AMBOY – It was a first-ever win for Dawson Smith of Rock Falls at the Amboy Cross Country Invitational on Monday. Smith made it look easy on the 2.9-mile loop at Shady Oaks Country Club.
“It seems like every year here, I don’t do the greatest,” Smith said. “It’s mainly mental. With the hills, it is not my favorite course. I prefer Detweiller [in Peoria], where you have fans cheering at every corner.”
There were plenty of fans at Amboy with 26 boys teams. Monticello won the meet with 48 points and Rock Falls was eighth with 285.
Smith ran a PR of l4 minutes, 51 seconds. His PR on a regulation 3-mile course is l4.58.
“It felt nice,” he said after finishing l00 meters ahead of the next closest finisher. “I’ve had some bad juju lately and it’s good to get that off my back.”
Smith will be the favorite at the Big Northern meet this Saturday and is right on pace to contend for bigger hardware in the post season.
“He dialed in like Brayden [Hamblen] was after 4 years,” Rock Falls coach Mark Truesdell said. “He knows what he needs to do and I think he can be another Brayden downstate.”
Teammate Devon Parker had an impressive l0th-place finish out of 206 runners with a clocking of 15:33.
“Dawson challenged me to be top 10,” Parker said. “This summer, I tried to do what he did in workouts.”
The only other top 25 finish by an area athlete was a 16th by Stephen Reifsteck of Eastland. His time was l5:54.
Fortney leads Rockets: It was a runner-up finish for Bailee Fortney at Amboy for the third year in a row. The Rock Falls senior ran l7:l9 to trail the winner, Mabry Bruhn of Monticello, by l0 seconds.
“After the last downhill, she took off,” said Fortney, who collapsed upon finishing. “I knew her times had been fast all year and she could hold it in the middle. To have a shot, I need to stay close.”
That is what Fortney did the whole race to the highly-regarded freshman. At the 2-mile mark, she hung within l0 meters of Bruhn and made one last push the final half mile, but couldn’t match Bruhn’s kick.
“I would have liked to have finally won, but it was a PR on this course,” said Fortney, who lost to Karlie Hey of Newman last season.
Hey took 29th place in only her second race of the year, as she recovers from tendinitis in the foot and ankle.
“This is a start of where I’ll be in the next couple of weeks,” Hey said. “My foot felt fine.”
“This was her first time in spikes and a good test to see where she’s at,” Newman coach Pat Warkins said. “Karlie’s not in shape, maybe at 80 percent. She’s only been running 3 weeks.”
In a very competitive battle for the team title, it was Monticello edging Winnebago 39-44, though the Indians were without one of their best runners in Natalia Martino. Both are the favorites for a lA state title.
Rock Falls was a solid third with 79 points. Erin Porter (l6th) and Bryahna Ganther (l8th) backed up Fortney with medalist finishes.
“We’re pushing as hard as we can. This is a hard sport,” said Truesdell, with a bit of resignation in voice realizing his Rockets are far away from challenging either Monticello or Winnebago for the lA state title.
Also finishing in the top 25 for Rock Falls and scoring were Calin Gaulrapp (l9:00) and Gracie Rippy (l9:03). Margaret Vaessen of Amboy was 2lst with a time of l8:52.