FORT DODGE — Carly Small had been the one setting the pace for the Sabers cross country program this fall.

So, it only seemed fitting that the Central DeWitt senior had one more late charge in her.

Back, after a year’s absence, at Fort Dodge for the 3A state girls race, Small battled the cold and a strong field to take 71st overall with a clocking of 20:50.

The placing was an improvement on her state debut as a sophomore and placed her right in the middle of a tight pack of finishers — three competitors clocked in at 20:49, two more joined Small with times of 20:50 (but crossed the finish behind her), while a seventh runner finished in 20:51.

With three runners in the top 15, including the second- and third-place finishers, Ballard won the team title with 57 points.

Dallas Center-Grimes was second with 80 points, while Dubuque Wahlert took third with 125.

Center Point-Urbana senior Adriana Katcher — who Small competed against at both the WaMaC Conference and 3A state-qualifying meets — earned her third individual state title in 18:29.

The finish was the result of a late push by Small.

“When she went by me with about 1,000 meters left she was in 80th place,” Central head coach Eric Olson said. “(She) did a great job moving herself up to 71st at the finish.”

It was the eighth time in her sterling career in which Small had finished under 21 minutes.

The first three occasions came during her state push as a sophomore — Small joins Julia Campbell, who also competed at that 2017 state meet, as the girls team’s only multi-year state qualifiers since 2003.

The other five finishes under 21 minutes came this fall. In fact, five of Small’s final seven races this year ended with her accomplishing the feat, including each of the last three.

“Carly had a great senior season,” Olson said. “She came into the season with a never-quit mindset and pushed the entire team, boys and girls, in every practice.

“She led by example and it was really fun to see her influence the attitudes and work ethic of her teammates.”