Nick Williams sets PR while placing 25th at frigid state cross country meet
By John Burbridge
FORT DODGE — About every sport season spans multiple calendar seasons.
It’s just that cross country usually experiences the full weather spectrum from fire to ice.
Charles City junior Nick Williams no doubt felt the apex of this last summer’s heat wave while putting in the excruciating yet necessary road work to successfully become a state qualifier for the third season in a row.
Yet the state meet itself, which took place this past weekend at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course, offered a much different challenge — especially in the Class 3A Boys Varsity race, which was run during a frigid Saturday afternoon.
But it was here Williams claims that he was numb to the conditions by saying “he didn’t feel a thing.”
“If you’d ask me what temperature I would prefer to run in, I normally would say about 55 (degrees),” said Williams after he placed a career-best 25th with a personal-record 5K time of 16 minutes, 39.3 seconds — nearly 5 seconds better than his previous PR he set earlier this season amidst a run of six-straight meets where Williams posted sub-17 times — Saturday at Fort Dodge capped the run for this year.
“But out here I didn’t feel the cold at all … I didn’t let it affect me. I just felt great to be out there knowing that all the work and training I’ve put in is paying off.”
Williams was about 20 seconds shy of attaining Top 15 state medalist status.
“That’s my goal for next season,” said Williams, who with fellow junior Comet Xander Graeser qualified for state for the third season in a row.
Iowa Association of Track Coaches Hall of Fame member Isaac Wendland, who qualified four straight times and went on to win three straight XC state titles (2005-07) after placing third as a freshman, is the only other Charles City male runner to qualify three (and then four) times as an individual.
Graeser, who runs close or in proximity to Williams during most races, got separated from his teammate a little earlier than normal and finished 88th with a time of 17:29.0 — at last year’s state meet, Williams and Graeser finished 71st and 72nd, respectively, a split-second apart from one another.
“This is a great race to be a part of,” Graeser said. “You’re running with the best runners in the state and there is so much talent always around you.
“I just love taking that all in.”
Charles City head coach Ryan Rahmiller said that Saturday’s race “was the coldest state meet I can recall.”
“The boys were conscious of it,” Rahmiller said, “but it was never really discussed. I was impressed with their mindset.”
Rahmiller was particularly impressed with Williams’s performance.
“This was simply one of the best races I have seen him put together, start to finish,” he said. “He hung right there at about 30th place for two-thirds of the race and patiently waited.
“He dropped 46 places since last year. This was the best place finish we’ve had for an individual (Comet male) since 2013,” Rahmiller said while referring to Jacob Day (7th in 2023), Sam Lynch (19th) and Will Jarvill (21st).
“Nick really had a breakout season … and he’s 2 seconds shy of being on our ‘Top 50 All-Time’ list’” Rahmiller said.
“Xander’s (time) was pretty close to his season average, though he admitted right away his mindset wasn’t as sharp as he wanted,” Rahmiller said. “He’s a competitor and never let something like the weather affect him, but you have to be sharp being in that field. Xander has the ability to ‘go to the well’ and still found some speed in the last mile of that race. He’s competitive and I sure would not want to be near him with 800 to go.”
Winning the Class 3A Boys race was Pella sophomore Canaan Dunham, a runner-up as a freshman last season, with a personal-best time of 15:18.5.
Despite the first-place showing by Dunham, and Pella senior Nathan Vander Waal placing third (15:39.8) with the teammates sandwiching runner-up, Ethan Eichhorn (15:25.5) of Lewis Central, Pella did not repeat as team champions as it finished second behind champion Gilbert in a team race that went down to the wire as placement between the schools fluctuated in real time on the scoreboard display near the finish line. With five scoring runners finishing in the Top 20, Gilbert was able to dethrone the defending champs by 5 team points (57-63).
* The day before in the Class 1A Girls Varsity 5K, North Butler freshman Addison Voelker indicated that she might be who Bearcat sport fans have been waiting for for a long time — a state medalist-caliber long-distance female runner.
Voelker finished three places shy of earning a medal with an 18th-place time of 19:56.1.
Nashua-Plainfield junior Kadence Huck placed 67th (21:01.7) in her third Class 1A Girls state race of her career.
In the Boys 1A Varsity 5K, North Butler freshman Ezra Almelien placed 84th (18:08.6).
Iowa High School
Cross Country Championships
AT LAKESIDE MUNICIPAL
Class 3A Boys Varsity 5K
TEAM PLACINGS — 1. Gilbert 57, 2. Pella 63, 3. Lewis Central 100, 4. Carlisle 144, 5. Washington 186, 6. Winterset 196, 7. Solon 215, 8. Mount Vernon-Lisbon 223, 9. Clear Creek-Amana 229, 10. Glenwood 241, 11. South Tama 249, 12. Moc-Floyd Valley 259, 13. ADM Adel 266, 14. Central DeWitt 297. 15. Sioux Center 357.
TOP 15 MEDALISTS — 1. Canaan Dunham (P) 15 minutes, 18.5 seconds, 2. Ethan Eichhorn (LC) 15:25.5, 3. Nathan Vander Waal (P) 15:38.8, 4. Micah Rees (W) 15:47.9, 5. Andrew Smith (G) 15:51.2, 6. Quentin Nauman (Western Dubuque) 15:52.5, 7. Tommy Tyynismaa (ST) 15:53.2, 8. Logan Bleich (G) 15:55.6, 9. Jacob Tallman (G) 15:55.5, 10. Bryant Keller (GW) 16:05.0, 11. Devon Browne (P) 16:06, 12. Carson Squiers (G) 16:09.3, 13. Alik Mcllravy (North Polk) 16:10.0, 14. Grady Oberding (MVL) 16:10.7, 15. Emmett Barber (G) 16:18.5.
CHARLES CITY — 25. Nick Williams 16:39.3, 88. Xander Graeser 17:29.0.