North Tama’s Lidgett cracks top-10 in Class 1A

Breaks school record while Breakenridge finishes strong

North Tama junior Grace Lidgett waves to the crowd last Saturday afternoon during the 2021 Cross Country State Championship Class 1A Awards Ceremony in Fort Dodge. Lidgett took 10th place in the girls 5K race with a time of 19:50.19 — the best meet time in North Tama girls’ state cross country history. Photo by Noah Rohlfing

North Tama junior Grace Lidgett couldn’t stop smiling Saturday afternoon at state cross country, and for good reason.

She not only played a role in helping the Redhawks reach their first state meet as a team since 2007, but the junior earned her second-straight medal in Fort Dodge and improved on her 2020 performance in the process with a 10th-place finish at Kennedy Park.

The Redhawks finished eighth in the team standings with 226 points, beating North Linn by one. Their strong finish came in spite of the Redhawks coming into the state championship meet unranked.

There was plenty for head coach Katey Holbach to be proud of.

“It was a great day and I’m excited to see the girls place that high because they’ve been the underestimated underdogs all season,” Holbach said. “Never ranked all season and they come here and finish in the top half of Class 1A, I couldn’t ask for more from our girls.

North Tama junior Grace Lidgett competes in the Class 1A state cross country championships on Saturday at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge. Lidgett placed 10th with a time of 19 minutes, 50.19 seconds. Photo by Noah Rohlfing

“It’s really exciting to see because I think they’ve earned it, and it’s nice to see the team as a whole get that recognition as well.”

Lidgett started the race out strong, falling in just behind the top four runners in the first mile before dropping one or two spots in the middle sector of the race.

But in a fast-paced event with mild weather and scant wind, it was a sharp contrast to last year’s wind-swept affair. The speed of the race was something that stuck out to the Redhawk junior.

“This race went so much faster than last year, you could just feel it,” Lidgett said. “It just flew by. There wasn’t 30-mile-an-hour winds gusting in your face the whole time.”

As she got to the finish line, Lidgett was spent. She laid down for a minute after completing the race to gather herself, having given everything she had. But she didn’t just improve on her 12th-place finish last year, but she also set the best meet time in North Tama girls’ state cross country history with a blistering 19 minutes, 50.19 seconds across the 5-kilometer course. One of Lidgett’s goals this week was to break 20 minutes, and she did so with 10 seconds to spare.

After winning two medals at state cross country and a medal in state track and field only halfway through her junior year, North Tama’s star runner has her eyes on more.

“It makes me excited to think I might be able to push harder and do bigger things and set bigger goals for myself,” Lidgett said. “I think that’s exciting. I’m so happy.”

Saturday’s race was also the last in a strong high school career for Jules Breakenridge, North Tama’s No. 2 runner and a key component in the team reaching state.

Breakenridge made it to state with Lidgett in 2020 and finished 62nd with a 21:56.3. In 2021, she signed off with a 28th-place run and a 21:09.97 time. It wasn’t the career-best she was hoping for, but the strong finish and the chance to experience the state atmosphere with a full team was well worth the effort.

“I’m proud of myself and it was good to be back here running at Fort Dodge,” Breakenridge said. “It’s crazy that it’s over, but I’m proud of the season I had.

“Once I found out that we made state as a team, it was such a surreal moment. Our whole team was just so proud of each other. It was a great way to end the season.”

Finishing third for the Redhawks was junior Olivia Ketter in 78th with a time of 22:27.88. Sophomore Jamie Jacobs was 90th in 22:38.99.