AMES - A quick trip down memory lane was just the boost Paige Miller needed.
Recalling her runner-up regional performance on the Iowa State Cross Country Course from a year ago, the senior washed away any doubts from a season that hadn't gone quite as planned - at least up until Monday.
Missing the first six weeks of the season with an injury, Miller served up some dj vu in Ames, racing to a second-place finish in 16 minutes, 22 seconds at a Class 2A state qualifier on the ISU Course. The outing earned Miller her third trip to the state meet in Fort Dodge Saturday.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
East Marshall’s Paige Miller (249) stays close on the heels of Gilbert’s Sadie Timms, the defending Class 2A state champion, en route to a repeat runner-up finish at the Class 2A state qualifier in Ames Monday. Miller earned her third trip to the state cross country meet in Fort Dodge Saturday.
While the season hadn't lived up to her standards so far, Miller's morale rose when coach Christian Grandgenett reminded the senior of all the similarities between Monday's race and the runner-up showing of 2011.
"I told her 'It's the same course, it's the same teams pretty much.' And you could kind of see right then that she had a little glimmer in her eye and she knew she could come here and do well. I think that played a large part (in her performance)," said Grandgenett.
Along with the confidence boost, the reflection proved to be a calming thought for Miller.
Team Standings - 1. Gilbert 58, 2. South Hamilton 88, 3. Roland-Story 107, 4. East Marshall 123, 5. South Hardin 150, 6. Madrid 178, 7. Osage 186, 8. Hampton-Dumont 189, 9. Aplington-Parkersburg 192, 10. Bondurant-Farrar 222, 11. Central Springs 228, 12. West Marshall 260
Individual (top 10) - 1. Sadie Timms, Gil, 16:10; 2. Paige Miller, EM, 16:22; 3. Karli Rastetter, Gil, 16:22; 4. Haley Fye, EM, 16:28; 5. Sydney Lawrence, Mad, 16:29; 6. Annie Pollard, Gil, 16:29; 7. Victoria Pothast, WM, 16:30; 8. Claire Damon, SHar, 16:30; 9. Kayla Lucas, SHam, 16:30; 10. Kristen Amendt, EM, 16:38
East Marshall (123) - 2. Paige Miller 16:22, 4. Haley Fye 16:28, 10. Kristen Amendt 16:38, 52. Paige Flugge 19:18, 55. Allie Roberts 19:27
South Hardin (150) - 8. Claire Damon 16:30, 11. Lydia Rose 16:44, 31. Megan Carr 18:22, 46. Kylee Zoske 19:05, 54. Taylor Fox 19:20
West Marshall (260) - 7. Victoria Pothast 16:30, 51. Rachel Knights 19:14, 65. Maggie Sodders 20:24, 68. Ashley Pfantz 20:38, 69. Carly Kielman 20:46
"I was kind of nervous coming in, because I haven't had a very positive season so far. I just kept thinking about how I did it last year, and hopefully I could do it again," said Miller.
The Trojans (123) finished just 16 points out of qualifying as a team, though Miller will have a couple teammates joining her. Freshman Haley Fye made a strong move midway through the race to claim fourth (16:28), while Kristen Amendt (16:38) rallied with a strong kick to grab the 10th and final spot - passing South Hardin freshman Lydia Rose (16:44) in the final 50 meters.
"I'm incredibly proud of those three girls. Paige has overcome an awful lot," said Grandgenett, who was equally inspired by the performances of Fye and Amendt, who also earned a state meet berth in 2010.
"Haley made a heck of a move in the middle of the race to get into the top-10. I'll tell people for years about Kristen's finish. She knew she was one out (of qualifying) and she made the move. I didn't think she was going to get it done, but that shows the heart that she has."
Led by a winning performance from Class 2A state defending champ Sadie Timms, ranked No. 3 overall, fourth-rated Gilbert topped the field with a score of 58. No. 8 South Hamilton (88) and No. 10 Roland-Story (107) also qualified as a team claiming second and third respectively.
Grandgenett hopes this year's near miss for the team, serves as motivator through the off-season.
"We got sent to a tough district. It shows the importance of a full team. We didn't have that this year, but hopefully everybody learns a lesson from it and comes back strong next year," said Grandgenett.
South Hardin sophomore Clair Damon earned a return trip to the big stage with an eighth place finish (16:30) as the Tigers garnered fifth overall with a tally of 150. Though her teammate, Rose, fell just shy of a qualifying spot in 11th (16:44), Damon benefited from her presence.
"It was really nice to have (Rose) up there with me," said Damon.
Despite coming up short as a squad, South Hardin coach Mike Olson didn't believe it was lack of desire that kept the Tigers out of state, but perhaps a little too much of it too early.
"The girls might have almost wanted it a little too much. I think they pressed and ran a little tight. In the end, Clair relaxed and ran the race we asked her to. Lydia worked so hard all year and I think she just wanted it a little too much, and that kind of trickled down with the other girls. I can't fault the effort," said Olson.
Olson believes Rose, ranked No. 21, will come back even hungrier next season after finishing just one spot from state - a similar fate that her brother, Tim, faced in 2011 before punching his ticket this year.
Hovering around the top-15 through much of the race, West Marshall senior Victoria Pothast extended her prep career with a late surge before hanging on along the final straightaway to grab 7th (16:30) and make her third trek to Fort Dodge.
"I knew I had to go as hard as I could and finish up my last race. I kind off blacked out and thought I was going to lose (a top-10 spot) for a while, but I got it," said Pothast.
West Marshall coach Brian Weig praised Pothast's execution in the beginning and her tenacity at the end.
"Victoria ran very gutsy. We had planned for her to stay in the top 15 through the first mile and then make a move. She did exactly what she was supposed to do. The last 400 yards she got caught a bit, but I think it was because she put so much into the last 800," said Weig.
Pothast, Damon and the Mustang trio will compete at the Iowa High School state meet Saturday at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge. The girls' 2A race is at 1 p.m.