George Kuhter was happy to be back Monday and his South Tama County cross country teams were glad he was back at their home meet.
The STC head coach missed the Trojans' opening meet last week at Marshalltown, but he was back for the home meet at Otter Creek Lake. The Trojans medaled six runners in the four high school races and many of the Trojans improved their times from the opening meet last week.
"We had a really good meet," STC head coach Kuhter said. "It was just our second meet of the year and we are probably close to a week behind with the heat. We couldn't really run what we wanted to run. Overall, I'm pleased and everybody ran better.
South Tama junior Robert Tyynismaa led the Trojans' varsity boys team at their home meet Monday. He finished ninth in the 5K race.
"We challenged everybody to run faster," he said. "This is a lot harder course, because we have our hills in the front rather than in the back and middle like Marshalltown. But I think everybody ran well. Everybody stepped up and being in here in front of the home crowd, you can't hide, and that's a good thing about being at home."
In the boys varsity race, a pair of South Tama runners placed in the top 15 to earn a medal and help STC finish fifth out of eight teams. STC scored 123 points while Grinnell scored 44 points to win the varsity boys trophy.
Junior Robert Tyynismaa and sophomore Blake Keller were the two medalists for the Trojans. Tyynismaa finished ninth, running the 5-kilometer course in a time of 17:25, while Keller placed 13th in a time of 17:58.
"I like the course," Tyynismaa said. "It's a lot different than a lot of other courses that have you loop around a golf course. It's nice going all the way around the lake. I felt like I ran well, except for the big hill. That wasn't any fun."
The three other varsity runners for South Tama were senior Taylen Anderson (27), junior Trevor Yuska (35) and senior Jake Theissen (40).
"We are coming together and pushing each other," Tyynismaa said. "That's what we need to do to be successful."
Senior Taylor Ellenbecker led the Lady Trojans varsity squad on Monday. Ellenbecker finished ninth as she finished the 4-kilometer course in a time of 17:03, just edging out East Marshall's Kristin Amendt at the finish line.
"I felt pretty good," Ellenbecker said. "I think it was the best I've felt, except for the last hill and the long finish. Other than that, it was pretty good.
"It's nice to be at home," she said. "It's my last one here and I feel like we nailed it. The team did well, but this isn't one of my favorite courses, but I like where it is and some of it. It's not a fun course."
Ellenbecker explained her dislike for the home course.
"The hills," Ellenbecker said. "These aren't like inclines. They are like 'boom' and you're going straight up. You have to sprint up it or you lose position."
Despite her dislike for the course, Ellenbecker led the Lady Trojans to a sixth-place finish out of eight teams. STC scored 147 team points to beat West Marshall and Belle Plaine. Grinnell won the meet with 39 points.
Joining Ellenbecker on the varsity team were senior Regina Balderas (24), senior Erin Filloon (29), junior Ericka Dunning (34) and senior Brittany Bear (51). Junior Naomi Hoskey also ran varsity, but she didn't finish the race.
"We are definitely really improving," Ellenbecker said. "We have lots and lots of girls out this year. Our freshman girls are going to be outstanding once the season really gets going, so I think we're going to have a great year."
Those freshman girls ran in the junior varsity race Monday, but some of them might find themselves on varsity in the near future. Seven freshmen were the top seven runners for South Tama's in the junior varsity girls race, which STC finished second to Grinnell.
Allison Yuska led the way with a 11th-place finish. Jensen Vodochodsky (13) and Lauren Yuska (14) were close behind her, with Mallory Thede (19), Courtney Anderson (20, Kaitlin Berger (23) and Shae Slaven (29) rounding out the freshman squad. Sophomore Socorro Mendoza (34) and junior Kristi Lasley (45) also ran in the JV girls race.
"The big thing you have to understand with that freshman group of girls is they aren't super competitive with each other," Kuhter said. "But you have some personalities in there that just want to be the best they can be. I"ll take our top three girls and see where they are Saturday. As soon as we get those freshman girls into shape and they realize they can run with Taylor, Regina, Erin and them, I think the sky is the limit and they are awfully young."
Freshman Hunter Filloon was the lone medalist in the JV boys race. Filloon placed seventh as he finished the 5K course in 19:33. Joining him in the race were junior Britton Waldo (38), junior Talen Lamb (41), junior Drew Belton (59) and freshman Thayne Lamb (67).
"Hunter Filloon had a big race," Kuhter said. "He better enjoy it because it's going to be his last JV race forever. He's going to step up and we're waiting for him to step up. I think he ran close to a minute faster than he did in Marshalltown and that's just nerves."
South Tama also competed in the middle school races Monday. The boys team finished fourth out of five teams, while the girls team placed fifth.
The middle school boys had three runners in the top 20. They were Lucas Wilkerson (7), Cameron Klosterman (15) and Logan Wilkerson (18). Also running were Jake Wilkerson (36), Jacob Dostal (53) and Logan Witt (60).
In the middle school girls race, Jessica Musgrave almost won the race. She narrowly finished runner-up for the Lady Trojans. Joining her in the race were Stephanie Slaven (25), Lauren Gumm (34), Daylenna Henle (38), Samantha Oliver (47) and Esmerelda Delatorre (50).
"I like the way the middle schoolers have performed," Kuhter said. "They have practiced just once last week, because of the heat and everything else going on. But they just show up and run. They're runners. That's the pretty cool thing about them. I like the plain and simple fact that they work hard. They're little squirrely, but they run as well as they can."
South Tama will next run at BCLUW on Saturday. The meet starts at 9 a.m. and Kuhter is hoping for better times at a faster course.
"Right now, it's a psychological game," Kuhter said. "Everybody has to believe they can do it. We might be a bit sore, but we're going to go run early Saturday morning after a late night football game. We'll be OK if everybody just believes they can do it.
"I expect everybody runs close to 30 seconds faster Saturday morning at BCLUW," he added. "That's going to be the goal. The nice thing about these kids is they work really hard, they set a goal and they achieve it."