Back at state for a second straight year, Alex Jackson is motivated for an even better performance this time around.
Jackson, a junior, will once again be the lone representative for the Fort Dodge boys cross country team here Saturday.
Class 4A boys action begins at 11:30 a.m. at Lakeside Golf Course inside Kennedy Park.
"This year I kind of have more expectations going into (state) and know what to expect," said Jackson, who placed fourth at the state qualifier last week in Ankeny in a time of 16:11. "I came into the season in the Top-25, and I've went up against a lot of good guys already this year.
"I'm feeling much stronger, physically, mentally and spiritually. All Glory be to God."
Jackson settled for 78th at the state meet last fall, clocking a time of 16:35. At the CIC Invitational earlier this month, Jackson checked in 11th (16:34). Jackson's older sister, Tara, was a former two-time individual state participant for the Dodger girls in 2008 and 2009.
"I'm expecting Alex to hopefully finish somewhere in the Top-20 or Top-25," FDSH head coach Tim Hanson said. "He's been running against some of the top people in the CIC all season, so (state competition) will be nothing new for him. For him to be in the Top-25, he just has to get out a little faster and stay relaxed as much as possible. Last year, he wasn't as strong of a runner and maybe couldn't quite hold the same pace as he can now."
Hanson is optimistic Jackson can use the familiar surroundings to his advantage.
"It's always nice to travel, too, but it definitely helps that he can sleep in his own bed and get a home-cooked meal," said Hanson. "I think Alex prefers to run at home, so he doesn't have to break up his routine."
Jackson also earned gold, silver and bronze medals, respectively, at the Mason City, Storm Lake and Webster City Invitationals back in Sept.
Linn-Mar's top-ranked junior Josh Evans and Cedar Rapids Prairie's No. 2 sophomore Jake Moore are the leading contenders for the 4A individual crown. No. 1 Linn-Mar and second-ranked Johnston are the favorites in the team race.