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Thompson takes title in photo-finish

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING - West Marshall junior Nicolas Thompson (962) heads toward the homestretch of Monday’s Heart of Iowa Conference cross country meet at Saydel High School in Des Moines. Thompson held off Nevada’s Owen Freeman (465) at the finish line, winning the conference title in a time of 17 minutes, 44.91 seconds.

DES MOINES — Nick Thompson didn’t know if he was the winner or runner-up when he crossed the finish line Monday afternoon.

The West Marshall junior runner was neck-and-neck with Nevada’s Owen Freeman for much of the race, and in the final run-in, he found himself slightly behind the Cub sophomore.

He knew he could do only one thing: go as hard as possible.

“It gets to the end, and I didn’t realize how close he was, we got to the track and [Freeman] passed me,” Thompson said. “Didn’t know how much I had, but I was like, ‘I’m just gonna give it all and see what happens.’ It’s so fun, you don’t get that a whole lot.”

Thompson got to the line in the ‘Nick’ of time and won the Heart of Iowa Conference boys’ title Monday at Saydel High School in a finish almost too close for the naked eye to make out. The final numbers said that Thompson won by 77 hundredths of a second ahead of Freeman with a winning time of 17:44.91.

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING - West Marshall junior Lilly Buck (936) works her way to fifth place in the Heart of Iowa Conference cross country meet on Monday at Saydel High School in Des Moines.

He was the standout runner for a West Marshall boys’ team that finished fifth in the seven-team event and whose next best finisher was freshman Dylan Thompson in 36th place, with a time of 20:51.16.

West Marshall head coach Cynthia Hilleman was proud of the team’s consistency, particularly on a course the Trojans hadn’t run before Monday.

“They’re pretty consistent in running pretty similar times every meet,” Hilleman said. “I think they just need to keep working together, and I think that’s proven successful for them.”

She also singled out Thompson’s ability as a smart runner after his win.

With 150 points, the Trojans were 114 behind winners Nevada, who had four of the top-10 runners.

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING

The girls’ team was led by three top-20 runs and a top-5 finish from Lilly Buck. Buck ran in fifth place with a time of 22:09.56, staying up at the front all race long and setting the pace for a strong Trojans performance. Hilleman praised her strong-mindedness after the race.

Emelia Hauser came across the finish line in 11th place with a time of 23:10.45 in one of her best runs of the season. Freshman Jadyn Bunting finished 18th to round out the school’s top-20 runners.

However, two more Trojans finished in the top-30 — sophomore Peyton Smith in 22nd (24:25.71) and junior Adisyn Young in 27th (24:47.11) — capping off a point total of 83, coming in 55 points behind a commanding performance from Roland-Story. The Norse had five top-10 finishers and six top-15s en route to a score of 29.

The run was a big confidence builder for the Trojans, Hilleman said.

“I think it sets us up really well,” Hilleman said. “Our girls, they work really well together. So I think just working with them and trying to keep all their confidence [is important].”

The Trojans don’t know where they’ll be running in state qualifiers next Thursday yet, and in what has been a season defined by runs from the underclassmen on both teams, taking the lessons from a strong overall showing at Saydel will be crucial to pulling off an upset and making state.

Regardless of whether West Marshall makes it as a team or not, Thompson has put himself in position to qualify with his strong runs — Monday was just another reminder that the junior is the young Trojans’ leader on the course.

Heart of Iowa Conference meet

At Des Moines

GIRLS

Team Standings — 1. Roland-Story 29, 2. PCM 64, 3. Nevada 72, 4. West Marshall 83, 5. South Hamilton 103, 6. Saydel 167.

Individual (top 10) — 1. Reece Johnson, R-S, 20:53; 2. Tori Meinecke, NEV, 21:15; 3. Paige Steenhoek, PCM, 21:37; 4. Elizabeth Ihle, R-S, 21:55; 5. Lilly Buck, WM, 22:09; 6. Eleanor Elliott-Rude, NEV, 22:11; 7. Moriah Bates, R-S, 22:11; 8. Lauryn Kilstofte, R-S, 22:23; 9. Makenna Carlson, R-S, 22:39; 10. Tiffani Koonce, PCM, 22:39.

WEST MARSHALL (83) — 5. Buck 22:09, 11. Emelia Hauser 23:10, 18. Jadyn Bunting 24:06, 22. Peyton Smith 24:25, 27. Adisyn Young 24:47, 33. Kalyn Polley 25:24, 34. Carli Pfantz 25:34, 37. Emma Nason 25:46, 38. Hannah Jovanovich 25:46, 39. Taylor Wittkop 25:47, 44. Ella Steward 26:08.

BOYS

Team Standings — 1. Nevada 36, 2. Greene County 61, 3. South Hamilton 65, 4. Roland-Story 80, 5. West Marshall 150, 6. Saydel 157, 7. PCM 169.

Individual (top 10) — 1. Nicolas Thompson, WM, 17:44; 2. Owen Freeman, NEV, 17:45; 3. Luis Lopez Perez, NEV, 17:52; 4. Ty Skartvedt, SH, 18:13; 5. Logan Woodruff, GC, 18:23; 6. Nathan Limas, R-S, 18:30; 7. Carter Holland, NEV, 18:43; 8. Rhett Harter, NEV, 18:48; 9. Ethan Federick, GC, 18:52; 10. Jaysen Carstensen, GC, 19:03.

WEST MARSHALL (150) — 1. Thompson 17:44, 36. Dylan Thompson 21:51, 40. Luke Coulter 21:06, 42. Will Dawley 21:14; 60. Johnathan Downs 22:36; 66. Josiah Hand 22:45; 92. Aiden Downs 29:09.

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