MASON CITY — The top-ranked runner in Class 2A has no plans of anyone beating him this season.

Garner-Hayfield-Ventura junior Reece Smith has tasted silver too many times for his liking, and this year he’s trying to get out of his second-place rut. That means he’ll be the guy everyone is chasing, and he’s OK with that.

“It’s definitely a lot of pressure,” Smith said. “You’ve got to live up to the hype, you’ve got to do all the small things right. I try to run all these races as hard as I can so people don’t try to come after me and they think ‘Oh, we can’t catch him.’”

Smith started his junior campaign Tuesday at the Newman Invitational on the Mercy West campus with a dominating performance that saw him win the individual title by more than 30 seconds.

Clear Lake, led by Sam Pedelty’s runner-up performance, wound up as the team champion and Newman Catholic finished second.

Smith, the top-ranked runner in Class 2A, bolted out to an early lead, a strong lead pack pushed him for a little bit, and then Smith pulled away over the final two miles to grab a win in his first outing. He completed the 5-kilometer course in 16 minutes, 5.7 seconds.

“I haven’t raced in a long time so it definitely takes a little bit of nerves, but you get your legs firing again,” Smith said. “I haven’t ran hard in a couple months so I’m definitely happy with how I finished.”

With Smith off on his own for most of the race, it was the chase pack where the real race was taking place.

Pedelty, Lake Mills’ Carson Rygh, GHV’s Ray Cataldo and Clear Lake’s Eric Faught battled back and forth through the first two-thirds of the race, until they all got a little separation heading to the finish.

Pedelty took second in 16:36.6, Rygh was third in 16:39.9, Cataldo took fourth in 16:45.4 and Faught was fifth in 17:20.8.

“The goal early is I’m trying to PR (personal record),” Pedelty said. “My (previous) PR was like 16:50 and I’ve already PR'd, so I’m just trying to get my time lower and be the best I can be.”

Rygh, a sophomore, was also impressed with the start to his sophomore campaign.

“I’m already faster in my first meet this year than my fastest last year,” he said. “It really puts me in a good mindset going into the rest of the season.”

For the Clear Lake team, it was another step toward reaching its third straight state meet.

In two meets so far this season, the Lions have won two team titles. On Tuesday, it was their team consistency that won it over.

After Pedelty and Faught, freshman Justin Wright was seventh (17:46.2), Ike Branstad was 10th (18:00.1), and Dylan Schuchard rounded out the scoring in 14th (18:17.8).

“I’ve liked how our top 3 to 4 guys have gotten out and been able to maintain a pace,” Clear Lake coach Nick DiMarco said. “They haven’t fallen back and had to make up time at the end. They put so much work in in the summer time that they’re just reaping the rewards. I’m super proud of the first two races.”

Stephen Ringo led Newman with a sixth-place finish in 17:42.6, Jacob McBride was 11th (18:12.4), Isaac Fettkether was 12th (18:13.8), Braden Petree was 17th (18:25.1) and Jacob Schutt was 20th (18:42.4).

“It’ll be a step up for us,” Newman coach Mike Schutt said. “The boys have been down over the years, so they’re taking steps, and beating Garner … there are so many good teams here, West Fork, Clear Lake … so if we get second place in this meet that’s huge for these guys.”

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