After competing at the state cross country meet each of the last two years, Highland junior Evan Mahler knew what to expect this year.
Mahler also knew what he expected from himself — a championship.
Mahler didn’t quite win the Class 1A race Saturday at Lakeside Golf Course, but he wasn’t far off.
In his third time competing at state, Mahler finished third in a time of 16 minutes, 41.1 seconds.
“Evan did amazing,” Highland coach Angela Strobel said. “He really had a goal set that he was out to get first and he worked hard to get there, and I think a third place finish was great for him.”
Mahler finished 37th at state as a freshman and 86th last year but jumped all the way into the top three Saturday.
The junior said his experience was a big part of the improvement.
“You get to know the course because it’s the same every time,” Mahler said. “Today I was less nervous because it wasn’t a complete unknown what to expect. I think that experience helped.”
While jumping 83 spots in the standings isn’t always an expectation, Strobel said she wasn’t surprised by Mahler’s finish Saturday.
“I’m definitely very happy with what he did,” Strobel said. “He is a tough competitor and he always goes out to win.”
Kyle Kehoe of Denver won the 1A race in 16:17.4, while Peyton Twedt of West Ford was second in 16:37.
Paced by Mahler, Highland finished 10th in the 1A boys standings with 188 points.
“It helps to have the whole team here,” Mahler said. “It gives me reason more than just personal goals to just run. Not only am I running for myself but I’m also helping my team.”
Sophomore Keiffer Sexton added a 33rd place finish for Highland in a time of 17:27.4.
* CLEAR CREEK AMANA: The Clippers finished 12th in the Class 3A boys race with 244 points. Ben Alcorn led the Clear Creek Amana with 14th place in 16:56.2.
* MID-PRAIRIE: The Golden Hawks finished seventh with 212 points in Class 2A, led by Jared Draper in 32nd place in 17:25.7.