Sep. 23—LAKE RATHBUN — It was a long five kilometers that runners faced Thursday on The Preserve Course at Lake Rathbun.
Ava Ferrell might have wished the race was a little longer. It might have led to the Cardinal senior's first cross-country win.
Ferrell ultimately had to settle for a career-best second-place finish at the Moravia Invitational, finishing less than nine seconds behind Central Decatur senior Harrisen Bevan in the varsity girls race. Bevan was able to hold on to the win, crossing the finish line in 23:40.73, while Ferrell charged during the second half of the race passing Wayne freshman London Everman heading into the final half-mile ultimately finishing the race in 23:49.69 opening an 11-second margin over Everman down the stretch.
On that pace, an extra half-mile might have allowed Ferrell to catch and pass Bevan for the win.
"It was definitely a longer race that face longer. There were definitely some big hills to deal with," Ferrell said. "It was one of my better races. I had really good form and had a lot of good competition to run against. I've been finishing mostly in the top 15 of every race. This was my best chance to win. I knew I needed to start kicking it in."
As much as it motivated Ferrell to track down Bevan, the runners behind Ferrell were serving as her main motivation to finish strong.
"I knew I had girls behind me that were coming," Ferrell said. "I wanted to stay in second place. If I kicked it in a little sooner, I might have had (Bevan), but it was good. It helped me push myself towards the end to the point where I had nothing left."
Like Ferrell, Cardinal sophomore Kyran Spees had nothing left by the end of the boys cross-country race at Lake Rathbun. Spees, after racing in the top five most of the race, held on to a top-10 finish placing eighth in 21:33.19 for his own career-best finish.
"I felt really good right until we started the final loop," Spees said. "I started getting side stitches really bad and I had to slow down quite a bit. It was about a 90-second longer course for everybody. It just seems like everyone gets slower times out here than what they're used to. When you hit that second loop, you really start realizing this is a really long race."
All told, Cardinal had three runners earn top-10 medals in the varsity races. Alexis Bissell secured her first top-10 varsity run for the Comet girls, finishing ninth overall in 24:39.8 helping Cardinal finish third with 34 points just two points behind Wayne for second and 16 points back of Central Decatur.
"It helps me to push forward knowing I can run for a win," Ferrell said. "It's just a matter of cutting down time and placement from here."
Not too far behind Ferrell was Lauren Phillips, who returned to the course after dealing with an illness over the past two weeks. The Centerville junior placed fifth overall in 24:13.43, holding off Melcher-Dallas freshman Hailey Stegman by just over a second for the top-five spot.
"I felt strong the entire race. It was just a longer course," Phillips said. "There's usually a wall I hit around the three-mile mark. I started feeling it a little earlier, so I knew it was going to be a long finish. I've only run at Albia and Wayne so far this season. I was sick for about a week-and-a-half. I've been out for awhile, but I've been training every day even on the days I was sick."
Phillips was originally scheduled to return to the course on Tuesday at the Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont Invitational, which was postponed due to extreme heat. While Phillips was finishing in the top five at Lake Rathbun, Albia was completing a team championship sweep at EBF with the Blue Demons scoring 43 points, beating Clarke by 20, while the fourth-ranked (2A) Lady Dees won their fifth straight team title with 28 points beating Pekin by 15.
"My body feels good, so it was a bit of a blessing in disguise to be able to rest up and get healthier," Phillips said. "I'm really happy with how I ran. It haven't been having the season I wanted to. I'm really happy I medaled.
"I definitely need to work on pacing. I hit mile one at 7:25. I need to keep hitting that. I hit every mile last year at 7:15. This year, I need to starting pacing myself better."
The Albia junior varsity boys made the trip to the Moravia meet, beating the Mohawks by four points with 62 points led by a 13th-place run of 23:16.61 by Lucas Hogeland. Centerville sophomore Euan Lechtenberg led the South Central Conference contingent in the boys race, finishing fifth at Lake Rathbun in 21:11.52.
"I was aiming for a top five and I was also trying to push for the 20-minute mark," Lechtenberg said. "I was trying to get faster throughout the race and take each runner down one by one."
Jacob Irving led the Moravia boys, finishing 17th in 24:16.36, while Allen Pace led the Moulton-Udell boys placing 19th in 24:50.59. Calista Cremeens finished 23rd for the Moravia girls in 41:59.16.
The youth of the Mohawks also stood out on Thursday as Mohawk eighth-grader Gable Whitlow won the middle school boys race in 10:25.1, leading Moravia to a second-place finish as a team with 20 points finishing just four points behind Wayne. Cardinal eighth-graders Breanna Drish and Dane Johnson both scored third-place finishes in the two middle school races with Drish crossing the three-kilometer girls race in 11:42.42 while Johnson completed the boys race in 11:20.41.
— Scott Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.