Bobcats can’t bridge the gap at STC

TOLEDO – Marshalltown boys cross country coach Chad Pietig has seen his team train as a pack.

Now he’d like to see them race as one – or at least close the gap.

With 38 seconds separating its fourth and fifth runners, the Bobcats saw an ample team title opportunity slip, placing third with 80 points at the South Tama County Invitational at Otter Creek Park Monday.

“We don’t get very many opportunities to run up front and win meets,” said Pietig, whose squad got a rare respite from Central Iowa Conference competition.

“We let too big of a gap in between our 4 and 5 runners open up. You just can’t do that.”

Class 3A Grinnell placed three runners in the top five to post a winning score of 44, while Class 2A’s seventh-rated East Marshall (64) took runner-up.

Getting a break from the CIC, Pietig thought his squad had an prime opportunity to claim the team title. Though regardless of the competition, moving their fifth runner up will be pivotal at any meet moving forward.

“This was one that I thought they really had a chance to win and experience that for the first time,” Pietig said.

Our top four competed really well and our JV competed awesome, but someone from our 5, 6, 7 has to step up and close that gap. They train together as a group and they need to race together as a group.”

Imad Amenzou paced the Bobcats in 17 minutes, 24 seconds to garner sixth. Nate Phillips finished 15th in 18:04, while Angel Pizano (17th, 18:06) and Sam Johnson (18th, 18:11) were close behind. Hunter Barnard (18:49) rounded out the team score in 24th.

East Marshall’s Ben Terrones claimed third in 17:03, outkicking West Marshall’s Nathan Bradley (4th, 17:06) down the final home stretch. Bradley, who claimed victories in his first two races of the season, proved to be a perfect pacesetter for Terrones.

“Ben had a good finish,” said East Marshall coach Erik Niggemeyer. “He just kind of latched on to (Bradley) because he knew Nathan would run a good hard pace.”

Bradley also benefited from running alongside his cross county rival.

“Ben is a very good competitor and Nathan worked with him quite a bit. They were both going toward first place,” said West Marshall coach Brian Weig. “Nathan really likes the hills and so he was a little more assertive in that first mile. He might be a little disappointed but overall he ran well.”

East Marshall’s pack mentality helped them rise up the standings again. Caleb Benzing was 10th in 17:31 and freshman Nick Meling was seven seconds back in 11th. Sam Benzing led the Mustangs’ next wave in 19th (18:18), while just four seconds separated Rob Petrie (21st, 18:30), Josh Benzing (22nd, 18:32) and Seth Webb (23rd, 18:34).

“The boys ran great again as a pack – just trying to stay together and push each other,” said Niggemeyer.

South Tama County (123) captured fifth, while West Marshall (145), Belle Plaine (168) and North Tama (245) completed the eight-team field.

Robert Tyynismaa propelled the host team with a ninth place time of 17:25 and Blake Keller was four positions back in 17:58.

STC coach George Kuhter feels his squad is about a week behind in training after the early heat wave this month, in addition to Kuhter missing a few days of practice. Though Monday’s meet – the Trojans’ second of the season – was a step in the right direction.

“We’re close to a week behind with the heat and stuff. We couldn’t really run what we wanted to run, but overall I’m pleased everybody ran better,” said Kuhter. “We’re going to adjust for a couple of days and (find) where we should be and then we’ll just go from there.”

While the Otter Creek Lake Park course posed some tougher terrain, Kuhter thought his squad fed off the home crowd.

“Everybody kind of stepped up. Being here in front of the home crowd, you can’t hide,” Kuhter said. “Everybody knows who you are so you’ve got to perform for them.”

West Marshall freshman Austin Grimm clocked 18:54 to finish 25th. Jeff Hughes paced GMG in 38th at 20:10, though the Wolverines didn’t have enough members to figure into the team scoring. Brian Zobel’s 22:24 led the Redhawks in 47th.

Lawrence Stands led Meskwaki, placing 42nd in 22:37 in the JV race.