FORT DODGE — Forget Halloween, the Calamus-Wheatland boys cross country team has gotten its seasonal dose of suspense and excitement from a different source the past two years.
The state meet’s timing equipment.
For the second straight fall, the Warriors did not know quite where they stood after all of the competitors had crossed the finish line in Saturday’s 1A boys race.
So, they had to wait until the times and places were all sorted out.
“It was a long wait,” Cal-Wheat head coach Kevin Oberfoell admitted. Warriors junior Chase Knoche called it “completely nerve-wracking.”
But just as last year’s wait ultimately resulted in a runner-up finish, this year’s anxious interlude ended with a result that was more treat than trick.
And by the slimmest of margins.
Behind a 10th-place finish by Knoche and three other runners in the top 35, the Warriors earned their second straight team trophy by taking third place with 118 points.
That was 11 points shy of another runner-up finish, but more important it was one point ahead of fourth-place Earlham, which scored 119 points.
“We knew it was going to be close,” Oberfoell said. “We just didn’t know how close it was going to be.”
There was no drama at the top of the team standings as reigning 1A champion, Madrid, successfully defended its crown, finishing more than 30 points ahead of the rest of the field.
The battle for second was much closer with three squads — Calamus-Wheatland, Earlham and Nodaway Valley — separated by just 12 points.
Using senior Joshua Baudler’s individual title, Nodaway Valley earned second place with 107 points.
That left the Warriors and Cardinals to battle it out for third (the next closest team was 90 points back).
Earlham staked itself to an early lead, putting two runners in the top 15, but the Warriors, who had Knoche finish 10th and Magnus Sands 20th, countered with key finishes from their two seniors.
Cal-Wheat’s third finisher, Chandler Gannon, was 25th — four spots ahead of his Earlham counterpart, while Brett McCartt was 35th, a whopping 24 spots ahead of the Cardinals’ fourth runner.
That gave the Warriors the advantage and junior Seth Beuthien clinched the team’s third-place finish with his 77th-place finish.
Knoche accomplished a pair of season goals with his 10th-place clocking of 16:40.
The time, his best in three trips to Fort Dodge, gave him his first individual state medal and helped spur the Warriors to anoth
er top-three team finish.
“To get a trophy again, that’s the cherry on top,” he said.
After finishing under 17 minutes for the first time at the Tipton Invitational this fall, Knoche accomplished the feat six other times during the season, including each of his final five races.
Just five spots away from his own state medal was junior Magnus Sands, who put together the best race of his career with a clocking of 17:08, good for 20th.
The clocking was not only 35 seconds better than his state debut a year earlier, but also 27 seconds clear of his previous personal-best set three weeks earlier.
Gannon, running in his fourth state meet, wrapped up his career by lowering his clocking at state for a third straight time.
This time, Gannon clocked in at 17:14 to take 25th, making the Warriors one of just two teams in the field — Madrid was the other — to put three of their runners in the top 25.
The clocking was a season-best for Gannon and the second-fastest time of his distinguished career.
McCartt followed suit with the fastest time of his career, 17:27, to secure 35th.
It was McCartt’s second time ever under 18 minutes and a 31-second improvement over the first time he accomplished it at Bellevue in September.
It was the perfect conclusion to a late-season surge that saw McCartt run three of the fastest times of his career after returning from an injury that caused him to miss two meets late in the season.
Not to be outdone, Beuthien nearly broke 18 minutes, himself, clocking in at 18:01 to clinch the Warriors’ team finish.
The performance was a career-best and marks the fifth time this fall in which Beuthien had set a new personal mark.
Junior Eduardo Carriegas and freshman Jacob Weih wrapped up the Warriors’ day with their first state experiences.
Carriegas, a foreign-exchange student from Spain, was the 141st competitor across the finish line in 22:17, while Weih was right behind him in 142nd with his clocking of 22:58 (it was Weih’s second-fastest varsity time).
“I was really proud of the way the guys performed,” Oberfoell said. “I really don’t think we could have ran a whole lot better than we did, and that is a testament to the competitors we have.
“They have made a habit of stepping up when it matters most.”
And for a second straight year, the Warriors have the hardware to prove it.
“There weren’t many people out there who thought we could get back onto the deck in the middle of the season [at one point this fall, Cal-Wheat was not among the top 15 1A teams ranked by the Iowa Association of Track Coaches], but we never wavered,” Oberfoell said. “We kept the course and kept faith in each other.
“These guys worked hard to achieve a goal and they went out and got it done.”