The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

High School Sports

November 4, 2013

Cross Country: Battle for top 10

FORT DODGE — Coming down the final straightaway hill toward the finish line, Northeast’s Eli Kaczinski felt a little help on his final push for a top-10 finish Saturday at the Iowa Class 2A boys cross country state meet.

“Right there in that moment I was kind of thinking about who I’m running for; I’m running for Jesus, and I think that’s what helped me,” he said. “I knew how bad I wanted it, too, and I think he just carried me through the last part of it.”

After passing Albia’s Colton Dorpinghaus, Kaczinski won a foot race to the finish against Haile Duden of Sioux Center and captured ninth place in the 5,000-meter race, his best finish in four trips to the state course at Kennedy Park.

Led by Kaczinski, the Rebels placed eighth in the team race with 215 points.

Kaczinski maintained a spot around the 10th-place mark the entire race. He said he went out faster than he wanted to — in part not to get boxed in behind traffic with 128 runners in the field — then found a pace he liked.

“There’s going to be all sorts of people who are going out really fast, so you need to make sure you know your competition and know who’s going to be able to maintain that fast speed throughout the race,” he said. “Probably at the one-mile mark, that’s where everyone starts getting in their place, and after that it’s kind of every man for themselves. After the one-mile mark, I think that’s where people really start to settle in.

“I wanted to hang on with the lead pack as long as possible, but once the race actually started, then I just knew I needed to stay as close to them and maintain as much contact as I can with them.”

He did change things up toward the latter portion of the race.

“The previous years on that hill over there after the two-mile mark, I’d kind of just go my same pace up it, but I made sure this time I picked up the pace and worked it a little better, and I think that was the only part I really changed about the race,” Kaczinski said.

His time changed, too. He ran the course in 16 minutes, 25.8 seconds, more than 23 seconds faster than his time a year ago. He improved his time each year.

Fellow senior Nick Anderson was the next Rebel across the finish line, taking 49th in 17:28.4.

Michael Melchert of team champion Monticello was the individual champion in 15:18.2, while Gilbert’s Thomas Pollard finished second for the second year in a row (15:20.2).

Kaczinski was one of four area runners to record a top-15 finish in the boys races. Bellevue’s Andrew Meyer had the best showing (fourth in Class 1A), while Kyle Marti of Central DeWitt placed 11th in 3A and Lucas Schmidt of Marquette Catholic came in 14th in 1A.

Marti covered the course in 16:31.0.

“I tried going a faster first mile, then a slower second and then I tried to pick it back up on the last mile,” Marti, a senior, said of his strategy. The fast start was partly out of necessity.

“There are so many guys, I didn’t want to get stuck behind some people that are slower the I am, so I tried to stay on the outside and get out fast,” he said. “Usually (the opening sprint) is only the first 50 meters, but (here) it’s 100.”

For a guy who often misses practices and some meets because of his work, though, there was little about which to complain.

“I miss a lot of practice,” said Marti, who works at Jorgie’s Bar and Grill in DeWitt as a cook. “I’ve got to work harder than everyone else each practice I go to because I’ve got to make up for the one I didn’t go to the last time.”

Meyer, a sophomore, jumped five spots, from ninth as a freshman to fourth this year. While he was happy with his placing, his time (16:43.5, 1.5 seconds faster than a year ago) was a bit disappointing.

“I thought I could do a lot better than that,” he said. “I was hoping to go under 16 today.”

Meyer was up toward the front for the whole meet and even led for a brief time.

“I wanted to really push myself,” he said. “I kept trying to get spurts throughout the race. I thought I did a pretty good job with that. There were a lot of good runners in this meet today.”

He said the 10 mph wind from the north might have factored in to making his time slower than he hoped.

“I tried to hide behind and draft a bit,” he said. “It definitely affected things a bit.”

Meyer credited his offseason training for allowing him to move up so much.

“My training was a lot harder this year,” he said. “I knew what to expect, kind of. I knew it would be a fast start and a fast finish, and I improved that a lot over the summer.”

Before he had even finished the race, he was thinking about the future.

“I have a lot more to do in the next years to improve,” said Meyer, who said winning the individual title was a realistic goal. “The first thing when I crossed the finish line, that’s what I thought about, ‘What can I do to improve myself?’ Obviously, coach and I will work on that. I have a lot to improve on for track, too. Hopefully, I’ll get a good winter in.”

Meyer led the Comets to a fifth-place finish in the team race with 170 points.

Schmidt, a junior, finished 14th in 17:04.4.

Only 10.5 seconds separated the second-place finisher from the fifth-place finisher. Meanwhile, senior Kyle Kehoe won the individual crown in 16:17.4 and led Denver to the team title with 89 points.

Boone teammates Chandler Austin (15:05.6) and Albert Meier (15:53.5) ran 1-2 for the second year in a row in Class 3A and led the Toreadors to the team title. Senior Josh Evans of Marion Linn-Mar won the 4A individual crown in 15:19.4, but Cedar Rapids Prairie put four runners in the top 11 to come away with the team title.

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