BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT DODGE – Fort Madison High School sent three senior runners to the state meet in Fort Dodge Saturday with goals of medaling and Holy Trinity sent a sophomore who was feeling the tourney out for the first time.
No medals were brought home by any runner, but gritty performances were found all around as they raced the 5K Lakeside Municipal Golf Course site.
Holy Trinity senior Brett Schneider had the best run of the day running for FMHS finishing 43rd of 138 runners in Class 3A with a time of 20:02.6. Schneider said she was disappointed at first with her finish as it was her senior year.
“It was my senior year and I set my goals pretty high so I was going into to give it all I had, but then I realized that this is state and when you go to state it’s a one-of-a-kind race. It’s hard to prepare for,” Schneider said. “The first half felt really good I was in the top 10 or so and the second half it hit me and I started falling farther and farther back.
“At first I thought I did really bad, but then I looked at my time and it was a second faster than districts. Everyone was super fast up there, the boys were faster, the girls were faster, but I love running against that competition and I qualified all four years so I’m proud of that.
HTC doesn’t have a girls cross-country team, but had Schneider been able to run in Class 1A her time would have put her in 16th place, one spot out of the medal by 3 seconds. The 15th place, Class 1A was 19:59.7 – but who knows what happens when you’re chasing a medal at state.
FMHS senior Aaron Steffensmeier had the next highest finish placing 63rd out of 129 Class 3A boys runners. The top time was 15:49.1 from Miles Back of Center Point-Urbana.
Steffensmeier said he tried to stay out of trouble looking both ways out of the starting gate, but then found himself in the middle of the pack.
“I was just trying not to get sucked in. I didn’t want to screw myself at the beginning,” he said.
Steffensmeier ran with tights and gloves on a cool day but said he didn’t know if that had an impact.
“It was a gut race. I was running horrible and I don’t know if the clothes made a difference or not. I was just feeling like crap and I wasn’t happy with it,” he said catching his breath immediately after the run. “I knew I didn’t have a choice so I lived with and did the best I could.”
HTC sophomore Matt Hellige raced to 90th place out of 149 runners finishing at 18:04.4 in the Class 1A boys run. Hellige has led the HTC boys team all year and qualified with an 8th place finish at the Pekin qualifying run Oct. 18.
“At the beginning, I was a little nervous going to state for the first time. Once I started the nerves went away,” Hellige said,.
Hellige typically finished in the top five all year in district meets, usually in the top three, and he said running with so many runners in front of him was intimidating.
“It felt a little different being behind that many people, I was just trying to run my race – but this was a lot more runners definitely.”
The course has a few inclines but a similar amount of downslopes and Hellige said that didn’t bother him too much either.
“It was a little hilly on the first turn and then mostly it was flat with a few downhills. I’m pretty used to that terrain so I tried to take advantage of some of the downhills.”
HTC head coach Matt Mohrfeld said he told Hellige to just try and stay clean at the start and enjoy the run.
“That’s the real deal out there. You know you bring an athlete here and you run the numbers… given his desire and stuff that’s exactly where I thought he’d be. My advice was, “you’re at state- enjoy it,” Mohrfeld said. “I told him not to get boxed in, but I think he got out a little hot.”
FMHS senior Sierra Howardson finished at 104th at 21.09 in the Class 3A girls run. She was helped out of the runners chute at the end of the race.
She said the race as a whole didn’t feel good to her, but she’s happy she was able to qualify three times as a Bloodhound and once in Tennessee as a freshman.
“It didn’t feel good to me. It was odd, my legs hurt and my hips were hurting,” she said. “I just feel blessed I was able to go all four years. After the race my body was trying to figure itself out again.”
She said the environment and magnitude of the race didn’t have an impact on her.
“We go to big races on the weekend to experience big races so we get used to that,” she said. “But being able to go to state all four years is an accomplishment. It so cool to see more people are joining cross country teams and more spectators showing up. It’s not just a mom and dad a few spectators anymore.
Howardson said she’s looking at possibly continuing her cross-country at the United States Military Academy next year.