MASON CITY — Before the start of his senior season, Mason City’s Thomas Rowe said his goal was to end his prep cross country career at the state cross country meet in Fort Dodge.

With a seventh-place finish in 16 minutes, 45 seconds at Birdsall Park in Cedar Falls, site of a Class 4A state-qualifying meet, Rowe met his goal last week.

“I went into the meet and my whole mindset was to find a way to stay in the top 15,” Rowe said. “I knew if I was able to do that then my goal would be accomplished. I had visualized where I had to sprint and where I had to go hard to get up hills. I knew it was a goal I could achieve and I just had to believe in myself.”

As a junior, Rowe felt the disappointment of falling short of the state meet with a 17th-place finish at the state-qualifier.

Mason City cross country coach Tyler Ketelsen said Rowe turned that disappointment into motivation this season and said he couldn’t be more proud to see the senior runner get his opportunity to run at state.

“Thomas is very deserving of this opportunity to run at the state meet,” Ketelsen said. “Coming into the season, that was his goal and he was very bound and determined to make that happen. He just missed by a few spots last year at the state-qualifying meet, finishing 17th. When you’re running at the 4A level, you’re competing against the best of the best. It’s certainly tough competition and that’s what makes his accomplishment so great. He’s shown he belongs in that group all season and proved it at the state-qualifying meet.”

In qualifying for Saturday’s Class 4A state meet at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course, Rowe became the first Mason City boys runner to accomplish the feat since Coty Thompson in 2010.

“There’s a lot of pride knowing this feat hasn’t been accomplished in a long time,” Rowe said. “To be the first person to do it since 2010, it’s just an amazing feeling.”

While Rowe is proud to represent Mason City, Ketelsen also knows just how special it is for the program.

“With Thomas being our first qualifier since 2010, it really goes to show how hard it is to make it to the state meet,” Ketelsen said. “It’s really a special occurrence and a big deal for our program. Thomas put in so much hard work during his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons and not only does all that hard work pay off his senior year, he’s had great leadership and getting to the state meet can have a really big trickle effort for the future runners that go through our program. I really think Thomas is a catalyst for the future.”

While the Mason City boys cross country program will be without his leadership next season, Rowe has every intention of representing the Mohawks to the best of his ability.

“My best time this season is 16:44 and the course in Fort Dodge is one of the fastest in the state,” Rowe said. “I think I have the ability to drop a lot of time and my goal is to get on the top 15 list all-time at Mason City. To do that, I need to finish in the 16:20s or low 16:30s.”

It’s a personal goal of Rowe’s that Ketelsen believes can be obtained.

“With such great competitors that Thomas will be competing against, I think they’ll push him to have a fast time,” the coach said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do on such a fast course. The No. 1 goal is always to compete hard and drop time but I also want Thomas to enjoy the experience and have fun with it.”

Rowe would like nothing more than to end his career on a high note but he also knows he’ll have to overcome nerves as his final race commences.

“Up until the start of the race when the gun goes off I know I’m going to be nervous and have butterflies,” Rowe said. “After that point it all comes down to instinct and your mind kind of goes blank. At that point I’m just going to have to keep running.”