FORT DODGE — Twenty-nine boys and 35 girls from the North Iowa area are set to participate in the state cross country meet in their respective classes on Saturday.
For some, running on the state’s biggest stage at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course will be a new experience, while it will be business as usual for others.
Mason City’s Thomas Rowe is one of the newcomers. The senior will compete as an individual in Class 4A.
The first boys qualifier for the Mohawks since Coty Thompson in 2010 is looking forward to the experience.
“This was my goal at the start of the season, and I’m excited for the opportunity to represent Mason City cross country,” Rowe said.
While Rowe is the lone area runner in the Class 4A field, Algona’s Trey Engen and Charles City’s Gavin Connell are back at the state meet in Class 3A. Connell will run in his third state meet, while Engen will be running in his second state meet.
The Class 2A boys field is represented by a number of runners with state experience.
Osage’s Ben Huftalin will compete as an individual for a second straight year but will run in his fourth state meet for the Green Devils.
“I’d like to run a little better than I did last year,” said Huftalin, who finished 61st in a time of 18 minutes, 0.5 seconds last year. “I really would like to PR there.”
Forest City’s Grady Hovenga will be making his first appearance at the state meet while Garner-Hayfield-Ventura will also represent the Top of Iowa Conference hoping to repeat as team champions in Class 2A.
“Our goal all year was to get the opportunity as a team to repeat,” said GHV sophomore Reece Smith, who was fifth individually last year for the Cardinals. “We’re hoping to bring home another state title.”
Teammate Logan Dalbeck, who was 13th overall last year for GHV, added that a repeat won’t be easy against a strong field.
“It’s going to take everyone running their best race,” Dalbeck said. “We know the target is on our back, but we have to go in relaxed.”
While GHV is seeking a state title, Clear Lake is looking for another strong performance as a team after the Lions finished seventh last season.
“I think our team has really improved since the start of the season and we’re a lot stronger than we were last season,” said Clear Lake junior Sam Pedelty, who finished 49th overall last season for the Lions.
The Lions’ top finisher from last season, Eric Faught, said the team has to focus on keeping with a formula that has led to success this season.
“We’ve had success by doing a nice job controlling the race,” Faught said. “We have to run together for as long as we can and then block off some of the other runners.”
Meanwhile, West Fork’s Jake Hansen hopes to end his prep cross country career with a fourth consecutive top-10 finish while helping the Warhawks bring home a state team trophy for the third time since 2013.
Also competing in Class 1A are first-time participants: Bishop Garrigan’s Ryan Kenyon, Central Springs’ Ellis Regan and Lake Mills’ Carson Rygh.
The Charles City girls cross country team also has eyes on a team trophy.
The Comets will be among the favorites in Class 3A, while senior McKayla Cole seeks an individual title after finishing third last season.
Algona’s Morgan VanZante is also looking for a better performance at state after a 39th-place finish last season.
Several runners — Rockford’s Sheridan LaCoste and St. Ansgar’s Addy Carlson and Caitlyn Juhl — will also seek better individual performances than last year running in Class 1A. Bishop Garrigan’s Alisa Altman will be running for the first time at the state meet.
Meanwhile, West Fork and Newman Catholic hope to take home team trophies in Class 1A.
The Warhawks did so last season as they finished third. The Knights are making their fourth straight trip as a team after a school-best sixth-place finish last year. Newman is one of only five Class 1A teams to qualify for the state meet the past four years, and seniors Rylie Smith and Meghan Sullivan have been on all four teams for the Knights.
In Class 2A, Hampton-Dumont’s Patty Teggatz is back at the state meet after a one-year absence, while Clear Lake’s Katelyn Moore will also compete as an individual.
“Katelyn’s been focused on making state all year and I’m so incredibly proud of her,” Clear Lake coach Nick DiMarco said.
After finishing fourth as a team last year, Osage is back competing in the team competition in Class 2A.
While the Green Devils are looking to be on the balcony, senior Megan Mooberry is hoping to cap her prep career on a high note with a state medal.
“As an individual, I’ve never received a state medal so that’s a goal for me this year,” Mooberry said. “The last two years I’ve been ranked pretty high going into the state meet, and it would be pretty cool to finally get that my senior year.”