Competing against the rest of Class 4A's elite runners provided a perfect measuring stick for Alex Jackson here Saturday at Lakeside Golf Course.
Making his second consecutive state cross country appearance, Fort Dodge's 27th-ranked junior placed 30th in a time of 16:11.8.
"I would've liked to have done a little better, but I finished about right where I was ranked," said Jackson, who was 78th at state a year ago in 16:35. "My first mile (yesterday) was a 4:52, which I had been averaging a pace of 5:12, so I really had to slow down a lot.
"I definitely felt stronger and knew I could go out faster this time. My dream for next year is to win (a 4A title) and have (the Dodgers) make it as a team. It will be a lot of fun again."
Jackson was coming off a fourth-place showing at districts. His older sister, Tara, was a former two-time state participant for the FDSH girls in 2008 and 2009.
"Alex ran a good race overall, and he's definitely coming along," Fort Dodge head coach Tim Hanson said. "I think that first mile kind of put a hurt on his legs, but that's just the way it is.
"He probably could've ran a few seconds faster, but he can't be disappointed and have his head down. This was a good way for him to end the season."
Jackson settled for 11th at the CIC Invitational earlier this month. He also earned gold, silver and bronze medals, respectively, at the Mason City, Storm Lake and Webster City Invitationals back in September.
"Hopefully, we can get more than one individual to state next year," said Hanson. "It'll be really nice to have Alex back along with the rest of his teammates."
Linn-Mar's top-ranked Josh Evans captured the 4A individual title in a time of 15:19.4. No. 3 Cedar Rapids Prairie (81) easily prevailed in the team race.