Redhawks’ Watson runs away with Spartan title

GRUNDY CENTER – Abi Watson is used to logging lots of miles solo.

So when she found herself all alone – and well ahead of the pack – midway through Thursday’s Spartan Invite, the North Tama junior didn’t panic.

Keeping her competitors at a distance, Watson crossed the finish in a winning time of 15 minutes, 17 seconds, finishing 24 seconds ahead of East Marshall’s Haley Fye at Town & Country Golf Club.

South Hardin took the team title with 95 points, fending off a trio of ranked foes in Class 2A No. 11 Dike-Hartford (105), Class 1A No. 12 Denver (111) and Class 2A No. 6 East Marshall (114).

Though Watson, ranked No. 14 in Class 1A, usually likes having a pack to keep pace with, she had no trouble keeping the field at bay Thursday for her second victory of the week.

“Sometimes I can feel myself slowing down so it’s nice to have the competition,” said Watson, who also does some workouts with the Redhawk boys’ squad.

“Most of the time I do training by myself during practice and on weekends, so I’m used to it.”

Watson also topped the field in Brooklyn Monday, though North Tama coach Vonna Watson has found a way to make sure the frontrunner can still train with others.

“We’ve been pairing her up with some boys this year so she’s getting a chance to work on some things,” said the Redhawk coach.

Jamie Huntley was next for North Tama in 23rd as Hudson claimed fifth with 116 points, while North Tama took sixth (148). BCLUW (154), Union (193), Aplington-Parkersburg (203) and Grundy Center (242) rounded out the field.

Claire Damon, ranked No. 20 in Class 2A, powered South Hardin with a fourth-place finish in 16:04 – seven seconds behind Hudson’s Amanda Cartney.

“Claire ran another good race and was right behind (Cartney), which is where she’s been all year long,” said South Hardin coach Mike Olson.

Miquela Teske added an eighth place finish as Lydia Rose and Megan Carr finished 16th and 20th, respectively. Rose has made a recent return from a foot injury, but is focused on getting back in top shape before state.

“It’s only been 10 days since (Lydia) has started running at any kind of pace,” Olson said. “She’s pushing the pace hard and is hoping she can race herself into shape by districts.”

Fye led East Marshall in 16:41 and was one of three Mustangs in the top-12. Bobbi Amendt tallied 10th in 16:27, while Kristen Amendt was two spots back in 16:35.

“We were able to get Bobbi back up in our top three and we were really close with our 4-7 runners,” said East Marshall coach Erik Niggemeyer. “It looked like all of them closed the gap time-wise from previous meets, so I was pleased with their effort.”

BCLUW’s Becca Steckelberg sparked the Comets in sixth, clocking 16:16. Teammates Amelia Tonner (16:39) and Jenna Willett (16:41) finished 13th and 14th, respectively.

BCLUW coach Donna Fiscus has continued to see strong starts from her team though the later stages of the race remain an area of focus.

“I’ve always been pleased with our starts, it’s just that stamina for the second and third mile,” Fiscus said. “It’s just having that endurance and that trust. It’s so that you don’t let up too much and can just find it within you somehow to keep that pace strong. A lot of it is mental – trying to maintain once you have that fast start.”

Tiana Saak led the host Spartans in 19th at 16:49.

“This time of the year is where we really start looking at times in getting ready for districts and conference,” said Grundy Center coach Chris Henely. “We’ve got some younger girls coming up that are doing a lot better.”

Grundy Center varsity regular Hannah Stumberg won the JV race in 17:36, before getting back to the high school in time for Homecoming coronation.

Natalie Smith represented GMG in 42nd and Nicole Adair propelled Gladbrook-Reinbeck in 22nd.