Four area runners new to state cross-country meet

Fort Madison's Will Gager, left, and Austin Miller, right get in a "fun run" Wednesday afternoon after stretching. The two will compete in Friday's Class 3A State Cross Country meet in Fort Dodge. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

Gilpin, Gager, Miller and Pothitakis all run at Fort Dodge’s Lakeside Municipal Golf Course this weekend.


LEE COUNTY – Four runners from north Lee County schools will take on the 5K trek through Lakeside Municipal Golf Course this weekend.

All four are first time state qualifiers and all were surprised when they saw there times were fast enough to join

Central Lee senior Amanda Gilpin will wear bib 472 and will start out of the southeast downhill gate in Box 1 at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

She said she hasn’t seen the course before, but did get paperwork sent to her.

“It looks hilly on paper but I’m not afraid of that,” Gilpin said on Thursday.

She said was surprised when she realized her time of 21.20.3 was fast enough to qualify. Gilpin’s time was 56th fastest in all of girls Class 2A during qualifying.

“I didn’t know, even after all the practicing I’ve done if I would qualify or not,” she said.

Gilpin said her expectations are to set a personal record at the meet and try to break into the top 30.

Fort Madison’s Will Gager and Austin Miller have had a fun year chasing each other around events this season.

The two actually traveled to San Diego two years ago and ran a half-marathon together. The friendly competition has proven to be a successful tool this year.

Head Coach Brian Mendez said the two drive each other and that’s been seen this year with each of them surpassing the other at different meets.

“It’s a friendly competition. They both are happy for each other and they trained all summer together,” Mendez said. “I asked them to text me their workouts and they would always text me together, and the workouts would always be the same.”

Gager, who placed higher than Miller in most meets in the first half of the season, has seen Miller move in front of him in the second half.

Gager laughed at that turn of play.

“Well I taught him everything he knows,” he said. “But we don’t look at it like that. We try to get better individually, so the other one can get better, too.”

“We definitely feed off each other,” Miller said.

Gager will wear 996 and Miller will run with bib 997 coming out of Box 6 at 4 p.m. Friday evening. The Iowa High School Athletic Association changed the format to a two-day event to reduce the number of people at the course at one time to help mitigate spreading of the coronavirus.

“We’re just getting ready mentally. We’re not going as hard this week, just taking it easy to let our muscles heal up,” Miller said.

Neither of the Bloodhounds were focused on where they will place.

“I think I’m just gonna run fast,” Gager said with the typical smile on his face. “I’m not focusing too much on placement or times. If I go out and run the best race I can that will take care of itself. But I’m gonna beat him.”

The more subdued Miller beat his personal best by a full 14 seconds at the qualifier in Pella finishing 4th overall. His time of 16:48.49 was the 35th fastest in Class 3A during qualifying. Gager finished at 17:05.32

The more subdued Miller said last year he finished 55th at districts and this year’s time was 3 minutes faster.

Holy Trinity’s Mitchell Pothitakis finished 9th in the Ottumwa qualifier in Class 1A. The junior will wear bib 1060 and take off from the far left in box 22.

The Crusader ran an 18:27.1 in Pekin at the qualifier last week and said he wasn’t surprised that he was able to qualify with the top 10 runners. The state moved Class 1A to eight sites instead of five so only the top 10 qualified at each site.

Pothitakis said he doesn’t like running a whole lot, but he does it for the social aspect. He said half way through the year he decided he wanted to try and make state.

His goal is simple. To make the top 100.

“I looked at some of the times, and those are some really fast kids,” Pothitakis said.

“Running is hard and it’s not always fun, but half way through the season I decided to work a bit harder. Now I’m just going to go up and have fun.”

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