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PREP CROSS COUNTRY

Lions sweep team titles; Witt, Johnston claim individual wins

Clear Lake has experience on the boys side with its top-five runners are all upperclassman. Glance over to the girls and it has a bevy of underclassmen, led by two freshmen.

If Tuesday night was any indication, the Lions may have more than one meet to smile about afterwards.

Led by four runners in the top-20, Clear Lake's boys squad edged New Hampton 75-77 to triumph in the team race at the Newman Catholic Invitational held at Newman Catholic High School.

"This is a great start," junior Leo Tolentino said. "All of the hard work is paying off right now."

Fueled by four in the top-15, the girls cruised to the team title with 54 points, 22 clear of the second place Knights.

"I actually didn't come into it with a good mindset," freshman Addison Doughan. "I have a feeling we're going to do really well."

Newman Catholic placed third on the boys side with 117 points, two clear of Forest City. Central Springs rounded out the top-5 with 168. For the girls, Garner-Hayfield-Ventura finished third with 104 followed by Iowa Falls-Alden (105) and Forest City (110).

Mitchell County had the two individual winners.

St. Ansgar senior Riley Witt led early in the 5,000-meter race and never gave it up, prevailing in 16 minutes, 35.3 seconds. He was 29 seconds clear of friend Bryce McDonough of Central Springs.

"I'm pretty happy with it," Witt said. "I looked at Google maps, there was maybe 25 feet of elevation change. I thought it was a fast course."

Osage junior Katelyn Johnston was the lone runner in the girls field to break 20 minutes, cruising to victory in 19:24. She also led for the majority of the race and after the opening mile, never let anyone get near her.

"I worked really hard to take that first spot," Johnston said. "This is a good place to start, but I want to keep working and getting better."

After getting four medals at the state track meet in the spring, Witt vowed to step up his sleeping habits and nutrition to become what he aspires is an elite runner in Class 1A.

In his eyes, those two aspects have started off well.

"I'm a little more in tuned with my body with what needs nutrition wise, sleep wise and recovery," Witt said. "Now I need to tune in the mental side and just grind out that second mile."

The senior's opening mile was five minutes flat. His second mile was considerably slower. While it is the first meet of the season, Witt called it a good starting point.

The defending Top of Iowa East Conference and 1A district champion is hopeful for a return trip to the state meet.

"I wanted to come out with a bang," Witt said. "I'm excited for what the season has to bring."

Johnston didn't medal in the Class 2A 1,500-meter run during track. That fueled her to increase her mileage in the offseason.

She was by herself for most of the race, something she got used to during the spring.

"I know there's still a lot of competition out there," Johnston said. "There's a lot of fast girls. I just wanted to get better and push a little harder."

Tolentino placed seventh in 18:24 and teammate Joe Faber was six second behind him. Jaden Wright was 17th and Andrew Mixdorf finished in 19th. With Vladimir Starrett crossing in 29th, all members of the Lions low-five ran under 20 minutes.

"The wind was perfect, time was not quite the best," Tolentino said.

Doughan and Reese Brownlee, the duo that went 1-2 at the middle school state cross country meet, slotted in fifth and eighth, respectively. Sophomores Emily McLaughlin (22:17), Anna Feuerbach (23:19) and Alexis Hauge (24:11) all placed inside the top-25.

For Clear Lake, it views Tuesday's performance as a sign of things to come over the next month.

"This is a preview," Tolentino said. "We keep building up the miles. Push ourselves the best we can."

Zach Martin is a sports reporter for the Globe Gazette. Reach him via email at zachary.martin@globegazette.com and follow him on Twitter @zach_martin95.

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