STERLING – His game plan was set, and Brayden Hamblen was determined to follow it to the letter.
Three days after the Rock Falls freshman runner finished right behind fellow ninth-grader Chris Ahlers of Newman at the Princeton Invite, Hamblen turned the tables at the Twin City Meet on Tuesday at Hoover Park.
Hamblen covered the 3-mile course in 16:06.40, 10 seconds ahead of Ahlers (16:16.30), to win the title in the rivalry triangular.
"Chris and I have run together all through middle school, and he's great competition," Hamblen said. "I just stayed behind him, wanted him to pull me until the end, then gave it everything I had over the last 800."
Ahlers was happy with his consolation prize, however. The Comets claimed the team title for the second straight year, placing its top five runners in the top 10 to beat the Sterling Golden Warriors 30-41. Rock Falls finished with 56 points.
"I'm a little disappointed I didn't win the race," Ahlers said, "but I'm super excited and totally thrilled to help my team win this meet again."
Junior Bryson Reyes finished just behind Ahlers in 16:24.10, while Quincy Coomes was seventh (16:53.20), Drew Rosengren placed eighth (16:53.80) and Micah Trancoso took 10th (17:13.80).
Reyes, for one, was happy to keep the bragging rights for the Comets.
"We're all friends with the Sterling and Rock Falls guys off the course," he said, "but when it's race time, we all know it. We don't want to beat each other up or anything, but you still want to win."
It's the fourth time overall the Comets have won the meet involving the three high schools in Sterling and Rock Falls. Newman also won the boys team title in 2008 and 2009; the Comets went on to win the Class 1A state title in '09.
Sterling senior Keaton Dir (16:31.80) and freshman Jonathan Landis (16:33.40) rounded out the top five.
"Saturday, I thought we all ran really well at the big meet [in Peoria], so I knew it would be a little rough," Dir said. "But I'm happy with how all the guys ran again today. We really gritted through it, and we have such a great young team that I know we'll just keep getting better and better."
Twin City champs
2011: Rock Falls
2010: Rock Falls
2007: Rock Falls
2001: Rock Falls