The most unfortunate position for an individual runner to be in during a state qualifying cross country meet is 11th. That is the first position on a list of many that fall short of a state berth.
Unfortunately for MHS sophomore Rachel Blagg, that is exactly where she finished Thursday during a Class 4A state qualifying meet at Marshalltown Community College. Finishing in 11th, Blagg crossed the line in 16 minutes, 2 seconds.
"I am disappointed obviously, but I pushed myself as hard as I could go," Blagg said. "There will always be what ifs, but this will just motivate me to be better next season."
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
MHS sophomore Rachel Blagg was one spot away from punching her ticket to state Thursday, finishing 11th in the Class 4A state-qualifying meet with a time of 16:02.
Blagg will have two more chances to advance to the state meet. And suffering through an appendectomy this season didn't help her cause.
"It is going to be tougher for her to take I am sure," MHS girls coach Doug Bacon said. "She competed well though. But it certainly should serve as a motivator for next season."
After Blagg came up just short in the girl's race, the Bobcat boys also fell short of a state berth. Their best finishers were seniors Daniel Talbert in 31st and Zach Wells in 33rd.
Team Standings - 1. Linn-Mar 25, 2. Cedar Falls 63, 3. Ankeny 84, 4. Southeast Polk 136, 5. Newton 144, 6. Waterloo West 151, 7. Marshalltown, 168, 8. Ottumwa 204, 9. Mason City 220.
Top 10 (state qualifiers) - 1. Stephanie Jenks, L-M, 14:00; 2. Allison Gregg, CF, 14:44; 3. Amber Decker, L-M, 15:19; 4. Maddie Saville, L-M, 15:34; 5. Brianna King, CF, 15:37; 6. Taylor Brown, ANK, 15:40; 7. Grace Coen, NWT, 15:42; 8. Rachel Perry, L-M, 15:43; 9. Morgan Garcia, L-M, 15:47; 10. Sammie Sproul, WW, 15:55.
MARSHALLTOWN (168) - 11. Rachel Blagg 16:02; 30. Michaela Huey 16:57; 32. Wynn Tan 17:03; 46. Victoria Jones 17:51; 49. Abby Snyder 17:56.
Team Standings - 1. Linn-Mar 35, 2. Cedar Falls 44, 3. Waterloo West 86, 4. Ankeny 125, 5. Mason City 152, 6. Southeast Polk 164, 7. Newton 172, 8. Marshalltown 210, 9. Ottumwa 212.
Top 10 (state qualifiers) - 1. Jaime Zarate, CF, 16:07; 2. Josh Evans, L-M, 16:08; 3. Timothy Sevcik, CF, 16:31; 4. Tanner Rathie, L-M, 16:37; 5. Chase Grabau, L-M, 16:38; 6. Anthony Ohl, WW, 16:39; 7. Ethan Pellegrino, SEP, 16:42; 8. Cooper McDermott, NWT, 16:44; 9. Jonathon Smith, CF, 16:48; 10. Jared Failor, CF, 16:53.
MARSHALLTOWN (210) - 31. Daniel Talbert 17:42; 33. Zach Wells 18:01; 46. Nathan Phillips 18:36; 52. Trae Peterson 19:02; 54. Sam Johnson 19:08.
Both teams faced impressive competition.
The girls race featured No. 4 Linn-Mar and No. 11 Cedar Falls as well as the top two ranked runners in the state in Linn-Mar freshman Stephanie Jenks and Cedar Falls senior Allison Gregg.
Jenks was far better than anyone else on the course Thursday as she blew away Gregg and the rest of the field with a time of 14:00. Gregg was second in 14:44 and Linn-Mar freshman Amber Decker and sophomore Maddie Saville came across in third and fourth, respectively.
So as expected, fourth-ranked Linn-Mar crushed its competition with just 25 points as all five scoring runners were in the top 10. No. 11 Cedar Falls was second with 63 points and the final state qualifying team was Ankeny with 84.
The boys team title also was won by No. 5 Linn-Mar but it wasn't near as easy as the Lions only bested No. 7 Cedar Falls by nine points. Waterloo West was the final team to qualify as an entire unit.
The winning time was recorded eighth-ranked Jaime Zarate of Cedar Falls as he crossed the line in 16:07, just one second ahead of Josh Evans of Linn-Mar. Linn-Mar and Cedar Falls held the first five positions as well as seven of the first 10.
"We knew it would be a tough team race," MHS coach Tim Bell said. "We needed things to go better than they did all season for us to have a chance there. The guys did all they could though. That is all I can ask."
Blagg had a strong chance to qualify and nearly rallied to a 10th place tally. Bacon said the key for her may have been early when she was in a pack of runners that featured the ninth and 10th place finishers.
"We needed her to get up to the front of that pack," Bacon said. "But she did a great job of working her way back into the mix. She used a lot of energy to give herself a chance."
The Bobcat girls placed seventh overall with 168 points.
After Blagg were juniors Michaela Huey in 30th and Wynn Tan in 33rd. Victoria Jones and Abby Snyder were final scoring runners in 46th and 49th, respectively.
"We ran OK today," Bacon said. "It wasn't a poor effort, but we didn't improve like I had hoped."
Blagg admitted she didn't really understand the magnitude of the state qualifying meet last year as a freshman. She became more aware this season and will take that into what she hopes is another successful season in 2013.
"I certainly look forward to next year," Blagg said. "I am ready to go for it."
The most realistic chance the Bobcat boys had at state was with Wells, a returning state qualifier. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury Monday and barely had enough in him to finish the race Thursday as he crossed in 33rd.
"He was determined to give it a shot today, but a hamstring injury is tough," Bell said. "Sometimes things work out, but it was going to be tough for him."
Talbert led the team with a 31st place finish and a time of 17:42. Wells crossed the line in 18:01, while Nathan Phillips was 46th, Nestor Sanchez was 48th and Trae Peterson was 52nd.
The Bobcats finished with 210 points and claimed eighth place overall.
It wasn't the way Bell wanted his cross country coaching career to end, but sometimes you can't control the path of life.
"You don't know what this feels like until it happens," said Bell, who recently announced his retirement from coaching after 32 years as head coach. "I want to thank all the people who help support this meet and help put it on for us. It's pleasing that we can put together such an impressive event, and I am proud of how it turned out today. I am sure I'll miss it a great deal though."
Bacon had the pleasure of working with Bell at Marshalltown as the girls coach. He said there is no doubt he had a positive impact on the sport and other programs at MHS.
"He's obviously had a big impact on cross country at MHS but also in the entire state," Bacon said. "I was a young pup when I got here, and he has supported me from the first day. I want to thank him for helping me along the way."