Mustang duo caps strong season at state meet

Oct. 29—FORT DODGE — With so many runners eligible to return next season, the future of the PCM cross country teams looks bright.

Freshman Lila Milani and sophomore Coby DeRaad are two of the Mustangs' biggest pieces next season, but they capped their 2023 campaigns at the state meet on Saturday.

Milani highlighted PCM with a 79th-place finish in the Class 2A girls' race, while DeRaad was 101st in the boys' race on a cold day at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course inside Kennedy Park in Fort Dodge.

"I'm incredibly proud of how both runners represented us, and I can't wait to see what they both do next season," PCM head cross country coach Eric Karr said.

Lila Milani

Milani completed the girls' 5K race in 21 minutes, 20.2 seconds. That was her fifth-best time of the season.

"I really enjoyed it. It was nice to have the support of some of my teammates and their families," Milani said. "It was a great learning experience I can use for next year."

It was by far the coldest day of the season. And the weather affected both runners before and during the race.

DeRaad called it "the most physically demanding race he's had all season."

Milani said the cold weather made warm-ups a lot harder. It also was "uncomfortably cold on her hands and face."

There were 65 females who ran faster than 21 minutes, 23 were under 20 minutes and the 15th and final medal winner ran a 19:39.3.

Top-ranked Hillary Trainor of Sumner-Fredericksburg won the girls' race in 18:09.5 and third-ranked McKenna Montgomery of Albia was the runner-up in 18:35.7.

Milani ran under 22 minutes for the sixth time this season.

"I didn't get boxed in, but I feel like I was running in such a big group of girls and it was hard to judge how fast I was going," Milani said. "It wasn't the time I wanted, but I'm still proud of myself."

Despite not running the time she wanted, Karr said Milani ended an impressive first season with a pretty good run.

"State is a different beast," Karr said. "Most of the race is pack running, and it was difficult to surge ahead at times."

DeRaad's first state 5K time was clocked in 18:16.8. It was his fifth-best time of the season and the sixth instance this fall he posted a time faster than 18:30 despite a fan running into his path on the course.

"I got out like I normally do, and I think fared pretty well for myself," DeRaad said. "I had major contact with a fan and that was pretty mentally taxing. That's all I could worry about all race and that's something I should have put behind me, but I really had trouble with that and being so cold.

"A fan tried to cross in front of me. I didn't want to stop so I just ran into him full speed and I spun around. I was very discombobulated at that point."

Coby DeRaad

Third-ranked Emmett Swartzentruber of Mid-Prairie won the 2A boys' race in 15:51. Fifth-ranked Neal Pinter of Denver was the runner-up in 15:53.9.

There were 91 runners who posted times under 18 minutes and 28 ran faster than 17 minutes. The 15th and final medal winner came across the finish line in 16:39.3.

"The experience and the atmosphere were insane," DeRaad said. "It's more than I had ever dreamed of. It's the experience I wanted and more.

"I'm already looking forward to next year. I'm looking forward to getting better myself by training physically and mentally but also for the team. Our team is only going to go up and I'm really excited for that."

DeRaad's improvement from freshman to sophomore year was impressive.

Karr doesn't want the collision with the fan to overshadow his day, but he feels bad for his top male runner.

"He was experiencing state for the first time, and he also wanted a faster time, but a spectator impacted his race," Karr said. "Hopefully he just chalks that up to another experience."

Milani didn't run cross country in junior high and didn't get too many training miles in before the season. She plans to change that this summer.

"I'm already super excited for next season and to continue to get better," Milani said. "Last summer, I only ran a few times a week so my plans are to train harder throughout this upcoming summer to prepare for the season."

Des Moines Christian swept the team races in 2A. The Lions scored 63 points to win the boys' title, while the girls scored 101 to claim their championship.