FORT DODGE There will be no asterisk affixed to Cedar Rapids Prairie's state championship, nor should there be.
But this wasn't how the Hawks wanted to win it.
"It feels good to win; it's what we've been working for all season," said Mitch Pritts. "But it hurts to see one of (Linn-Mar's) guys go down. On one hand, I'm really excited. On the other hand, I feel terrible."
Prairie won its second Class 4A boys' cross country title in four years, placing four guys in the top 11 and scoring 81 points. The Hawks were followed by Johnston (116), West Des Moines Dowling (122) and Linn-Mar (135).
A convincing win, yes, and a deserved one. But Linn-Mar would have been right there with the Hawks had Daniel Murphy not gone down in the home stretch. Murphy struggled to finish, nearly 2 minutes behind the back of the pack.
As Pritts indicated, Murphy's misfortunate cast a pall on the Hawks' triumph. And it was a major bummer for Linn-Mar's Josh Evans, who broke through with the individual title.
"Everything was clicking for me today," Evans said glumly. "I felt like I was ready to come out and run.
"But it's too bad we couldn't have won the team title. It's unfortunate that this happened to us at state."
Evans has dealt with more than his share of medical misfortunes himself, including an Achilles-heel tweak earlier this season. But he was healthy Saturday, and he was the class of the field, completing the race in 15 minutes, 19 seconds.
"I was confident coming in," he said. "The second mile, I felt strong, so I just took it."
The cross country further bolsters an already-glossy running resume for Evans, who won multiple Drake Relays and state track titles last spring.
Prairie's Jake Moore, Isaiah Vlasek, Pritts and Tysen VanDraska were fourth, seventh, eighth and 11th.
"We've had a fantastic season," said Prairie Coach Bill Schwarz. "They're great kids, they're hard workers and they love each other. I've been fortunate to work with a team like this.
"Linn-Mar has kind of pulled us along all season. They have a good four, and we have a good four."
It would have been a near photo-finish between the Metro teams had Murphy finished in the position he was running somewhere in the low teens before things went wrong.
Tanner Rathje was fifth for Linn-Mar, Michael Mather 16th.
"We knew it was going to be really close," Rathje said. "It was going to come down to who had the better day."
Moore has emerged from the shadow of Pritts and Vlasek to become the Hawks' top runner in the last few weeks. He paced his team again Saturday.
"I just feel a lot of happiness and fulfillment," he said. "The coaches kept telling me I had it in me, and I started to believe them."
West Des Moines Dowling won its sixth 4A girls' title in seven seasons with 90 points. Ames was second with 104, followed by defending champion Pleasant Valley (128). Linn-Mar was fifth.
Pleasant Valley's McKenzie Yanek ran away with the individual girls' title in 14:00. Last year's runner-up, Ashlynn Yokom of Iowa City West, stumbled early in the race, got up and finished fifth in 14:33.
"I tripped and fell at about 500 meters," said Yokom, who spiked herself in the left thigh, which was bleeding after the race. "I got up quick and was hoping to still run a good pace.
"This wasn't exactly what I wanted, but I did the best I could my team."
Linn-Mar's Amber Decker was ninth; Cedar Rapids Kenendy's Alyssa Averhoff was 11th.