JEWELL — Nevada’s Malachi Hornbuckle wasn’t quite able to reach his goal at the Heart of Iowa Conference cross country meet, but his team served notice that it can make some noise in the postseason after a runner-up finish Monday at the Jewell Golf and Country Club.

Hornbuckle entered the meet ranked No. 3 individually in Class 3A. But he had some tough competition in No. 5 Tyler Rees and No. 20 Nathan Patel of Gilbert and the No. 20 2A runner in Logan Peters of South Hamilton.

Hornbuckle ran another strong race, but he was unable to earn his fourth meet victory of the season. He completed the 5-kilometer course in 17 minutes, eight seconds to take second behind Rees, who finished in 16:52.

“Rees just ran smarter than me — that’s all it comes down to,” Hornbuckle said. “He was the smarter racer today and he won — that’s the way it should be.”

The start of the race is where Hornbuckle said Rees picked up his advantage.

“I got stuck as the windbreaker,” Hornbuckle said. “Then I was stuck there the rest of the time until he was ready to go and I was too worn out.”

The runner-up finish gives Hornbuckle plenty of motivation with the state qualifying meet coming up next week.

“We’ll definitely get back at it,” Hornbuckle said. “I’m glad this isn’t the one I have to end on.”

As a team, the Nevada boys came in second behind Gilbert — the No. 3 team in 3A. The Cubs scored 65 points to edge South Hamilton — the No. 5 2A team — by four points for runner-up honors behind Gilbert’s strong score of 23.

“The boys were shooting for second and that’s where we ended up,” Nevada head cross country coach Mike Christiansen said. “We knew South Hamilton and Roland-Story would be tough, but we were able to beat them. Noah Nusbaum and Edison Weig both ran their first races since the Pella meet. They got through them real well and things look positive going forward.”

Roland-Story, the No. 7 team in 2A, placed fourth in the boys’ race with 104 points.

Carter Franzen was Nevada’s second runner at the HOIC meet with a 13th-place time of 18:04. Nusbaum placed 20th in his first meet back from a hamstring injury with an 18:32 showing.

Dalton Baker and Jacob Sanders were right behind Nusbaum with respective 21st and 22nd-place times of 18:33 and 18:35 to complete the scoring for Nevada. Connor Kline came in 29th at 19:04 and Connor Hines 34th at 19:13 as the other varsity Cub runners.

Weig placed 41st in 19:22.

In the girls’ race, Nevada scored 119 points to place fifth, coming in just two points behind Roland-Story. North Polk — the No. 4 3A team — won with 28 points, Gilbert (No. 6 in 3A) was a close second with 31 points and Prairie City-Monroe finished third with a score of 109.

“We thought the girls could be third and they finished fifth, but only 10 points from third,” Christiansen said. “The last couple of meets the girls have taken a pretty big step forward. Their confidence is growing and they are running awesome.”

Eliana Hornbuckle continued her strong sophomore season as the top runner for the Nevada girls at the HOIC meet.

Hornbuckle just missed making all-HOIC. She came up one spot short after finishing 15th with a 5-kilometer time of 22:08.

“I think I’ve figured out how fast I need to run my first mile so that I’m in position,” Eliana said. “Then I can really move during those last two miles because the field really slows down after the first mile. I feel like I’m strong keeping that pace up and moving up the last part of the race.”

The Cub girls had four other runners place in the top 45 individually.

“I think we’re improving and that’s great,” Eliana said. “Just keep moving up.”

Megan Gilchrist and Grace Cahill both placed in the top 30 and Kaylee Kruse and Mady Farmer each finished in the top 45 as the other runners to earn points for the Nevada girls. Gilchrist took 24th in 22:50, Cahill 27th in 22:54, Kruse 37th in 23:35 and Farmer 42nd with a 23:42 showing.

Grace Heiden and Ryanne Barker also ran varsity for the Nevada girls. Heiden placed 48th in 24:19 and Barker placed 50th after crossing the finish line in 24:30.

North Polk’s Amelia Lesher was the HOIC individual champion on the girls’ side. Lesher — ranked 17th in 3A — ran a time of 20 minutes flat and Gilbert’s Maggie Pollard took second in 20:24.

Final team scores

Girls: 1. North Polk 28 points, 2. Gilbert 31, 3. PCM 109, 4. Roland-Story 117, 5. Nevada 119, 6. Greene County 151, 7. South Hamilton 172, 8. Saydel 238.

Boys: 1. Gilbert 23, 2. Nevada 65, 3. South Hamilton 69, 4. Roland-Story 104, 5. North Polk 126, 6. Saydel 163, 7. PCM 195, 8. Greene County 244.

Individual results (5-kilometer) - Nevada

Girls: 15. Eliana Hornbuckle, 22:08; 24. Megan Gilchrist, 22:50; 27. Grace Cahill, 22:54; 37. Kaylee Kruse, 23:35; 42. Mady Farmer, 23:42; 48. Grace Heiden, 24:19; 50. Ryanne Barker, 24:30.

Boys: 2. Malachi Hornbuckle, 17:08; 13. Carter Franzen, 18:04; 20. Noah Nusbaum, 18:32; 21. Dalton Baker, 18:33; 22. Jacob Sanders, 18:35; 29. Connor Kline, 19:04; 34. Connor Hines, 19:13.