HAMPTON — Clear Lake cross country coach Nick DiMarco was beaming with joy following Tuesday’s North Central Conference cross country meet at Maynes Grove.
The Lions secured second place in both varsity team races behind Humboldt as the girls had 69 points and the boys finished with 59 points – led by individual champion Eric Faught.
“I’m so proud of both teams,” DiMarco said. “The girls have been on a steady trajectory the second half of the season and they’re peaking at the right time. It was our goal to be in the top three, and to finish second, I’m ecstatic. I’m also so happy for the boys and it was great to see Eric go out and run his heart out.”
Faught, a sophompre, found the perfect time to win the first varsity race of his prep career, finishing in a time of 17 minutes, 17.97 seconds, nearly seven seconds ahead of Humboldt’s Ryan Courtney.
“To get my first win of my high school cross country career after coming up just short last year, it feels great,” Faught said. “I lost the race in the last 800 meters last year and I knew once I got the lead I had to keep going.”
Faught could hear members of the crowd telling him just how big of a lead he had, but he wanted to make sure as he looked back to see Courtney was well behind him.
“I really try not to look back but I did when I got by the bridge,” Faught said. “I thought I was far enough ahead but I don’t have as good of a kick as most runners so I just tried my best to finish strong.”
Sam Pedelty also had a strong finish for the Lions, finishing third in 17:38.50. Humboldt’s Ivan Rasmussen was fourth in 17:43.66 as the Wildcats won the team title with 39 points while Algona’s Trey Engen was fifth in 17:51.12.
Ike Branstad was 12th in 18:20.56, Grant Dieken was 15th in 18:27.53 and Jacob Peterson rounded out Clear Lake’s scoring with a 28th-place finish in 19:02.91.
“Grant, he competed so, so hard and he’s a big part of our success,” DiMarco said. “I also can’t say enough about Ike and Jacob. Ike loves the history of running and takes everything to heart and Jacob has been a great runner for our program.”
Pedelty was also proud of how his teammates ran in leading the Lions to second, two points ahead of Webster City.
“I’m more proud of how we ran as a team than I am about the way I ran individually,” Pedelty said. “We kind of knew that it was going to be the Humboldt and Webster City runners that we had to try sticking with and I’m really proud of how we pulled together to get the places we did.”
Meanwhile, the Clear Lake girls had five runners in the top 20 and all seven Lions finished in the top 33.
Gretchen Jones was the lone top-10 finisher, finishing eighth in 21:17.83 as Humboldt’s Bryce Gidel and Gabby Kent took home the top two spots for the Wildcats in times of 19:26.71 and 20:00.87.
“I expected to finish where I did,” Jones said. “I thought I maybe could’ve picked it up a little at the end but other than that I’m happy with where I finished. That was my goal. Our goal as a team was finishing in the top three and we knew we had to get ahead of some girls from the strong teams if we wanted to do it. We did it and it feels really awesome.”
DiMarco was proud of Jones and the rest of the Lions as well.
“Gretchen Jones has been our leader for three years but this year we’re seeing the other girls dropping time,” DiMarco said. “I’m so proud of all of those girls.”
Katelyn Moore was 11th in 21:54.76, Alena Gabrielson was 16th in 22:46.73, Tali Tesar was 19th in 23:12.63 and Riley Cooney was 20th in 23:13.16 for the Lions.
“I was really looking forward to this meet and I’m happy with where I was running throughout the race,” Moore said. “I thought we all ran great. All you can do is give it your best and I believe we did awesome. This meet definitely shows what we can do and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the team can do next week at districts.”
Hampton-Dumont’s Patty Teggatz, who finished fifth in 20:50.23, also feels she ran her best race as she was comfortable running behind Iowa Falls-Alden/AGWSR’s Bethany Lippert the entire time.
“I’m very happy with fifth place,” Teggatz said. “I stayed with the girls I knew I needed to stay with if I wanted to have this type of finish. I really had to push myself to stay with Bethany Lippert. I did that and it worked out in my favor.”