PELLA - Cold, rainy and windy conditions weren't going to stop Kelsey Kupka from accomplishing her goal here last Thursday.
In fact, the weather helped her run faster.
South Tama's top cross country runner all season has one more race to run after she qualified for the Class 3A state meet last week. Kupka, an STC senior, finished sixth in the district meet, which earned her a spot at Saturday's state meet in Fort Dodge.
South Tama senior Kelsey Kupka finished sixth at the Class 3A district cross country meet last Thursday at Pella. Kupka’s finish earned her a spot at Saturday’s state meet.
"She's worked hard," coach George Kuhter said. "She kind of hit a lull last year and it wasn't a whole lot of her sophomore year when she had the concussion and finished 11th at districts, just missing qualifying for state. She came back hard, she worked for this year and she's having a lot more fun. When you're running well, it's more fun.
"The race was important to her, because she knows she can run with the best of them," he said. "I had a feeling that morning, with the way she ran on Monday, that she was going to qualify. She ran really well."
After coming one place from running at state, Kupka felt a huge relief Thursday afternoon. The smile on her post-race face showed it all.
"I've waited four years for this," Kupka said. "It feels so good. My race went well and everything went how I wanted it to go. It's not too hilly. It's a faster course, because it's flat. However, I like the hills, rain and wind. I run really well in this weather."
Kupka battled the mid-40s temperatures, rain and strong winds on the 4-kilometer course, which she had only run once - her freshman year at conference. She kept moving closer to the front as the race continued. She finished in a time of 16:13, just six seconds from third place.
"The crappier the weather, the better off she is and the faster she runs," Kuhter said. "It suits her, because she likes running those little hills. She can go up and down them like nobody."
Both South Tama teams finished seventh in the team standings. The top three girls' teams qualifying for the state were Pella, Grinnell and Williamsburg, while Pella, Grinnell and Knoxville qualified on the boys side.
Junior Taylor Ellenbecker was 32nd for the STC girls, while sophomore Naomi Hoskey - who missed Monday's conference meet with an illness - was 44th. Sophomore Diahana Puentes ended up 54th and junior Regina Balderas was the fifth and final scorer in 56th.
"The girls had a hard time," Kuhter said. "We just gotten Naomi and Diahana back. We haven't had a full girls team since our invitational and even Diahana ran JV there. The nice thing about it is five of the seven that ran yesterday are coming back, plus we're adding four really good middle school runners to that group. I think we'll be in great shape next year."
The top boys finishers were senior Brady Ellenbecker in 20th and sophomore Robert Tyynsimaa in 21st. Both guys finished in 18:08. Freshman Blake Keller was 41st, junior Surrell Youngbear was 42nd and junior Luis Perez was the final counting place in 51st.
"I'm disappointed, because I know we can run with Knoxville," Kuhter said. "The boys just didn't run smart. Brady convinced himself that cross country wasn't going to be his thing this year early in the season. Everybody kind of followed him, because he's the captain. He needs to understand that being a captain is a little bit more than just a title. The good thing about it is a big portion of the team is coming back. If we can get everybody smart and running right, we'll be good on both teams."
Kupka's Class 3A race will begin at noon Saturday at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge.
"I'm happy for Kelsey," Kuhter said. "Her season's not over. She's going to have a good state meet and she's going to enjoy it. That's just part of being a senior. We're going to miss her."