BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT DODGE – The call it a kick when you increase your speed at certain points in a foot race.
Fort Madison’s Austin Miller used his kick to wipe out 15 other runners in the last half mile at Friday’s Iowa High School Athletic Association Cross Country state meet in Fort Dodge.
Miller used that kick to finish with a time of 17:11.4 good enough for 35th in his first ever state meet appearance.
Miller joined classmate Will Gager at the meet. Gager finished at 18:00.6 (103rd), battling what appeared to be a leg issue.
“It’s fine. My leg is fine,” Gager said after the meet.
“I”m just happy I got to come up here and run. I didn’t think we would get the season in.”
Miller who came on strong in the second half of the season, was running at 51st with just over a mile left and then used what he had saved up to make a dash around the last corner on the southeast hill at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course.
The last stretch of about 400 meters is slightly down hill with the wind behind the runners on a sunny, breezy 48 degree evening.
The 3A boys run was the last run of the day Friday. The 2A and 1A boys and girls featuring Central Lee’s Amanda Gilpin and Holy Trinity Catholic’s Mitchell Pothitakis, run on Saturday.
The IHSAA split the event into two days this year to all for smaller crowds at the event hoping to help keep the spread of the coronavirus to a minimum.
Miller said he wasn’t expecting the start he saw.
“I was not expecting the first mile to be that fast,” he said. “I think that kinda killed me.”
Miller qualified with the 36th fastest time in the qualifiers last week, so he made up some ground in Friday’s run.
He said he doesn’t try to think too much during the run.
“I just try and get out in some space and enjoy the run,” he said. “I do look at someone out in front of me and try to keep pace then use whatever’s left at the end.”
Miller’s time was 1:43 off the pace set by ADM Adel’s Nate Mueller who raced around the course in 15:28.7. Washington’s Lance Sobaski took 27th with a time of 17:03.9. Sobaski was the only other Southeast Conference runner ahead of Miller.
Miller said he got stepped on in the cluster out of the gate and actually had a whole in the side of his shoe where a spike got him.