MASON CITY — Even when it’s the top-ranked team in Class 2A, there are no days off for the Garner-Hayfield-Ventura boys cross country team. The Cardinals want to prove they are the best team on the course every time out.

Thursday in the Top of Iowa Conference meet on the NIACC campus, GHV was once again stellar as it had its five scoring runners place inside the top 16 overall – top 10 within the West Division – and Reece Smith ran away with the individual title. Osage won the East Division.

“We wanted to let everybody know the reason why we’re ranked No. 1 is because we’re good,” Smith said. “We just wanted to come in, dominate and show everybody who we are.”

Consider it mission accomplished on all fronts.

Smith blazed to the win in 15 minutes, 58.9 seconds to break the 16-minute mark for the first time this season.

Early in the race, Smith, along with North Union’s Riley Bauer, West Fork’s Jake Hansen and GHV teammate Logan Dalbeck, broke out into a group in front of the rest of the field. As the race wore on, it was only Smith left all by himself.

“I’m just trying to prepare myself for the state meet,” Smith said. “I want to definitely go out and attack that so that’s what I tried to do today. I just tried to run away with it and run a fast time, and I was happy with the way I finished.”

GHV, which finished with 24 points to win the West –points were broken down by where runners finished against other runners from the same division – received a third-place finish from Dalbeck (16:41.2), a sixth-place finish from Ray Cataldo (17:17.3), a 10th-place finish from Austin Siegrist (17:36.0) and a 16th-place finish from Derek Brown (18:09.6).

“We’ve got a whole bunch of good individuals,” Smith said. “We all push each other. Logan’s pushing me, I’m pushing them, Ray’s pushing Austin … we’re lucky we have a great group of guys to train with because we all make each other better.”

In the East, Osage won a tight race over Newman Catholic and West Fork. The Green Devils finished with 45 points, the Knights were second at 50 and West Fork came in third with 52.

“I knew it was going to be tight between Newman, West Fork and us and the guys just really stepped it up,” Osage coach Thomas Meier said. “We set a lot of (personal records) today, ran where we needed to and they just did what we needed to do.”

Ben Huftalin led the Green Devils with an eighth-place finish in 17:31, Garrett Maakestad was 17th in 18:14.7, Alex Swenson took 21st in 18:18.7, Nick Hoppel was 26th in 18:42 and Isaac Oberfoell rounded out the scoring in 41st in 19:06.4.

The Osage win gave the school a girls and boys sweep for conference titles.

“It’s great to, in only my second year of doing this, have a group of kids come along the way, step up and keep the tradition going for what has been done before me,” Meier said. “It’s been really great to do that and it’s been a step in the right direction for both programs.”

Hansen finished fourth (16:58) to lead the Warhawks while Max Mueller was the Knights’ top finisher in 12th place (17:38.1).

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