BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
IOWA CITY – Holy Trinity Catholic Cross Country Coach Matt Mohrfeld watched his Crusaders go by off the start and then turned and predicted senior Matt Hellige would finish sixth and qualify for state his third and final year.
The prediction was very close as Hellige took 5th place overall at one of the four Class 1A state qualifying meet at Kicker’s Park in Iowa City Thursday evening.
Hellige who was running fourth through the first mile and a half of the 3.2 mile run, slipped to fifth coming up a hill starting lap two, but held the pace to finish at 17.31.01.
Calamus Wheatland’s Chase Knoche won the event with a 16:53.81 a full 26 seconds ahead of the pack. Pekin’s Colton Glosser and Blake Millikin were second and third at 17:20.29 and 17:20.95. Wilton’s Zach Hein was fourth at 17:21.62.
“He did a really smart thing and ran his race. He didn’t get caught up in the pace in front of him, which can ruin a lot of good runs. He was really smart and ran very hard today,” Mohrfeld said.
The race starts with about 150 meters and then a 50-meter hill before leveling out. The course then meanders through soccer fields gradually bringing the runners back down in the first mile and the rest of the course is fairly flat with the exception of some woodpile mogels at about the 1 and 2.5 mile marks.
Hellige said he didn’t really give the hills much thought.
“Getting up to the start line the adrenaline is running through the veins, but until I got to the tippy top I didn’t really notice it,” Hellige said.
“Then I sped back up because it’s all pretty much down hill after that.”
He said there were no surprises in the course as he’s run it several times in the past and he was happy with his performance.
‘I’m really happy with that. The course was almost exactly the same. I was able to walk it and just remember everything, but after that, you’re so familiar with it.”
Hellige likes to get out with the front pack off the gun and said that was his plan again at the qualifier.
“I figured I would get out pretty normal and be at the front pack of the course, and then settle in the first lap and see where I was at. Then push as hard as I can on the last lap,” he said.
The state meet will take place Saturday, Nov. 2 at Kennedy Park in Fort Dodge with the Class 1A boys running the final event of the day at 2:30 p.m.
Hellige and Mohrfeld both said there isn’t anything more to do other than light workouts to keep everything fine tuned.
“At this point the hay is in the barn so to speak,” Hellige said. “So nothing too crazy like an hour-long hill run. Just stuff to get the legs moving, the blood pumping – nothing too hard.”
Mohrfeld said there really isn’t anything you can do in the last 10 days to get better, but there are things you can do to make things worse.
“We’re not going to do anything to hurt his performance at state. We’ll probably do some light workouts and keep things moving.”
Mohrfeld was pleasantly surprised as the team results were announced. Holy Trinity finished 11th out of 23 teams in the event.
Sophomore Mitchel Pothitakis finished 75th overall with a time of 20:31.34, followed closely behind by senior Jacob Mohrfeld at 78th with a time of 20:32.93. Freshman Jacob Pothitakis was 93rd at 21:23.46 and junior Chandler Rung was 98th with a mark of 21:37.08 to round out the scoring for HTC.
The Crusaders finished with 349 points. Calamus-Wheatland won the event with just 51 points, including four of the top 12 runners.
Wyatt Hellman finished 133rd and Rhett Fullhart was 142nd in the 158 runner field.