FT. DODGE — Van Buren’s Jonah Heckenberg has always had a goal of running at state but fluke happenings prevented it while Pekin’s Colten Glosser had run at state three consecutive years but not to what he felt was his potential.
Both ran well Saturday at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course at the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s Class 1A cross-country meet. Pekin’s team was led by Brady Millikin and individuals from Winfield-Mt. Union (Brody Barton) and WACO (Jonah Egli) also competed.
Heckenberg pulled his hamstring on the day of qualifying last year and turned his ankle in gym class the year before. Needless to say, he didn’t go to gym class this year on the day he was to run at the state-qualifying meet.
Heckenberg finally made state as a senior and ran well, finishing with the best time of his high school career.
“I felt good. It was my first time running at state with a bunch of people, so it was different getting boxed in a bunch of times and trying to pass and people trying to pass me,” Heckenberg said. “There was a lot of commotion going on.”
Heckenberg placed 44th with a time of 17 minutes, 34 seconds.
“I PRed by five or six seconds for the year,” he said. “It was my PR in high school, so I am pretty happy.”
“It’s been hard my sophomore and junior seasons to end with an injury after working hard all year. It’s just nice to be able to have the accomplishment of coming here and being able to run the final race of my career.”
W-MU junior Barton finally got over the hump this year. After finishing 16th at a state qualifying meet as a freshman and 19th last year, Barton placed 14th in a Class 1A qualifier at Iowa City to earn his first trip to state. He placed 60th in 17:31.4.
“He ran a great race, finishing with one of his fastest times of the season,” W-MU head coach Amanda Hemsworth said. “He was focused and ran hard and that’s all we could’ve asked from him. We are very proud of the work he has put in this season and we are looking forward to seeing what he will do next year.
WACO sophomore Jonah Egli made history, becoming the first WACO boys runner to compete at the state cross-country meet. He finished 92nd with a time of 18:14.2.
“I hope Jonah has fun and no matter what, he leaves hungry, wanting to go back and knowing what he’s got to do next time to get better,” WACO coach Seth Pugh said. “That’s the main goal.”
Glosser said one thing he learned over the last three years of competing at state was to get mentally tough. “You are not going to do well if you are not right in the head.”
Glosser made all-state with his 13th-place finish in 16:46.7 and Millikin was sixth in 16:38.1.
Pekin’s boys have made it seven straight state cross-country appearances.
“As a whole, the boys had a great season,” said. “At the state level, the first year is a new experience.”
“I was pleased with Brady and Colten,” Pekin coach Davis Eidahl said. “Their hard work in the summer paid off for them. These two are great leaders.”
Glosser, Tanner Conger and Devin Fraise are seniors. Sophomore Zack Wise, Junior Simeon Buie and freshman Gavin Brown “learned a lot,” Eidahl said. “Next year it makes all the difference in the world being at state. You cannot coach the experience of running in the state meet.”
“Coach does a great job helping us,” Glosser said. “He has a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience.”
Millikin learned how tough the wind can be, how to deal with it and what part of the course to make a move.
“Whenever we would go into the wind, I would try to hide behind somebody,” he said. “I’d look for somebody was a bigger frame. That way it gave me some wind protection. There was a certain point on the course where I knew I had 1,200 left so that’s when I started to kick it in. It worked because I passed a couple people.”
Glosser’s success this season occurred because of June, July and August as well as Saturday and Sunday.
“I could tell during this summer how much Colten wanted it,” Millikin said. “We would run more after practice and then run on the weekends. Colton and I both did that and it paid off.”
“In the past, I would get up to 40 miles a week before the season and then never hit that mark again and then I faded as the season went on,” Glosser said. “This year I kept the mileage up. I would do a nine-mile run on the weekends.”
All that work was left on the course Saturday.
”You think you’re tired but it’s all in your head,” Glosser said. “I had nothing left when I crossed the finish line. I wasn’t on the ground like all the other guys but I had nothing left.”
Nothing but a cherished all-state medal.