FORT DODGE – A top-six finish at the state cross country meet would be a thrill for most teams.
But the runners from a powerful North Polk boys’ squad felt they left a lot on the course Saturday at the Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge.
North Polk scored 182 points to take sixth in Class 2A boys’ standings. The Comets were just 13th points behind Shenandoah for fifth place.
But after taking second at state last year, and finishing the regular season ranked No. 3, North Polk Polk’s veteran squad wasn’t satisfied with Saturday’s performance.
Last year North Polk had four runners place in the top 50 and three run 5-kilometer times under 17 minutes. On Saturday, only two Comets finished in the top 50 and just one clocked in under 17 minutes.
"I think for everybody it was just hideously disappointing," North Polk’s Ryley Sandberg said. "I don’t know what happened."
Sandberg, one of four seniors among North Polk’s five scored runners at state, ran the fastest time on the team. He clocked in at 16 minutes, 55.7 seconds – three seconds better than his time last year in Fort Dodge – to finish right at 20th.
Sophomore Christian Berglund stepped up as the No. 2 runner for North Polk at state. Berglund ran a steady time of 17:17.1 to place 35th.
One of the reason’s North Polk wasn’t able to hit its stride was an illness that hampered lead runner Peter Smith. Smith placed 11th at state last year, but after trying to come back from a sinus infection he was not up to par Saturday, finishing 54th in 17:33.6.
Reed Smith was the fourth Comet to cross the finish line at state. The four-time individual state qualifier ran a 17:55.3 to place 74th. Matthew Turk came in 81st with an 18:09.3 showing as the last runner to pick up points for North Polk.
Corey Richards took 84th in 18:13 and Nick Kibby was 96th in 18:30.3 as the other Comet varsity competitors.
Even though Sandberg wasn’t satisfied with the Comets’ results at state, he was still happy with the season. North Polk won several meets, including the state qualifying meet in Panora, and the Comets took second to 2A state runner-up Gilbert at the Heart of Iowa Conference meet, along with placing in the top six at state for the third-straight year.
"To come back after losing so many guys off last year’s team, it was a great year for us," Sandberg said. "We still accomplished almost all of our goals. We’re still happy and we ran as hard as we could today; it just didn’t work out."
Collins-Maxwell-Baxter had one runner compete at state for the second year in a row. Junior Mark Deutsch followed Aaron Ward’s 46th-place finish last year for the Raiders with an 85th-place time of 18:14.2 Saturday in his first state meet.
"It’s two sides full of people screaming as hard as they can at you and that’s something I’ve never dealt with at regular season meets," Deutsch said. "It was crazy. It was a great experience and I’m glad I got to run here."
Monticello easily won the boys’ 2A team title with 63 points. The Panthers had four runners place in the top 16, including individual champion Michael Melchert, who won in 15:18.2.
Gilbert’s Thomas Pollard was close behind Melchert in second with a time of 15:20.2 and the Tigers’ Wesley Greder was third after finishing in 15:57.7. Gilbert was a distant second to Monticello in the team standings with 115 points.
On the girls’ side North Polk came in 12th with 281 points. The Comet girls had battled adversity all season, but they came through with their best effort at the right time during the state qualifying meet to make it back to state for the seventh-straight year.
"We’re just thankful to be able to come here as many years as we have," North Polk girls’ runner Sybbie Sears said. "We just gave it all for one last race."
The North Polk girls tried to start slow and gradually build to peak form this season. It was a frustrating experience at times, but Sears credit’s head coach Steve Leach for pushing the team through to another state appearance.
"We have a great coach who encourages us every step of the way," Sears said. "Even when we don’t have positive mindsets and have a rough day or rough week of practice he just helps us through anything."
"I’m so thankful for my team and coach," added senior Samantha Sinclair. "It’s been a great four years."
Sears – a sixth-place individual finisher last year – was the top runner again for the Comet girls Saturday. She ran a 50th-place 4-kilometer time of 16:26.8.
Sinclair was second for the Comets Saturday with a 64th-place overall time of 16:52.0. Emerson Sears took 76th in 17:08.1, Rachel Zimmerman was 85th in 17:19.0 and Ohara Lesher took 92nd in 17:35.6 as the other scored Comet runners.
Vanessa Erickson (118th place) and Tessa Subra (119th) also competed at state for North Polk.
Gilbert won the girls’ team championship with 59 points. Unity Christian was second with 76 points and Cascade’s 95-point effort was good for third.
Gilbert junior Grace Gibbons blew away the rest of the field with a 14:28.1 showing to win the 2A girls’ individual title. Cascade’s Becca McDermott took second in 15:01.4.
Class 2A team scores
Girls: 1. Gilbert 59 points, 2. Unity Christian 76, 3. Cascade 95, 4. Western Christian 124, 5. Iowa City Regina 172, 6. Monticello 181, 7. South Central Calhoun 188, 8. North Fayette Valley 208, 9. Greene County 238, 10. Davis County 241, 11. East Marshall 242, 12. North Polk 281, 13. Roland-Story 301, 14. Panorama 303, 15. Northeast Goose Lake 321.
Boys: 1. Monticello 63, 2. Gilbert 115, 3. Unity Christian 138, 4. East Marshall 158, 5. Shenandoah 169, 6. North Polk 182, 7. Mid-Prairie 212, 8. Northeast Goose Lake 215, 9. OA/BCIG 220, 10. Osage 225, 11. Albia 230, 12. Tipton 246, 13. Fort Dodge St. Edmond 263, 14. South Central Calhoun 264, 15. Hudson 325.
Individual results – CMB and North Polk
Girls (4-kilometer): 50. Sybbie Sears (NP), 16:26.8; 64. Samantha Sinclair (NP), 16:52.0; 76. Emerson Sears (NP), 17:08.1; 85. Rachel Zimmerman (NP), 17:19.0; 92. Ohara Lesher (NP), 17:35.6; 118. Vanessa Erickson (NP), 19:18.6; 119. Tessa Subra (NP), 19:55.4.
Boys (5-kilometer): 20. Ryley Sandberg (NP), 16:55.7; 35. Christian Berglund (NP), 17:17.1; 54. Peter Smith (NP), 17:33.6; 74. Reed Smith (NP), 17:55.3; 81. Matthew Turk (NP), 18:09.3; 84. Corey Richards (NP), 18:13.0; 85. Mark Deutsch (CMB), 18:14.2; 96. Nick Kibby (NP), 18:30.3.