Heartland teams find maintaining winning formulas is a tough challenge
Post-race wrap-up of Heartland teams at NTN, by SteveU and Adam Kedge
Girls - Boys
Des Moines RC (Dowling Catholic IA)
14th place – 318 points
2 Flood, Catherine 10 Des Moines RC 19:04.3 2
15 Decker, Ashlie 10 Des Moines RC 19:37.0 15
77 Flood, Elizabeth 08 Des Moines RC 20:54.4 77
99 Berard, Tanelle 11 Des Moines RC 21:13.4 99
125 Tobias, Heather 10 Des Moines RC 22:01.8 125
137 Lacy, Mary 08 Des Moines RC 22:22.8 137
146 Spellman, Sarah 10 Des Moines RC 22:55.7 146
Club coach Jerry Decker brought his Des Moines girls team to NTN for the first time following a season where their school team, Dowling Catholic, had steamrolled through Iowa and won everything from the Griak to the 4A state meet. Their club went to the NTN Heartland meet and beat Yankton’s club, which had led the region in the first three NTNs.
While the tough conditions and the long season (including Foot Locker Midwest for Katie Flood and Ashlie Decker) wore on the team in the form of fatigue and minor injuries, they still put together a solid finish. Ranked #7 in the latest US Super-25, Des Moines finished 14th and were once again lead by Flood's runner up finish and Decker at 15th.
Coach Decker had nothing but great things to say about the weekend. "This was a huge learning experience for my girls."
Katie took the early lead in the championship race and kept the pedal down early. Although it can be argued that the increased number of big races late in the year can negatively affect performance, Decker thought that the Foot Locker Regional meet was a benefit for his top two girls. "Having Katie and Ashley get a big race under their belts helped our team," he said.
Regarding her front runner’s dealings with the cold and the slop, he added, "The conditions are something you cannot simulate. Katie knew that her splits were not going to be where she wanted them to be. She adjusted well to the condition and ran a smart race." Flood, the NTN Heartland champ represented her region and her team well.
Yankton XC (Yankton SD)
16th place – 324 points
42 Hofer, Mariah 10 Yankton XC Club 20:21.0 42
59 Hilson, Megan 10 Yankton XC Club 20:36.7 59
63 Steinberg, Jade 08 Yankton XC Club 20:41.3 63
68 Sternhagen, Kristin 08 Yankton XC Club 20:45.0 68
92 Creager, Krista 09 Yankton XC Club 21:03.5 92
140 Cammock, Ethelin 10 Yankton XC Club 22:31.2 140
142 Cammock, Hiley 11 Yankton XC Club 22:34.8 142
The Yankton/3D Running Club has one of the great NTN traditions, coming here this weekend as one of just three schools to make it here the other three years. No other school had placed in the top 5 three straight years.
But this was not the club of years past with the strong front runner. With NTN past super-stars Ramsey Kavan (2004 champ) and Betsy Bies (2005 champ and 2006 runner-up) off running in college, Yankton can no longer count on starting off the meet with a 1- or 2-point scorer.
Instead, they were led by Mariah Hofer’s 42nd place finish. They still had a strong :42 spread between their 1-5, including a tight 2-4 of just nine seconds, but it wasn’t enough to stay in the top ten.
Said Coach Dan "Fitz" Fitzsimmons, "We're excited on how we ran today … but we knew going into the meet, in order to do well, we would have to have two in the top-30."
Yankton's top runner was about 20 seconds back from that spot and, in a field with this depth, it made a huge dent in the score.
"We would have fared better against many of these teams if it was in a head-to-head dual meet competition," Fitzsimmons concluded.
Wayzata XC (Wayzata MN)
20th place – 403 points
47 Ducharme, Danny 09 Wayzata XC Club 17:06.9 47
58 Drenckhahn, Jeremy 09 Wayzata XC Club 17:13.3 58
65 Bowman, Anders 08 Wayzata XC Club 17:16.9 65
115 Wasz, Andrew 09 Wayzata XC Club 17:49.8 115
118 Day, Evan 09 Wayzata XC Club 17:51.8 118
135 Haugland, Oliver 10 Wayzata XC Club 18:05.9 135
145 Holmes, Peter 08 Wayzata XC Club 18:15.9 145
When you really looked for it, it was quite a sight. Few successful teams in the country start a meet like the Wayzata XC Club (Wayzata MN) does. But in the first 400 meters, there they were, running as a group at the end of the mass of 22 teams and 154 runners.
But this had been Wayzata’s winning formula all year. No good team starts as slow as Wayzata, but no good team holds or increases its pace as well, either. When other kids are trying to hang on, Coach Bill Miles’ charges were shooting by the competition. They used this strategy to win Griak, the 2A MN State Meet, and, as a club, their NTN Heartland race.
It’s not as easy to pass people in cold, muddy conditions, though. Especially when the competition is the best you’ve faced all year.
Although they didn’t finish as high as they wanted, Danny Ducharme, Jeremy Drenckhahn, and Anders Bowman all finished within 10 seconds between 47th and 65th to lead things off. “But then we had a big gap today,” said club coach Kraig Lungstrom. “We had a big difference between our 3rd and 4th. It was the first time this year that that’s happened.
“Danny outkicked a few kids in the stretch … and Evan Day, our 6th man, stepped up pretty good,” he added. “We tried to even split, but it was hard to do and run well today. Everyone on this team raced their hearts out, though.”
Swanson XC (Shawnee Mission Northwest KS)
21st place – 414 points
38 Spencer, Sterling 11 Swanson XC Club 16:59.8 38
63 Ladron, Diego 08 Swanson XC Club 17:16.6 63
92 Thornburg, Aaron 11 Swanson XC Club 17:33.8 92
96 Ellswoth, Jared 08 Swanson XC Club 17:37.9 96
125 Schlicht, Kyle 09 Swanson XC Club 17:56.8 125
130 Jones, Keaton 10 Swanson XC Club 18:01.4 130
143 Munro, Daniel 09 Swanson XC Club 18:14.9 143
With an incredibly tight 1-5 pack, spanning 17 seconds between 20th and 37th, Swanson XC nailed down the 2nd spot at the NTN Heartland Regional. It was close to the winning formula their high school team, Shawnee Mission Northwest in Kansas, had used in winning their 14th straight 6A state title this fall under head coach Van Rose.
Saturday, however, the 1-5 gap was almost a minute and the #1 man from the NTN Heartland meet, Jared Ellsworth, had a rough day as the #4. Sterling Spencer, the #5 at Sioux Falls, was #1 this time in 38th. It all added up to a 21st-place finish in the program’s first trip here.
“We’re used to controlling the race and the tempo,” said #2 man Diego Ladron. “But it was a lot harder to do that today. Our top four were fairly close.
“Our freshmen stepped up today,” he added, noting the finishes of Spencer and #3 man Aaron Thornburg (92nd). “But a few other guys had off days.”
With the squad losing only two seniors, however, don’t be surprised if Team Swanson toes the line here next year, looking to improve.