At the Top of Iowa East Championships in Osage on Thursday, the seemingly inevitable happened when St. Ansgar junior Riley Witt won the individual conference title.
Witt won the race with a time of 17:15.73, 33 seconds ahead of the next closest finisher, Bryce McDonough of Central Springs.
The victory was Witt's fifth consecutive win, and his sixth in his seven races this season.
Throughout this season, Witt's name has been consistently atop the results page, with McDonough finishing runner-up in several of those races.
While the two are both extremely competitive, they have a friendly relationship, in addition to a rivalry on the course.
"We've been racing since middle school, and I love the kid," Witt said. "He's a great guy, and a great runner. I love him. It's a friendly rivalry, for sure."
McDonough has not beaten Witt yet this season, but has no bitterness toward his running rival. The No. 24 ranked runner in Class 1A has nothing but admiration for his longtime friend.
McDonough finished second overall at the TIC East meet, with a time of 17:48.40, and after the race, Riley and Bryce, along with Bryce's twin brother Clayton, could be seen talking and laughing with each other, as all three clinched a spot on the Top of Iowa East All-Conference First Team.
Clayton finished sixth overall, with a time of 18:24.25.
"We met at a NIACC running camp, and we've been friends since then," McDonough said. "We developed a bond. I think its always fun competing against him. Win or lose, we're always still friends. We're never going to hate each other for losing to each other."
After missing out on a spot at state by two spots his freshman year, Witt broke out as one of the top young runners in Iowa as a sophomore, by winning the Top of Iowa East conference championship, and earning a spot in Fort Dodge.
But Witt ended up disappointed with his finish at the state meet, after placing 27th overall with a time of 17:14.9.
Witt is currently the state's No. 7 ranked Class 1A runner, and is confident that his experience at the state meet last year will serve him well over the next couple of weeks.
"The first time jitters and nerves really got to me, and got the best of me," Witt said. "This time, I'm going in a little bit more confident and ready to show up."
St. Ansgar head coach Colin Zidlicky said that he sees a lot more confidence from Witt.
"More than anything, it is the confidence of where he is actually at, state-ranking wise," Zidlicky said. "Last year, we kind of doubted in our abilities of how strong we actually were. This year, we're realizing, 'I'm a lot stronger than I even thought.' Now it's time to surpass the expectations."
This year, Witt has his sights set much higher than 27th place.
"I think top 10 would be really cool," Witt said. "Top 10 this year would be something to look forward to."
Shane Lantz covers sports for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Shane.Lantz@GlobeGazette.com, or by phone at 641-421-0526. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneMLantz.
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