CASCADE, Iowa — Carter Hancock has a specific goal in mind for his final cross country season.

“My personal goal for this year is to be top-15 at state in Fort Dodge, so hopefully I can achieve that,” Hancock said.

The senior leader for Wahlert placed 24th at state last year and the rigorous amount of offseason work he put in has him poised to achieve his goal.

Hancock crossed the finish line in second place Thursday in 17:43 in the Cascade Invitational at Fillmore Fairways as he paced the Golden Eagles to a third-place team finish with 96 points.

“It feels good, I put the work in over the summer and it’s finally paying off,” Hancock said. This team is really good this year. We have put the work in and it’s going to pay off for us soon. This race is an example of that.”

Hancock said the daunting, intimidating hills of Fillmore forced him to adapt during Thursday’s race.

“You kind of have to lay off on the flat stretches and prepare for those hills because they drain you,” he said. “You have to prepare and anticipate (the hills) so you know when to use your energy more for the hills.”

Nolan Martineau (18:43) placed 11th and Gabriel Auer (19:39) crossed in 19th to give Wahlert three top-20 finishers.

Maquoketa Valley won the boys team score with 80 points. Nolan Ries (17:53) finished fourth, with teammate Cy Huber (17:57) right behind him in fifth. Michael Schaul gave the Wildcats three runners inside the top-10 with a ninth-place finish in 17:57.

Adam Knepper (18:40) placed 10th and led host Cascade to seventh place in the team standings at 167. Max Nadeau finished 16th for the Cougars in 19:21.

Dyersville Beckman finished 11th overall and was led by Tate Ruden’s 45th-place effort in 20:53.

Like the boys, the Wahlert girls finished third in the team standings with 82 points, led by senior Ellie Meyer’s fifth place finish in 21:15.

“It wasn’t my best, but under these circumstances I wasn’t really expecting to do my best,” Meyer said, referring to the challenges of the course.

“You look at the hills and you think, ‘How am I going to run up that?’’ she said. “This course really just challenges your mindset, especially if you don’t do as good as you want. It kind of just beats on you a little bit.”

Meyer said her goal this year is to be a leader for her teammates.

“I had really good seniors when I was a freshman so that really helped me continue in cross country, so I hope I can do the same for my girls this year.”

Meyer made good on her promise early on as she led the charge for fellow senior teammate Ellie Kirby, who crossed just behind her in seventh in 21:20.

Beckman had a strong meet on the girls side with three runners crossing the line consecutively inside the top 20. Maria Kruse (22:33) was 15th, Madelyn Reiter (22:53) 16th, and Julia Mertz (22:55) 17th. The Trailblazers (101) finished fifth in the team standings.

Thursday’s meet marked a full-circle event for first-year Cascade head coach Phil Kauder, who took over for longtime Cougars coach Bob Davidshofer. Kauder was a four-year letterwinner under Davidshofer in the 1970s and went on to coach track and field at his alma mater and Anamosa. He has been a volunteer coach with Cascade the last couple seasons before taking the reins this year.

“It’s a little different pressure,” Kauder said. “The fun part is I know a lot of these kids and their parents and their grandparents. It makes it easier when you know the families a little bit. You get to know the kids a lot quicker.”

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