FORT DODGE - Some days, everything just seems to go your way. For Tornado junior cross-country runner Paul Yak, that day was Saturday.
A sunny afternoon in Fort Dodge saw Yak run his all-time best as he blazed to a time of 16:03 in the 5K race to take seventh place overall out of 121 runners. He shaved over half a minute off of his previous best and jumped up 20 places from his 27th place finish a year ago when he finished in 16:51.
"Paul ran a very very smart race," said head coach John Brostad. "We had talked all week about running his race and not going out too fast or too slow. During his workouts this week, we wanted to taper and stay sharp. On Tuesday, I told him to run five miles at a comfortable pace. He ran the 5 miles at a comfortable 30 minutes. That's when I thought, wow, he's in really good shape. I didn't say anything about top ten, but that's when I thought it might be possible if he had a good day."
Yak averaged 5:11 per mile in the race to claim the best finish ever by a Storm Lake boy at the state meet. Ben Ellingson finished 10th in 1988. Yak's 16:03 was also just three seconds off of the Storm Lake school record set by Jerry Gallagher in 1992.
"He likes it warm, and we got the perfect weather for him on Saturday," said Brostad. "I was a little concerned when he was in the top ten during the first mile as I hoped he hadn't gone out too fast. Seeing the 4:54 for mile one was a little unsettling to me, but he looked good and he always runs smart. I just hoped that he was feeling as good as he looked. Fortunately he was! Paul has worked very hard all summer and all fall. He is not afraid to get out of his comfort zone and push through the pain. It's nice to see him earn this honor as he is very deserving. It's nice to see his hard work rewarded."
As if the thrill of a seventh place finish at state and an all-time personal best weren't enough, Yak had the added thrill of his mother attending the meet to watch Paul for the first time since he started competing in seventh grade."
"What a great day to see him for the first time," said Brostad. "It was touching to see him come out on the balcony with the top ten runners to get his medal while his family looked on."
After winning five regular season meets, taking third and conference, and fifth at districts, Yak truly saved his best for last to close out his junior in phenomenal fashion.