Looking to save their best for last, the St. Edmond boys and girls cross country teams will participate in a Class 2A state qualifying meet Thursday in Panora.
Joining the Gaels in the field are South Central Calhoun, Greene County, Central Decatur, Clarinda, Clarke, CMB-Baxter, Interstate 35, Missouri Valley, North Polk, OA-BCIG, host Panorama, PCM-Monroe, Red Oak, Southwest Iowa and West Central Valley.
Meanwhile, the Fort Dodge boys and girls cross country squads will see plenty of familiar faces in a Class 4A district meet in Waukee.
The Dodgers join Des Moines Lincoln, Des Moines East, Des Moines Hoover, Des Moines North, Des Moines Roosevelt, Indianola, Urbandale, West Des Moines Valley and host Waukee.
Girls action begins at 4 p.m., with the boys to follow at both sites. The Top-3 teams and Top-10 individuals advance to the 34th annual co-ed state meet set for Oct. 27 at Fort Dodge's Lakeside Golf Course inside Kennedy Park.
Mike Szalat's sixth-ranked Gael boys are seeking their fourth district crown in the past six years. SEHS, which finished a school-best third in the 1A state field a year ago, is fresh off a fourth-place showing at last week's North Central Conference meet in Algona.
(Messenger-area teams only)
Thursday, Oct. 18
Fort Dodge, Des Moines Lincoln, Des Moines East, Des Moines Hoover, Des Moines North, Des Moines Roosevelt, Indianola, Urbandale, West Des Moines Valley, Waukee.
Algona, Humboldt, Webster City, Sioux City Heelan, Clear Lake, Denison-Schleswig, Esstherville-LC, Garner-Hayfield, LeMars, MOC-Floyd Valley, Sergeant Bluff-Luton, Spencer, Storm Lake.
At Ames (Iowa State)
Clarion-Goldfield, Aplington-Parkersburg, Bondurant-Farrar, Central Springs, East Marshall, Forest City, Gilbert, Hampton-Dumont, Madrid, North Iowa, Osage, Roland-Story, South Hamilton, South Hardin, West Marshall.
St. Edmond, South Central Calhoun, Central Decatur, Clarinda, Clarke, CMB-Baxter, Greene County, Interstate 35, Missouri Valley, North Polk, OA-BCIG, Panorama, Monroe-PCM, Red Oak, Southwest Iowa, West Central Valley.
At Ridge View
East Sac County, Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley, Cherokee, Estherville-LC, George-Little Rock, Maple Valley-AO, Marcus-MMC, Okoboji, Ridge View, Sheldon, Sioux Center, Spirit Lake, Unity Christian, Hull Western Christian, Woodbury Central.
Corwith-CWL, Eagle Grove, Southeast Webster-Grand, BCLUW, Belle Plaine, Belmond-Klemme, BGM, CAL, Colfax-Mingo, Colo-Nesco, Denver, Dike-New Hartford, Gladbrook-Reinbeck, GMG, Grandview Park Baptist, Grundy Center, HLV, Lake Mills, Meskawki Settlement, Montezuma, Mason City Newman, North Butler, North Iowa, North Tama, Ogden, Rockford, St. Ansgar, West Fork.
At Ridge View
Bishop Garrigan, Emmetsburg, Laurens-Marathon, Manson Northwest Webster, Paton-Churdan, Pocahontas Area, Prairie Valley, Akron-Westfield, Alta/Aurelia, Ar-We-Va, Clay Central-Everly, LeMars Gehlen, Harris-Lake Park, Hartley-HMS, Hinton, Lawton-Bronson, Sibley-Ocheyedan, Sioux Central, South O'Brien, Granville Spalding, Remsen St. Mary's, Tri-Center, Trinity Christian, West Lyon, West Monona, West Sioux, Westwood.
"(No. 2) North Polk is definitely the team to beat, but I like our chances to be in the top two with South Central Calhoun as probably the next one," Szalat said. "We never get to see (the Comets), and it'll be interesting to see how they do."
Seventh-ranked senior Seth Reel anchors the Gael lineup. Reel, a defending district runner-up, school record-holder and 2012 NCC champion, is aiming for his third consecutive individual state ticket after previously placing 52nd (17:34) in 2A as a sophomore and sixth (16:26) in 1A as a junior.
"Seth is a pretty smart runner, and is obviously the favorite to win going in, but there's no doubt that he still has to run a good race," said Szalat. "Ryan Daisy from South Central Calhoun has had some meets that he's run well, too, and he's another possible guy that has a chance (for a victory).
"We've talked to our kids about not worrying about their times, because (qualifying for state) is all about placings."
Other standout individuals are North Polk's No. 16 Peter Smith and 28th-ranked Ryley Sandburg, along with Central Decatur's No. 23 Neshamah Breashears.
Fort Dodge has gone up against several of these programs throughout the year, including recently at both its own invitational and the CIML meet.
"I believe we can finish anywhere from the last qualifying team spot (third) to fifth," FDSH head coach Tim Hanson said. "It's going to be a tight race after Waukee and Valley.
"We need to get out from the beginning with these teams and in that last half-mile we need to push as hard as we can until the finish."
The Dodgers will have Thomas Thompson back after he missed the end of the regular season with an injury. Hanson, though, said he is "not sure what to expect out of him. We are giving it a go with him and seeing what he can do."
On the boys side, the Warriors are ranked ninth and the Tigers are 11th, while the girls feature rated squads in Valley (No. 8), Waukee (No. 9), Urbandale (No. 12) and Roosevelt (No. 13).
Individually, Ben Anderson of Valley is the top-ranked 4A runner in the state. He earned a state title last year at Lakeside Golf Course in Fort Dodge with a time of 15:02, as the Tigers placed eighth overall.
Pacing the St. Edmond girls are senior Mary Eide and freshman Madi Reel. Ninth-ranked CMB-Baxter and No. 11 North Polk appear to be the frontrunners on the girls side.
"It's up in the air after CMB and North Polk," Szalat said. "I think our girls will be right in the mix, along with OA-BCIG and Greene County."
North Polk's second-ranked Sybbie Sears, No. 9 Hayley Leonard from CMB-Baxter, OA-BCIG's 26th-ranked Bailey Hare and No. 29 Breezy Weaver of Missouri Valley each have individual title aspirations.
The West Des Moines Valley girls finished fourth a year ago, while the Warriors were sixth.
"Our main objective for the girls is to finish the season on a positive note, with everyone getting a personal-best for the season," Hanson said. "If we can do this, it'll definitely be a good way to end the year and keep things going in the right direction during the offseason."