BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DES MOINES – Just moments after taking 5th place in the 3200 meter run, Fort Madison’s Matt Hellige was already thinking about what’s next.
Hellige, who was running in the top three for the first six laps of eight on a warm Thursday morning at Drake Stadium, finished at 9:54.20, one of his best times of the year.
The Holy Trinity Catholic junior, who runs for Fort Madison High School in the shared program, finished 22nd as a sophomore with a time of 10:36 in 2018. He said he was happy with the time considering the race was different than he sees during the season.
“I just wanted to come up here and run my race and try to place,” Hellige said.
“But this was a bit different running in the morning, when we usually run in the evening or later afternoon,” he said. “What do you eat for breakfast? You don’t want to eat too much. I had just a couple bagels, something light that’s kind of sitting in my stomach during the race to give me energy.”
He said he was excited about the improvement over his last year’s performance, but immediately shifted to what we wanted to accomplish in his final senior season next year.
“My goal next year is to qualify for Drake Relays and really focus on the mile run. I haven’t really thought about that as much this week, but I would like to get that time under 4:25 next year and place here in that as well,” Hellige said.
The comments could be a bit premature as Hellige will run in the 1600 on Saturday. Hellige qualified this year for the first time in the event last Friday with a 4:36.95.
After the usual jockeying for position at the start of the race, Hellige was able to find a lane and slip easily into a steady pace for the first six laps with the top three runners, which included Mt. Pleasant’s Cody Mertens, who finished second with a 9:44.07.
After about the midway of the fifth lap, Hellige slipped back to a fourth place sport and then fifth, a position he held the rest of the way around the track.
Algona senior Trey Engen won the race at 9:34.96 coming from six back on the final two laps, and two sophomores took 3rd and 4th. Quinton Orr of Humboldt and Nate Mueller of ADM-Adel finished ahead of Hellige at 9:45.59 and 9:48.41, respectively.