ELDORA - For many runners, the Pine Lake Fun Run simply presented a chance to get back into competition.
For West Marshall's Nathan Bradley, it was an opportunity to try out a new race strategy - and reap the rewards of renovated training approach and diet.
Patiently waiting to make his move through the first half of the race, Bradley powered past the field in the second half to claim a convincing victory in a field of 97 runners Thursday.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
West Marshall’s Nathan Bradley (front) and East Marshall’s Ben Terrones move their way toward the front in the Pine Lake Fun Run at Pine Lake Country Club in Eldora Thursday. Bradley won the race in 17:21 and Terrones took fifth in 18:34.
Cruising through humid conditions with negative splits, Bradley covered the hilly course in 17 minutes, 21 seconds - finishing well ahead of runner-up C.J May (18:12) of Aplington-Parkersburg.
East Marshall rolled through the field with a team score of 53, as all seven of its runners finished in the top-18. Dike-New Hartford (100) edged out Hudson (101) and BCLUW (104) for third.
Bradley, who faded down the final stretch of some races to close his junior season, came out with a bang to start his senior campaign. Altering his diet from three to five meals a day to up his glycogen levels and switching to a more sustainable pace, Bradley saw his refinements pay quick dividends Thursday.
Team Standings - 1. East Marshall 53, 2. Dike-New Hartford 100, 3. Hudson 101, 4. BCLUW 104, 5. West Marshall 142, 6. South Hardin 163, 7. Aplington-Parkersburg 222, 8. Grundy Center 254, 9. GMG 283
Individual (top 10) - 1. Nathan Bradley, WM, 17:21; 2. C.J. May, A-P, 18:12; 3. Tim Rose, SH, 18:15; 4. John Crew, Dike-NH, 18:21; 5. Ben Terrones, EM, 18:34; 6. Cole Silver, BCLUW, 18:49; 7. Derek Coulter, BCLUW, 18:56; 8. Nick Meling, EM, 19:08; 9. Caleb Benzing, EM, 19:10; 10. Ryan Finn, Hud.
EAST MARSHALL (53) - 5. Terrones, 18:34; 9. Meling, 19:08; 10. C. Benzing, 19:10; 15. Sam Benzing, 19:29; 16. Josh Benzing, 19:27; 17. Rob Petrie, 19:40; 18. Seth Webb, 19:43
DIKE-NEW HARTFORD (100) - 4. Crew, 18:21; 19. Thomas Shirley, 19:46; 24. Kyle Corwin, 20:13; 25. Dylan Mrzlak, 20:14; 28. Ethan Stancliffe
HUDSON (101) - 10. Finn; 12. Trevor Ruiz; 21. Carson Wright; 27. Jason Hawkins; 31. Drew Haack
BCLUW (104) - 6. Silver, 18:49; 7. Coulter, 18:56; 13. Ben Kuhl, 19:30; 23. Tanner Teske, 20:12; 55. Elijah Ralston, 23:27
WEST MARSHALL (142) - 1. Bradley, 17:21; 20. Austin Grimm, 19:32; 33. Cody Berns, 20:26; 42. Cooper White, 21:38; 42. Joel Phelps, 22:27
SOUTH HARDIN (163) - 1. Rose, 18:15; 11. Zac Farrell, 19:27; 38. Micah Dorow, 21:37; 47. Logan Roling, 23:00; 64. Dylan Wenke, 24:29
GRUNDY CENTER (254) - 22. Espen Cleveland, 20:04; 37. Finn Cleveland, 21:21; 41. Dylan Hendricks, 22:00; 74. Jack Stumberg, 26:01; 80. Grant, 27:35
GMG (283) - 35. Jeff Hughes, 21:00; 44. Josh Raymond, 22:08; 45. Josh Gruen, 22:16; 71. Logan Burt, 25:32; 88. Camden Barnes, 29:53
"I just wanted to take it out slow and try something different," said Bradley, who passed up the front pack around the 1 1/2-mile mark before lengthening his lead the rest of the way.
"Last year I noticed my first mile was always my fastest and I know that's not how running is supposed to Instead, Bradley steadily picked up his pace and made a move through the hills, pouncing when he saw an opportunity to seize control from South Hardin's Tim Rose and Dike-New Hartford's John Crew.
"I noticed Tim and (John Crew) slowed down on the hills and I knew that's where I I could break them down mentally in the race," he said. "That's where I got them."
"Nathan has always been a really smart runner so we tried to get him out comfortable for the first mile," West Marshall coach Brian Weig said. "He's smart enough to know when he'll go after that second mile and third mile. Today he just ran the perfect race. He had it in his head what he wanted to do and he followed through."
Rose finished third in 18:15, while Crew was six seconds back for fourth. Ben Terrones claimed fifth in 18:34, leading East Marshall's balanced pack.
"We're working really hard in practice to stay together and keep that pack. We have some new kids that have really added to our depth this year," East Marshall coach Erik Niggemeyer said. "We should have eight strong runners all year long fighting for those varsity spots."
Only 37 seconds separated the Mustangs' second through seventh runners and the squad will try to bring that pack mentality to each meet. Nick Meling (19:08) and Caleb Benzing (19:10) also finished in the top-10 for East Marshall before its next four runners came through with a 14-second spread.
"We're going to have them racing together for as long as they can," Niggemeyer said. "If someone makes a move we're hoping the rest of the group can answer."
Cole Silver's move came in the form of trading his shoulder pads for spikes. After three years on the football team, the BCLUW senior made an immediate impact in his cross country debut placing sixth in 18:49. Fellow Comet senior Derek Coulter finished seven seconds back in seventh.
"I had a lot of young runners in there who got out and competed," BCLUW coach Donna Fiscus said. "They ran the hardest they could at this point in the season and that's going to improve. It's early so you have to figure out how you're going to handle the nerves, the heat and get used to all of that."
For some, it will include changes to their race strategy. South Hardin coach Mike Olson was pleased with Rose's finish after the senior got a little ahead of pace in the early going.
"Tim ran real well, but he didn't run a real great race plan," Olson said. "He was kind of in a personal rivalry early but he knows his mistake now and had a real nice finish."
South Hardin sophomore Zac Farrell placed 11th in his first cross country race clocking 19:27.
West Marshall (142) held off the Tigers by 21 points for fifth, while Aplington-Parkersburg (222) took seventh.
Grundy Center's Espen Cleveland garnered 22nd in 20:04, leading the Spartans to eighth (254). GMG's Jeff Hughes came through in 21:00 to grab 35th as the Wolverines took ninth (283). Gladbrook-Reinbeck, North Tama and Grandview Park Baptist didn't have enough runners to figure into the team scoring. Tyler Bovy paced the Rebels in 19:31 to take 14th, while Brian Zobel led the Redhawks in 60th.