a great job of just sticking in there."

Sinclair is one of two Comet runners to earn all-HOIC recognition at the conference meet. She had one of her best meets of the season, running a 4-kilometer time of 16:50.25 to place 11th.

"It was a little bit cooler and there was a little wind, but for me it really was a lot of adrenaline and wanting my team to do well," Sinclair said. "And I love this course – it’s my favorite course."

Sears has led the Comet girls all season and she finished in the top 10 Monday with an eighth-place showing of 16:33.68.

Rachel Zimmerman took 25th at 17:27.37 as the third Comet runner. Emerson Sears ran a 17:44.35 to place 31st and Ohara Lesher finished 45th in 18:38.84 as the other scored runners for North Polk.

CMB only had one runner place in the top 35 individually.

"Our girls haven’t been running very good lately," CMB head coach Jerry Meinerts said. "I think our legs are just a little tired right now and we need to get that fixed before our state qualifying meet coming up next week. We really need to step up and start believing that we can run faster."

Freshman Heather Jessen took 21st Monday with a time of 17:25.28 as the top CMB runner. She did this despite a nagging problem that stuck with her most of the race.

"I really didn’t have a good strategy because I was losing my shoe the whole race," Jessen said. "I got about a half mile and my shoes came untied."

Jessen has stepped up to become the top runner for CMB the second half of the season. She’ll get a chance to run the ISU course again on Oct. 25 as that is the Raiders’ state qualifying meet destination.

"I feel like I’ve done better and better each meet," Jessen said. "The (state qualifying meet) will be ok as long as I don’t lose my shoe again."

Chasity Moody and Winter Brown were 37th and 38th respectively with times of 18:10.25 and 18:10.64 for CMB. Chantel Maxwell finished 44th in 18:28.57 and Mackenzie Klemme was 46th in 18:41.98 as the other runners to pick up points for CMB.

Gilbert, the No. 5 team in 2A, blew away the girls’ field at the HOIC meet. The Tigers had four of the top-five individual times in scoring 24 points to finish well ahead of South Hamilton’s runner-up score of 109.

Gilbert runner Grace Gibbons – the No. 1 individual runner in 2A – easily outpaced the rest of the field individually. Gibbons’ winning time of 14:17.95 was over 1:30 faster than the second-place effort of 15:41.99 run by fellow Tiger Carly Rahn.

Final team scores

Girls: 1. Gilbert 24 points, 2. South Hamilton 109, 3. Greene County 111, 4. Nevada 116, 5. North Polk 120, 6. Roland-Story 151, 7. Colfax-Mingo, 185, 8. CMB 186, 9. PCM 209, 10. Saydel 220.

Boys: 1. Gilbert 35, 2. North Polk 53, 3. Nevada 87, 4. Saydel 89, 5. CMB 145, 6. Roland-Story 149, 7. South Hamilton 197, 8. Greene County 200, 9. Colfax-Mingo 275.

Individual results – CMB and North Polk

Girls (4-kilometer): 8. Sybbie Sears (NP), 16:33.68; 11. Samantha Sinclair (NP), 16:50.25; 21. Heather Jessen (CMB), 17:25.28; 25. Rachel Zimmerman (NP), 17:27.37; 31. Emerson Sears (NP), 17:44.35; 37. Chasity Moody (CMB), 18:10.25; 38. Winter Brown (CMB), 18:10.64; 44. Chantel Maxwell (CMB), 18:28.57; 45. Ohara Lesher (NP), 18:38.84; 46. Mackenzie Klemme (CMB), 18:41.98; 49. Vanessa Erickson (NP), 18:47.26; 51. Anna Jones (CMB), 18:54.61; 52. Tessa Subra (NP), 19:02.15; 64. Jacquelyn Staudt (CMB), 19:37.68.

Boys (5-kilometer): 3. Peter Smith (NP), 16:59.01; 4. Ryley Sandberg (NP), 17:29.62; 7. Reed Smith (NP), 18:07.49; 9. Colin Thompson (CMB), 18:14.10; 10. Mark Deutsch (CMB), 18:28.09; 13. Christian Berglund (NP), 18:35.54; 27. Corey Richards (NP), 19:33.54; 28. Matthew Turk (NP), 19:36.23; 30. Michael Rimathe (NP), 19:42.22; 40. Calvin Jones (CMB), 20:12.42; 60. Brock Johnston (CMB), 20:48.93; 62. Eric Hall-Flooden, 20:52.55; 68. Lincoln Brown (CMB), 21:14.43; 77. Drake Caple (CMB), 21:31.04.