FORT DODGE, Iowa -- If Jaysen Bouwers’ knee was hurting him on Saturday during the Class 4A boys state cross country meet, he certainly didn’t show it.
Bouwers, a North High School junior, finished in ninth place with a time of 15 minutes, 54 seconds during the 5,000-meter race at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course. The Stars also broke a school record by getting fifth in the team standings with points.
Bouwers was shut down for over a week with iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS).
The IT band is a type of tendon from one’s lower back down to the knees. ITBS occurs when the tissue in that area becomes tight enough to rub against the thigh bone, giving him that tendonitis.
Bouwers admitted that it felt weird not being able to run with his team throughout the week, and was eager to get back to running on Saturday.
Bouwers went on a 17-mile bike ride on Thursday and that allowed his body to get back into running mode.
Bouwers’ position throughout the race stayed consistent, as he was content with staying near the front of the pack. He admitted that he was trying to keep up with individual state champion Max Murphy of Pleasant Valley (15:29) and West Des Moines Dowling Catholic’s Sam Hall.
Murphy and Hall kept making moves that couldn’t allow Bouwers to really make the pass he was looking for.
The Stars junior made a last-second kick at the end, but Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Jack Pendergast and Dubuque Hempstead’s Owen Maloney beat Bouwers to the finish line by less than a second.
When Bouwers reached the finish line, he did his usual post-race routine. He took a minute to collect his breath, then helped runners off the ground.
All in all, everything seemed normal after a week that was anything but for Bouwers.
“My injury didn’t bother me that much today, which I’m pretty happy about,” Bouwers said. “At first, I had the same strategy as before. If it was going to hurt, it was going to hurt. Other than that, I was just going to do my own thing and my team was going to do theirs.”
The days stretched longer for Bouwers and he just wanted to run with his team again, which stepped up even with Bouwers in the lineup.
“I was especially eager for my team,” Bouwers said. “They put in a lot of work this year. They are in a really tight pack and did lots of damage. It really wasn’t for me, it was for them.”
Last year, Bouwers didn’t run at state due to a non-running issue, according to coach Abdier Marrero.
The Stars found out shortly before race day last year, which may have thrown the team’s psyche off a little bit.
Not having their best runner bothered the Stars, but on Saturday, North knew the situation.
North knew its best runner wasn’t going to feel the best, but also knew he was going to run even if Bouwers had to run one-legged.
One of the big goals the Stars had on Saturday was to have all seven boys finish under-17 minutes.
They met that with time to spare.
Lohr finished second for the Stars, as he scored 24 points and ended up with a time of 16:19.
Lohr, a sophomore, finished second overall last week at the Council Bluffs state qualifying meet, and throughout the season, he’s gained confidence.
Lohr’s spark started at the Ankeny meet early in the season. The Hawks host a freshman-sophomore meet, and Marrero put Lohr in that spot just to see how he would respond without Bouwers.
Lohr finished seventh overall in the two combined races, and that caught Marrero’s attention.
“From that point on, he’s taken off,” Marrero said. “He’s still got good things coming, but it’s a long process.”
Beshanena Gutema finished with 31 points and a time of 16:30. Junior Colin Greenwell was 47th -- and scored 40 points -- in 16:37.
Freshman Gabe Nash finished in 16:45, and scored the final 56 points.
The final two Stars were junior Ahmed Dido (16:55) aned Yemane Kifle, who made the 17-minute mark by 1.6 seconds.
“You could tell on the way over here that we were in a better mood than what we were last year,” Lohr said. “We were ready to race. It was just a new level. To have the chance to make some history happen for us, that was really inspiring.”
Dowling won the team portion, as it edged Pleasant Valley 87-96.
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