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VENTURA — After its strong finish at the state meet last year in Class 2A, the Clear Lake boys cross country team had big plans in the class this year. But that changed when the Lions were bumped up to 3A.

Their goals changed a bit, but the Lions still want to remind teams they can be a force no matter the class. On Thursday in its home meet at the Baptist camp outside of Ventura, Clear Lake continued its strong start to the season by winning its fourth-straight team title.

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Clear Lake junior Eric Faught runs in the Clear Lake Varsity Invitational Thursday at the Iowa Regular Baptist Camp in Ventura.

“We always had a lot of talk and we kind of got down when we moved to 3A because we were going to hopefully going to win 2A,” Clear Lake junior Eric Faught said. “That was our main goal from last year, but since we got moved up we had to switch it a bit to make a statement for 3A and show we’re still in there. We wanted to prove a point right out of the gate.”

On a hot day in Iowa and on a tough, hilly course, the Lions were able to survive.

The chase for first individually was one Clear Lake's Sam Pedelty was in during the first portion of the race, but Garner-Hayfield-Ventura’s Reece Smith was too strong once again as he ran to first in 16:49.

His teammate Ray Cataldo put forth a nice showing as well as he came in second in 17:21.

“It feels really good to just be second behind Reece,” Cataldo said. “We’ve been working hard all summer, and to show up and this meet close to home and have a good one, it’s an amazing feeling.

"It’s awesome having someone who can push you every practice. Not many guys get that opportunity so I feel blessed every day running with him."

Pedelty wound up settling for third in 17:34, but it set the stage for the Lions to take the team title.

Faught added an eighth-place showing in 18:10, and then it was the depth of the Lions that shined through.

Dylan Schuchard finished 11th (18:40), Ike Branstad was 13th (18:43) and Justin Wright took 16th (18:51) to round out the scoring. The Lions won with 51 points and Humboldt was second with 64.

“We were definitely charging to stay ahead of Humboldt because they’re our rivals and they’re who we need to stay ahead of in 3A,” Faught said. “And we wanted to win to make our streak go to 4-0.”

GHV took fourth with 83 and Newman, led by Isaac Fettkether’s 15th-place finish in 18:49, was fifth with 107. Jacob McBride also finished inside the Top 20 for the Knights in 17th (19:06).

“They’re running well and they’ve worked hard,” Newman coach Mike Schutt said. “We’ve seen that coming for a few years with that group of juniors since junior high and they just keep getting better each year. Now they’re at the point where they’re the definitive team around here in 1A so hopefully they can keep that going.”

In the girls’ race, Humboldt showed off its deep and talented team as it ran away with the team title with 20 points.

Newman Catholic put forth a nice day of its own as it came in second behind Humboldt with 95 points.

Grace Henrich was the Knights’ top finisher as she took ninth in 22:51. The Knights’ packed everyone else together well enough to score low.

Chloe Nelson was 19th (23:58), Josie Fritz was 20th (24:00), Lilly Stockberger took 21st (24:07) and Zoey Thompson was 26th (24:26).

“The middle of the pack girls – No. 3, 4, 5 and 6 girls – all kind of ran together and ran fairly close to our No. 2, which we have to do,” Schutt said. “Eagle Grove beat us the first meet of the year by two points and we got them back tonight. That’s somebody we may see in October when we have to win so that’s somebody we want to be able to run against.”

Humboldt’s Bryce Gidel was the individual champion in 20:27, and Garner-Hayfield-Ventura freshman Abby Christians fought through the heat to secure third place in 21:41.

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