Bobcats’ Amenzou, Blagg left out

Four Linn-Mar Lions are ranked in the top 15 of the most recent Class 4A boys cross country rankings. Cedar Falls also has three runners in the top 20.

That talent was put on display Thursday at a Class 4A state qualifier at Marshalltown Community College.

Three of the first four runners to cross the line were from top-ranked Linn-Mar, while fourth-ranked Cedar Falls recorded four spots in the top 10 as the Lions claimed the team title with 23 points and the Tigers were second with 36.

The third automatic qualifier for next weekend’s state meet was Iowa City High, while host Marshalltown came in seventh with 197 points. Between third and seventh was Urbandale (128), Mason City (165) and Southeast Polk (174).

“It was a tough field,” Marshalltown coach Chad Pietig said. “We knew we were a team on the outside and things would have to fall perfectly to have a chance.”

The Bobcats’ top finisher was senior Imad Amenzou, who was running in his first-ever district meet. He crossed the line in 16th place with a time of 16 minutes, 45 seconds.

Amenzou and several other runners chased a pack of 10 most of the way. The Bobcat senior gave it his all though, as he fell to the ground almost immediately after he came across the line.

“He has one gear in practice,” Pietig said of Amenzou. “You can’t back him down even if we are trying to do a recover run. Tonight was a roll of the dice because you don’t ever know where he will end up. He’s a neat kid and it’s a neat story. I am happy for him.”

Top-ranked Josh Evans of Linn-Mar won the race in 15:56, fourth-ranked Tanner Rathje of Linn-Mar was second at 15:59 and 12th ranked Michael Mather of Linn-Mar came in third in 16:07.

All seven Linn-Mar runners were within the first 22 positions. No. 15 Daniel Murphy was fifth in 16:12. while Greyson Dolezal (12th) and Ryan Murphy (14th) also were in the first 15.

Cedar Falls senior Timothy Sevcik broke up Linn-Mar’s run at the first five positions when he sprinted across in fourth in 16:08. Dylan Southall was sixth at 16:14, No. 20 Johnathon Smith was eighth at 16:22 and Jake Hartman was 11th in 16:32.

Unranked Chris Ohrt led Iowa City High’s third-place tally with a ninth-place finish. Ohrt came in at 16:29, which was nine seconds faster than No. 20 ranked Ryan Dorman. Dorman was 13th and Jarrett Purdy was 15th in 16:44.

Amenzou did not run for the Bobcats until this season. He only had run a handful of meets in his career and took 16th overall going against seasoned runners who have been competing since the fifth grade.

“It’s an experience thing for him,” Pietig said. “His learning curve was straight up and down. He was learning on the fly and we were trying to put him in every position for him to learn.”

Coming in behind Amenzou was senior Nate Phillips as he hit the line in 34th place with a time of 17:35. Sophomore Sam Johnson (18:08) was 44th, while junior Alex Mason (18:41) ended up 50th. Three seniors rounded out the Bobcats lineup – Andrew Potter took 53rd, Hunter Barnard was 55th and Jacob Shirar ended up 56th.

Five of the seven Bobcat runners – Amenzou, Phillips, Potter, Mason and Johnson – recorded lifetime best times.

“I didn’t think we ran very competively at the conference meet,” Pietig said. “I just told them I wanted us to race competitively and whatever happened place-wise we’ll take it. I wanted them to walk off this course and say that we left it all out there.

“I am happy. All you can ask for is that they leave it out there. They did everything they could.”

Potter did not know he was going to run in his first-ever state qualifier until an hour before the race started. The Bobcat senior filled in for Angel Pizano, who was ill.

“(Potter) has been that next man up every meet,” Pietig said. “Every meet he comes into things thinking he is going to run on JV but someone is sick or injured and he ends up running varsity. He got to run at districts his senior year and had a big time drop.”

Eight of the top 10 individual qualifier spots were held down by Linn-Mar and Cedar Falls. Ohrt and Urbandale’s Michael Eppink were the other two runners and only Eppink, who is ranked 21st, was not on a qualifying team. Amenzou was the only runner in the top 20 that was not a member of Linn-Mar, Cedar Falls, Iowa City High or Urbandale.

Pietig took over this season for long-time coach Tim Bell, who retired from coaching and his athletic director position last year. The new Bobcat coach said his philosophy was a little different but credited his team for hanging in there and trusting the training.

“I am proud of all of them,” Pietig said. “They took their lumps and had to adjust to me and my philosophy. And I kept telling them that it would pan out in the end and thank goodness it did. It is nice to see that the training paid off.”

The Iowa State Cross Country Championships will take place Nov. 2 at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge. The 4A boys will run at 11:30 a.m.