REINBECK - The mission: Do work.
The BCLUW boys' cross country team rode its prolific 1-2 punch to a third-place finish in the NICL Conference Cross Country Meet on Saturday at Oak Leaf Country Club, chasing two other ranked squads in their quest for 2010 glory.
The Class 1A No. 6 Comets totaled 96 points, following only 1A No. 8 NU High (52) and 3A No. 15 Denver-Tripoli (62) across the finish line. West Marshall chalked up its best finish in three seasons in the NICL, placing fourth with 125 points, and 2A No. 14 East Marshall was fifth (133).
BCLUW's Jay Welp and Levi Storjohann finished first and second, respectively, atop a talented field of former state qualifiers. Welp crossed first in 15 minutes, 53 seconds, and Storjohann was second in 15:56 to carry the Comets' high hopes into the postseason.
"They looked really good today, I could tell when I saw them in that back corner, after the mile-marker, that Jay looked better than he did Tuesday, he looked solid, and Levi did too," said BCLUW head coach Donna Fiscus. "I had a feeling back there."
Welp and Storjohann have swapped the top spot all season long, whether on the team or in the meet, with Welp earning his first conference championship and Storjohann collecting his second straight runner-up finish in the NICL.
Welp, a transfer from Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn, was the War Eagle Conference runner-up as a junior before going on to take seventh at state last fall.
BCLUW had been the NICL runner-up behind East Marshall each of the last three seasons, but Fiscus had no reason to frown after Saturday's third-place finish.
"I'm fine with third, that's a good setup going into Thursday," she said. "The (time) spread is still a little more than what we want but I think they're going into the district meet in good shape."
The Comets had no other all-conference finishers, with Chad Frazer posting his best time of 17:56 to take 27th overall. Derek Coulter was 29th and Will Levis came in 40th to round out BCLUW's scoring effort.
West Marshall's best team result yet in the NICL came by way of three runners finishing with all-conference distinction. Senior Allen Davis improved from 27th a year ago to 12th on Saturday for second-team honors in a time of 17:11. Freshmen Nathan Bradley (17:32) and Taylor Keislar (17:36) collected the last two honorable mention spots in 20th and 21st, respectively, to help the Trojans improve from eighth last fall to fourth this go-round.
"We made a lot of improvement overall, but it's kind of a shock how far we moved up," said West Marshall head coach Brian Weig. "We've gotten East Marshall a few times (earlier this year), so I guess I thought we'd be right in there.
"At first, probably halfway through the season, we wanted to be in the top half (at the conference meet). But as conference got closer, we really wanted top three. The biggest challenge was BCLUW for that spot, and when they go 1-2 that's just tough, it's almost like they're running with four guys. But top four is amazing for us."
East Marshall was paced by Lance Steward's ninth-place finish in a time of 16:56. It marked the third straight second-team all-conference finish for the Mustang junior.
Freshman Ben Terrones bridged the gap for East Marshall with his 19th-place finish, earning honorable mention all-NICL honors in the process. The Mustangs were denied the conference championship for the first time since 2006, when they finished fifth as well.
"Travis and Ben both ran pretty well, I thought, but the thing that's kind of been our hitch this year is that we've never had all seven run their best races at the same time," said East Marshall head coach Christian Grandgenett. "I think that we're a little disappointed (with fifth place) but we told them on the bus ride home to shake it off and Thursday's a new day. Now our next season begins and we're 0-0 again."
Prep cross country teams commence their run toward the Oct. 30 state meet with next Thursday's district meets. East Marshall's 2A district is at Knoxville, West Marshall and South Hardin go to Lake City, while 1A programs BCLUW, Gladbrook-Reinbeck and Grundy Center visit Marshalltown.
Host Gladbrook-Reinbeck nearly got an all-conference performance out of senior Alex Bovy, who came in 24th in 17:50. The Rebels' only other runner, Noah Lanza, was 52nd.
Grundy Center was led by senior Austin Appel in 31st (18:09), while South Hardin was paced by freshman Tim Rose in 43rd (18:33).