By Kristi Nixon
MASON CITY — A third shot at the Fort Dodge Kennedy Park course was in doubt earlier this week for St. Ansgar senior Riley Witt.
The top-ranked Class 1A runner had to overcome an illness that had him bedridden for at least a day.
Nevertheless, Witt held off a hard-charging challenge from friend and his biggest challenger this season, Bryce McDonough of Central Springs, to win the state qualifying meet at Mason City Newman High School in 16 minutes, 36.42 seconds and remain unbeaten heading into the state meet on Saturday, Oct. 30. McDonough finished just four seconds back.
“I’ve been wishing for competition all year and it was granted,” Witt said. “I’ve kind of had allergies this last week. I was feeling like crap the last three days. Two days ago I wasn’t able to run. I was in bed all day, sleeping; I literally slept all day. I was getting nervous, I was like, ‘oh my goodness, what if I can’t run on Thursday?’
“I did everything I possibly could to get healthy and I think I did what I needed to do. Obviously, today I wasn’t feeling super-great. I mean, it’s just survive and advance: what really matters is next week, so rest up for next week. Get fresh for then.”
Now that he qualified as the champion, he has to overcome Kennedy Park’s course. The past two seasons he finished 27th and 23rd overall, respectively, well below his ranking.
“My sophomore year was my first year down there,” Witt said. “I went in ranked fifth and I got destroyed. My junior year, last year, I went in ranked sixth and got destroyed.
“I haven’t had a good experience at Fort Dodge my last two years but this year I’m going to change that, hopefully. (I’ll) go in with a better mindset and just run my own race, and hopefully I turn the superstition around. That I can actually compete when I get to the state meet.”
He was nearly joined by teammate junior Cole Hansen, who made a strong sprint to the finish only to fall short by one place — by a mere three-tenths of a second.
“I remember turning a corner and I glanced back a little bit in my grimacing pain and I kind of looked and I thought, ‘oh my goodness, Cole’s got a shot…”
This story will be updated the Oct. 30 print edition of the Enterprise Journal.