AC/GC’s strongest runner is slowly cementing himself among the greatest Chargers of all-time, even if that history is fairly brief.
Ninth-ranked Noah Nelsen put forth a gritty effort last week at chilly and soggy the West Central Activities Conference meet, snatching a runner-up medal amongst a slew of talented runners.
West Central Valley’s Louden Foster (ranked 19th) wasn’t far behind in third, but neither could catch top-ranked Sean McDermott (15:57) and Madrid as the Tigers swept the individual and team titles Oct. 11 in Panora.
Nelsen ran to a time of 16:27, one of two Chargers in the top 15, as Clay Billheimer finished 11th with a time of 16:46. Foster ran a time of 16:33 to pace West Central Valley and secure a bronze medal.
AC/GC came in fifth overall as a team with 117 points as Ben Young was the only other runner to crack the 35 with a 27th place finish.
Top-ranked Madrid scored a staggering 38 points thanks to three runners in the top five, earning the league crown with relative ease. Des Moines Christian tallied 76 points to finish second while Earlham rounded out the top three with 95 points. Ogden finished just a hair ahead of AC/GC in fourth with 109 points.
Nelsen continues to make a strong push near the end of his final season in the black and gold, with hopes of making a return to state.
AC/GC head coach Colin Shawgo points to his work ethic as to why Nelsen’s had so much success in 2018.
“Noah is one of the hardest working student athletes I have coached. He excels in all areas of high school by his exceptional work ethic and drive,” Shawgo said. “It is because of this tenacity that he has really (grown) this senior season. Each day he comes out to get better, and the build of hard work over the past four years has culminated in great times and performances.”
An uptick in high level conditioning is where Shawgo has seen Nelsen make his biggest gains this fall. He’s able to close the gap and maintain a lead each time he sets foot on a course.
“The area that he has improved the most is his ability to finish out a race,” Shawgo said. “This year he has been able to keep a tremendous pace through out a race, making it easier for him to drop times and place high in meets.”
Outside of the all-conference honors hauled in by Nelsen and Billheimer, Miles Kading, Blaine Beeler and Eli Kading finished 38-40 for AC/GC. It was an underwhelming display on a re-structured and soggy Panorama West course.
“I was pretty disappointed in our team performances,” Shawgo said. “I think that both teams are much better than they showed, and we ended up doing poorly in the team races.
A lot of that can be attributed to injury and illness last week, but when you have high expectations going into a meet, it is hard when you don’t meet those expectations. Nobody had a bad race, but some people didn’t quite hit the mark that we had set out for them.”
Panorama finished 10th as a team paced by Kevin Cogil, who finished 45th. Emry Colby (48th) and Noah Kirtley (50th) were the only other Panthers in the top 50.
Panorama head coach Greg Thompson knew his team wouldn’t make much noise due to a few injuries, but was satisfied with where they came out.
“The boys are still not at full strength, but should be good to go next week. Levi Richey has been sick all week, but he tried to race tonight,” the coach said. “That illness seemed to zap his energy level as he became fatigued pretty quickly.”
Richey plummeted to 71st and was the fifth-lowest placing PHS runner.
The conference meet was run on a slightly different route due to muddy and wet conditions. The runners took several laps on a smaller-than-usual course, which could have thrown his athletes off, but Thompson felt they shook it off well enough.
“We went pretty light in practice over the last week because of the weather conditions and to heal some nagging injuries and muscle tightness,” the coach said. “We still aren’t running at full health, but I felt the kids gave the best effort they could. They embraced the alternate, muddy course.They didn’t let it affect their performances.”
West Central Valley’s Jayden Dickson secured 32nd with a time of 17:56 while Matt Gerling came in 66th to pace the Wildcats.
The co-ed state qualifying meets are set for this evening (Oct. 18). Panorama will host a 2A meet while AC/GC will be home to the Chargers, West Central Valley and a slew of other 1A schools.
The girls’ competition kicks off the event at 4 p.m.