FORT DODGE, Iowa — Alex Bautista may be new to the sport of cross country, but he is already making moves.
The Muscatine High School sophomore, in his first season running cross country, finished 48th in the field of 114 runners at the Class 4A boys state cross country meet at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge on Saturday morning.
Bautista completed the hilly course in 16 minutes, 40 seconds under chilly, windy conditions.
"I think that’s extremely phenomenal," Muscatine coach Chris Foxen said. "It’s an example of how hard a worker Alex Bautista is and it’s a chance for people to see what he’s been doing all season."
Bautista eagerly pushed through the challenges of the state cross country course, which included being part of a large pack of runners jockeying for position for most of the first 1½ miles of the course.
"I felt great, my legs felt great," Bautista said. "The crowd really pushed me along to get where I wanted to be in the race.
"I was probably more motivated at the finish because I had guys right next to me to push me along the way."
Foxen noted that Bautista had a strong back half of the race to put pressure on some of the runners, something Bautista has been doing a lot of this season and something that may help Bautista as the Muskies carry on in future seasons.
"We’ve got really good athletes that train like Alex Bautista," Foxen said. "We just need to find some depth next year but with a good core group of guys we’re excited to try and make it as a team to state next year."
West Des Moines Valley’s Daniel Soto won the Class 4A individual title in 15:24.
Wilton's Kaylee Ford enjoyed her first time at the state cross country meet as well, finishing 56th in the Class 1A girls race in 16:53.
"It helped with all the people cheering and all the people that came to support me," Ford said.
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Ford was two-tenths of a second ahead of North-Linn's Sydney Mertens in 57th and less than a second behind Emmetsburg's Jordan Lange in 55th.
"The wind did probably affect me, but there were a couple of girls in front of me and I wanted to catch them," Ford said.
In the Class 1A boys race, Durant's Joey Tobin accomplished almost exactly what he set out to do in his 29th-place finish in 17:34.
"We wanted him to get in the top 30, and he was 29th," Durant coach Kay Hein said. "Time-wise he was right in the ballpark and since he hasn't been there before, he didn't know what to expect and I'm very happy with what he did."
Tobin, a junior, was edged out by Aaron Beckley of Bellevue, who finished two-tenths of a second ahead of Tobin for 28th place. Peyton Twedt won the race in a time of 16:24.
"I didn't know what place I was in, but I figured once I got to the finish I just needed to go as fast as I could," Tobin said. "I'll just keep practicing and doing better so I can hopefully get top 10 next year."
Columbus Community's Josh Keller was the only non-newbie in Saturday's race, returning to the state meet in a 48th-place finish with a time of 17:56 in the 1A boys race.
Keller was 73rd in the 2013 2A race in 17:55, but Keller said he struggled to get out of a large main pack early on, during a part of the race where coach Dennis Riley noted is where he has excelled this season.
"That he finished that well was really a bright spot," Riley added.
Keller will get one more shot in his senior season in 2015 to go for three straight appearances at Lakeside.
"I'll be working on my second mile to get that faster and making sure that I can get a faster start," Keller said.