After a year absence, the Fort Dodge boys cross country team will be represented at state once again.
Sophomore Alex Jackson will run today in the Class 4A race at Lakeside Golf Course at 11:30 a.m.
The Dodgers missed out on having any qualifiers last year. Jackson scored his state berth by finishing sixth at districts, clocking a time of 16:30 for FDSH head coach Tim Hanson.
West Des Moines Dowling is the team favorite in 4A, as the defending state champs return five runners. In the individual race, West Des Moines Valley's Ben Anderson will be seeking a second consecutive title.
For Jackson, this will mark his first competitive race on the state level, and Hanson is interested in seeing what he can do.
"State is a different type of beast, and I am looking forward to seeing how Alex competes under that environment," Hanson said. "This will definitely be a learning experience for him, but he has raced against some of the best runners throughout the year competing in the CIML, so he knows what it will take."
Jackson scored a 22nd at the CIML Invitational a few weeks back. That race featured 10 runners who are currently ranked and competing at state.
Hanson has coached several state qualifiers since taking over the Dodger program, and has laid out a ground work for Jackson to follow.
"If he can tuck in behind the No. 1 Waukee runner (Noah Larrison) and prepare himself mentally the first 1.5 mile of the race, I think he'll run around his personal best," Hanson said. "Running at state, you'll be in a pack of runners the whole time and a lot of first time state runners get mentally drained because they're not used to being surrounded by runners throughout the entire race.
"But Alex has a perfect place to run, as it is in his own backyard and he will have the support of all his teammates, parents, friends and workers cheering him on."
Jackson is targeting a top-40 finish, something Fort Dodge has not had since 2006 when Charlie Kersten placed 10th.
":My goal is definitely to get my personal best of 16:27-or-faster and finish in the top-40," Jackson said. "I feel really honored to run for FDSH and wear the jersey for our community.
"The support and pride I've received from everyone is amazing, and I'm really excited for (the race)."