FORT DODGE — Surpassing even the expectations of her head coach, Perry sophomore produced a new personal-best time and 5K Jayette school record at the Class 3A State Cross Country Meet Saturday.
Karolus had finished 70th, in 21 minutes, 5.9 seconds, as a freshman last year.
Now a year older, wiser and stronger, she used her prior experience at Kennedy Park and what head coach Ryan Marzen gushed is “an absolutely phenomenal work ethic” to shatter her prior effort, this time crossing 22nd overall in 19:38.1
“She worked so hard for this,” Marzen said. “We ran a 6,000 (meters) Monday and a 4,000 Tuesday then added another 400 onto a 5K to simulate the hills she would face. She handled it all like I knew she would. This is one determined runner, one special athlete who excels in multiple sports, and there will be a lot more to come from her in the future — I am sure of it.”
Ballard, riding the spectacular freshman duo of Shewaye Johnson (second in 18:40.3) and Paityn Noe (third, in 18:44.4) ran off with the team title with 57 points. DC-G was second at 80 (Fillies junior Megan Sterbenz was fourth, in 18:45.7) while Dubuque Wahlert placed third with 125 points.
Senior Adriana Katcher of Center Point-Urbana claimed the crown by breaking the tape in 18:29.4. A total of 129 individuals competed in the 3A race.
“We talked repeatedly about the opening 400 meters,” Marzen said. “It is not her (Karolus) strong suit to sprint out strong, but we knew she had to at state. You cannot win the race in the first 400, but you can lose it there. If you are not in that front back you are done.”
Karolus was off quickly, and Marzen said he was proud to see her still with the front grouping at the two-mile mark.
“That is where the separation happens,” he said. “If you fall out of that front group you are not catching it again, and she was right there with them.”
Of the runners finishing ahead of Karolus, seven were seniors, seven juniors and five freshman. Karolus was the second sophomore to finish.
“I just could not be happier or more proud of her and how she ran Saturday,” Marzen said. “I don’t see any reason why she can’t go down and be a top 15 runner or so in the 3200 at state track, and the promise of next (cross country) season is right there in front of her.”
“We want to go sub-20 (minutes) and she ran 19:38,” he said. “Now we can look at working our way down into the 19-teens and see what happens.”
Karolus was setting an example with her devotion and dedication, Marzen said.
“So Monday will be two days from the state meet, and guess what?” he asked. “She will be in the weight room working or doing something, it is just how she is, and why she has had the success she has had.”