Pratt's freshman phenom Halle Helfrich was leading the girls cross country race at Lake Afton Thursday, and would have won except for making a mistake on the route near the end. The error cost her 10 places, pushing her back to 11th. The other Lady Greenbacks picked her up, though, and PHS won the girls division anyway. Pratt's boys finished 6th in the event.
The course at Lake Afton is a favorite for many runners as it features varied terrain and footing and is dominated by the imposing Lake Afton dam that the harriers must navigate twice. "It's a fun race. It's exciting," said Helfrich. "Some races are flat and boring, but this one's all over the place."
As runners cross the dam for the final time, they are supposed to go to the end of the dam before turning back downhill for the finish.
Helfrich mistakenly took one of the earlier cut-offs down the face of the dam and didn't realize her mistake until she reached the finish line, where people were screaming "You went the wrong way! You went the wrong way!"
So Helfrich climbed the dam again, and this time went all the way to the end before descending, but it cost her 10 places and the gold medal. (There is no penalty in crosscountry for not following the course exactly, as long as your actions do not give you an advantage. Having to retrace her steps made the race longer for Helfrich, so she was perfectly entitled to repeat the finish under the rules.)
"There's a person standing on top of the hill (dam) that's supposed to point the right way," Helfrich explained. "They didn't point anywhere, really. I just went."
Helfrich's boo-boo handed the gold medal to Rose Hill's Emily Terrell, who felt guilty about winning it in such a fashion. "She (Helfrich) deserves it," Terrell said sportingly. "I don't feel like I should get it if I didn't win it."
Helfrich's mishap did not cost the Lady Greenbacks, because the rest of them were in good position, too. Nichole Moreland and Adele Loomis finished 2nd (17:00) and 3rd (17:17) respectively. Helfrich's 18:30 was good for 11th. Cassidy Cronister was 13th (18:42) and Kara Nixon was 26th (19:18).
PHS' pushers were Morgan Strong (29th 19:39) and Chloe Cannata (39th 20:23). Pratt's 48 team points bested Rose Hill's 73 and Bishop Carroll's 86 in the 10-school meet.
Joseph Loomis (7th 18:29) was a medalist for the boys, and Brendan Pribil (16th 19:33) was just one place out of the medals. Other boys finishes: Brody Cronister 28th 20:11; Zach Will 47th 21:08; Caleb Hitz 50th 21:15; Chance Reh 54th 21:29; Will Fellhoelter 64th 22:08.
The Pratt boys team total was 130, good for 7th. Andale won the boys division with 30 points.
In JV action, Ruth Anthony was 5th (19:11); Paloma Diaz was 12th (19:59) and Tori Hassler was 13th (20:04). Josh Powell ran 22:02, Cooper Crump 23:15, Jacob Berry 25:08 and Jacob Schaefer 28:05 for the boys JV.
Page 2 of 2 - "I was very pleased with how we competed in all the races," commented head coach Kathy Hitz. "This is one of our kid's favorite courses to run on, so we usually do well here. It was hot and windy, which affected times a little, but like I said, we competed!"
"The girls had a great day, even with the mishap of Halle getting off course," Hitz continued. "I think we are really starting to understand how every position counts. You don't win meets with just one or two doing well, you win by everyone doing their job and moving up throughout the race. We are running our last mile well, and passing people."
The Pratt High School crosscountry team hosts their Invitational next Thursday at 6th Street Park, 4:30 p.m.